Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

PETERSON v. TOMASELLI

September 29, 2004.

ALVIN PETERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ALAN TOMASELLI, ET AL., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD HOLWELL, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Alvin Peterson ("Peterson") brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in his first amended complaint against defendants Alan Tomaselli ("Tomaselli"), New York City Department of Corrections ("DOC"), and the Office of Special Narcotics Prosecutor of the City of New York ("OSNP") (collectively "defendants") for alleged violations of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as for violations of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 552, 552a. Peterson separately asserts a claim arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 against Tomaselli. Defendants now move to dismiss Peterson's complaint in its entirety pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Peterson cross-moves for leave to amend his complaint a second time pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by naming the City of New York ("City"), the Commissioner of the DOC ("Commissioner"), and his assigned appellate counsel in his underlying state court criminal proceedings ("Assigned Counsel") as parties to this action. He also cross-moves for summary judgment on his § 1983 claims arising under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. Additionally, Peterson seeks to add conspiracy claims pursuant to § 1983 and § 1985 against the City, Assigned Counsel, the Commissioner, and Tomaselli. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part. Peterson's cross-motion for permission to amend his complaint is granted in part and denied in part; his cross-motion for summary judgment is denied.

BACKGROUND

  The facts of this case are laboriously set forth in two preceding opinions decided by Judge Robert P. Patterson in Peterson v. Lacy, No. 97 Civ. 7795, 1998 WL 883302 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 17, 1998); and Judge Denny Chin in Peterson v. Tomaselli, No. 02 Civ. 6325, 2003 WL 22213125 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 2003). For the purposes of this opinion, the Court shall assume familiarity with this action and summarize the most relevant facts. Additionally, the facts alleged by Peterson in his complaint are accepted as true for the purpose of ruling upon defendants' 12(b)(6) motion.

  A. Peterson Enters State Custody

  On August 7, 1993, Peterson entered state custody after being arrested and charged for criminal sale and possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. (Smith Decl. Ex. A ¶ 7.) At the time, Peterson was on federal parole for an earlier crime he had committed; this criminal activity thus violated the terms of his federal parole. Peterson v. Tomaselli, 2003 WL 22213125, at *1. In exchange for forgoing his right to trial, the state prosecutor offered Peterson a plea bargain on April 4, 1994, enabling Peterson to serve a state sentence of three and a half years to seven years concurrently with a federal sentence for violating the terms of his federal parole. (Smith Decl. Ex. A ¶ 7.) In order to effectuate the plea bargain, Peterson's attorney informed the presiding state sentencing court that Peterson would first have to be released to federal custody and sentenced for violating his federal parole. (Smith Decl. Ex. A ¶ 8.) The court adjourned the proceedings to allow the prosecutor time to figure out what procedures would ensure that Peterson's sentences would run concurrently. (Id.) By June 28, 1994, the prosecutor was still unable to determine the proper procedures. (Id. ¶ 9.) Nevertheless, the court denied Peterson's subsequent request to withdraw his plea, sentenced him to three and a half to seven years running concurrently with his federal sentence, and paroled him to the appropriate federal authorities. (Id.)

  Because of various mishaps amounting to what Judge Patterson called "a Kafkaesque comedy of errors," Peterson was not in fact released to the federal authorities for sentencing. Peterson v. Lacy, 1998 WL 883302, at *1. Despite two separate orders issued by the state court on July 12, 1994 and July 21, 1994, directing the DOC to release Peterson to federal authorities, "these directives were ignored." Id., 1998 WL 883302, at *1. Apparently, the DOC was willing to hold him for only fourteen days after his state sentence was imposed before transferring him to the New York State Correctional Services, and that despite the state sentencing court's orders, the DOC transferred him to state prison on July 19, 1994. (Smith Decl. Ex. A ¶ 12.) The actions of the DOC thus prevented Peterson from attending his federal sentencing. (Id.)

  B. Peterson Enters Federal Custody

  Given these distressing circumstances, Peterson filed a motion to vacate his sentence, which the state court granted on October 24, 1994. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 15.) The state court also directed the DOC to lodge a detainer with the appropriate federal authorities so that the court could properly sentence him in accordance with the original plea bargain. (Id. ¶ 15.)

  Peterson was subsequently released from state custody to federal custody at FCI Raybrook on January 4, 1995 and ordered to serve a term of incarceration by the Board of Parole Examiners for his federal parole violation in August of 1995. Peterson v. Lacy, 1998 WL 883302, at *2 n. 3. Peterson notified his attorney that he had been sentenced for his federal parole violation and requested his attorney to contact the district attorney to schedule an appearance in state court for his re-sentencing. (Smith Decl. Ex. A ¶ 18.) However, Peterson learned that an outstanding bench warrant existed for his failure to appear in state court although the warrant stated that Peterson was in federal custody. (Id. ¶ 19.) Moreover, on October 10, 1995, the district attorney filed another detainer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. (Id.)

  On November 15, 1995, Peterson filed a request for a final disposition of his state case — for which he had still not been re-sentenced — pursuant to the Interstate Agreement of Detainers ("IAD").*fn1 (Id.) By March of 1996, the State failed to respond, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons notified the State by certified mail on March 21, 1996, that the State failed to take any action in producing Peterson's presence at state court, as mandated by the IAD. (Id. ¶ 21.) Additionally, this letter informed the State that it had until May 17, 1996 to produce Peterson in state court. (Id.) In June of 1996, Peterson filed a pro se motion to dismiss the indictment because the State did not take any action to produce him in state court. (Id.) However, the prosecutor then forwarded a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in July of 1996, stating that it would withdraw any detainers lodged against Peterson. (Id. ¶ 23.)

