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STANYARD v. SAFIR

United States District Court, Southern District of New York


January 17, 2003

ARTHUR STANYARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HOWARD SAFIR, A POLICE COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, NEW YORK CITY POLICE OFFICERS CARLOS TORRES AND "JANE DOES", THE MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT AND THE CITY OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: John S. Martin, Jr., United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

On May 19, 1997, Plaintiff was arrested on a charge of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree on the theory that he had been the steerer who directed prospective purchasers of crack to the crack seller. After the charges against him were dismissed, Plaintiff commenced this action alleging violation of his civil rights, false arrest and malicious prosecution. Discovery having been concluded, Defendants now move for summary judgment.

The central issue on this motion is whether the police officer who arrested Plaintiff had probable cause to believe that he was the steerer in the sale of crack. While the deposition testimony of the police officer who observed Plaintiff's actions established abundant probable cause, Plaintiff disputes much of this testimony and, thus, the Court cannot consider those disputed facts in deciding this summary judgment motion. However, there are certain facts which are undisputed and those facts establish that there was probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest.

Plaintiff admitted that the area in which these events took place was "drug infested." He also admitted that in the period between approximately 4:30 A.M. and 7:30 A.M., he was sitting on the stoop of 158 West 132nd Street drinking beer or walking around the area. During this period, two people approached Plaintiff and asked him where they could buy drugs. Although Plaintiff asserts that he told them he did not know, each of them immediately went to the adjoining brownstone at 156 West 132nd Street where they stepped down to a courtyard below street level and purchased drugs from the same woman. Plaintiff also admits that during this same period, a third individual spoke to him and then went directly to the same spot at 156 West 132nd Street and purchased drugs from the same woman.

A reasonable police officer who observed this conduct, as Defendant Torres did, would reasonably believe that Plaintiff was the steerer in the drug operation. The seller was located in a place that was somewhat difficult to observe. The area was "drug infested" and it was a time of day when casual visitors would not be expected in the area. In these circumstances, it was reasonable for an experienced police officer: (1) to conclude that the reason three people went directly to the drug dealer after speaking to Plaintiff was because Plaintiff had told them where to go to buy drugs, and (2) to arrest him as an accomplice to the actual seller.

Since the police had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, all of his claims must be dismissed. See Graebe v. Falcetta, 726 F. Supp. 36, 38 (E.D.N.Y. 1989) aff'd., 946 F.2d 883 (2d Cir. 1991).

For the foregoing reasons, the Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted and the Complaint is dismissed.

SO ORDERED.

20030117

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