  C. Peterson's Appearances in State Court While Serving His Federal Sentence

  On August 28, 1996, a writ issued by the state court enabled Peterson to appear in state court although he was still serving his federal sentence. (Id. ¶ 24.) According to Peterson, the state court failed to resolve the matter and returned Peterson to federal custody. (Id.)

  On October 4, 1996, the state court denied Peterson's motion filed in June of 1996 to dismiss the indictment charging him with criminal sale and possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. At that time, the state court also observed that Peterson's reply affidavit contained due process allegations arising from the denial of speedy resolution of his state case. (Id. ¶ 25.) Consequently, the state court adjourned the matter until November 22, 1996 to allow the prosecutor time to respond to these allegations.

  On October 23, 1996, detectives from the district attorney's office escorted plaintiff back to federal custody at FCI Fairton before he was re-sentenced for his state crimes. (Id. ¶ 26.) Upon his return, assistant district attorney Tomaselli forwarded "false documents" to FCI Fairton, claiming that Peterson had been sentenced to three and a half to seven years by the state court concurrently with his federal sentence, and requested that those documents be lodged as a detainer. (Id.) Peterson, knowing that this information was false because he had not yet been re-sentenced by the state court, duly notified Eleanor Dunnigan ("Dunnigan"), the Inmates Records Coordinator at FCI. (Id. ¶ 27.) Dunnigan subsequently requested that Tomaselli forward the official state court judgment and commitment order. (Id.) However, Tomaselli, realizing that he could not provide that order, allegedly conspired with Dunnigan to have her forward a "[f]alse certified sentence computation data form" to the Warden at FCI Fairton setting forth falsified release dates. (Id. ¶ 28.) At Peterson's request, the Warden of FCI Fairton removed this form, as well as Tomaselli's detainer, from Peterson's files at the federal prison after his investigation revealed that Peterson had indeed not yet been re-sentenced. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 30.)

  After being informed that the false documents were removed from Peterson's file, Tomaselli nevertheless filed a motion with the New York State Supreme Court seeking a bench warrant for Peterson's arrest on the ground that Peterson violated the terms of his state parole. (Id. ¶ 31.) Although Peterson was not in fact on state parole, the court issued a bench warrant. (Id.) Tomaselli then lodged the warrant as a detainer with FCI Fairton officials. (Id.)

  On February 14, 1997, the state court finally sentenced Peterson to three and a half years to seven years to be served concurrently with his federal sentence and directed that the federal sentence be entered on February 28, 1997. (Id. ¶ 33.) By this time, Peterson had already completed his federal sentence and failed to receive any credit for this time served. (Id.)

  D. Peterson's Habeas Corpus Petition and § 1983 Action

  On October 22, 1997, Peterson filed a federal writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2554, which Judge Patterson granted on December 17, 1998. Peterson v. Lacy, 1998 WL 883302, at *1. Judge Patterson found that the delay in sentencing of more than three and a half years and a delay in appeal of almost two years deprived Peterson of "the conditional release which his agreed upon sentence would have afforded him eight months ago." Id., 1998 WL 883302, at *8. Additionally, Judge Patterson concluded that "it would be incongruous to find that such delay was not lengthy enough to amount to a due process violation." Id., 1998 WL 883302, at *8. Judge Patterson thus ordered the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus and directed that Peterson immediately receive a conditional release as mandated by New York's Correction Law.*fn2 Id., 1998 WL 883302, at *5. Although Peterson filed another writ of habeas corpus for relief from the state court judgment imposed in 1997, which the Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed, this petition is still pending before Judge Patterson. Peterson v. Tomaselli, 2003 WL 22213125, at *3.

  Peterson originally brought this action before Judge Chin as a pro se plaintiff on December 14, 2001, seeking damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for his alleged constitutional injuries against Dunnigan and Tomaselli.*fn3 Id., 2003 WL 22213125, at *1. Additionally, on January 8, 2003, Peterson moved to amend his complaint to add the DOC and OSNP as parties to this action. Id., 2003 WL 22213125, at *4. Dunnigan moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id., 2003 WL 22213125, at *4. In an opinion dated September 29, 2003, Judge Chin dismissed the § 1983 and Privacy Act claims against Dunnigan,*fn4 and granted Peterson's request for amend his complaint by adding the DOC and OSNP. Id., 2003 WL 22213125, at *8-9. Defendants now collectively move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

  DISCUSSION

  I. The Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

  In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court is required to read a complaint generously, accepting all the alleged facts as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See LaBounty v. Adler, 933 F.2d 121, 123 (2d Cir. 1991); Frasier v. Gen. Elec. Co., 930 F.2d 1004, 1007 (2d Cir. 1991). The court must deny the motion unless it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Additionally, "the review of such a motion is limited, and `[t]he issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.'" Bernheim v. Litt, 79 F.3d 318, 321 (2d Cir. 1996) (citation omitted).

  Moreover, the fact that Peterson is proceeding pro se in pursuit of civil rights claims means that the court must construe his complaint with particular generosity. See Davis v. Goord, 320 F.3d 346, 350 (2d Cir. 2003) (quotations omitted); Weixel v. Board of Educ. of City of New York, 287 F.3d 138, 146 (2d Cir. 2002). As such, Peterson's allegations "must be read so as to `raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Weixel, 287 F.3d at 146 (quoting McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999)). The court may also consider factual "allegations contained in [the plaintiff's] other court filings." ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.