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HAYES v. O'CONNOR

October 12, 2004.

EARL HAYES, Plaintiff,
v.
DETECTIVE THOMAS O'CONNOR and OFFICER MICHAEL BUNCE of Village of Monticello Police Department, and NYS POLICE OFFICERS MALER (Shield #3618) and LOSTRACIO (Shield # 2941), NEW YORK STATE POLICE DEPARTMENT, VILLAGE OF MOTICELLO POLICE DEPARTMENT, and VILLAGE OF MOTICELLO, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIDNEY STEIN, District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Earl Hayes brings this action pro se against the Village of Monticello, its police department and two of its police officers — Detective O'Connor and Officer Bunce — (collectively, "the village defendants") as well as the New York State Police Department and New York State Trooper Lostracco (collectively, "the state defendants").*fn1 Hayes seeks monetary damages for defendants' allegedly wrongful confiscation of approximately $31,000*fn2 in cash from him. The state defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and the village defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 56. In light of the parties' submission of materials outside the complaint, this Court converted the state defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint into a motion for summary judgment in an order dated November 5, 2003. See, e.g., Sira v. Morton, 380 F.3d 57, 67-68 (2d Cir. 2004). Based on Hayes' statement that he "anticipate[d] that [he] will be obtaining [proof] in the near future" (Hayes Decl. dated October 16, 2003 ("Hayes Decl. I")*fn3 ¶ 5), the Court granted Hayes an extension of time until November 17, 2003 to submit any additional proof in support of his opposition to the summary judgment motions. Hayes did submit a declaration by Paul Bunton — who accompanied Hayes in the car on the date at issue — as well as a certificate of disposition and a misdemeanor complaint, both of which relate to Hayes' prior arrest for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

I. Background

  A. Facts

  Earl Hayes alleges a conspiracy between the New York State Police and the Village of Monticello Police Department to take his money and prevent him from recovering it. On June 6, 2001 at around 12:30 a.m., Hayes was stopped by New York State Troopers Lostracco and Maler in Sullivan County and received citations for four traffic offenses: speeding, obstructed view, driving across a marked hazardous zone in a construction area and changing lanes without signaling. (McCaffrey Decl. Ex. A). Maler and Lostracco "ran [Hayes'] license" and notified him that there existed an outstanding warrant for his arrest in the Village of Monticello. (Mem. Supp. State Defs.' Mot. Dismiss at 2). Although Hayes alleges that the troopers were aware that no such warrant existed and used it as a pretext to stop and search plaintiff's vehicle (Compl. at 4), he also concedes that "they had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff based on the information that they had received concerning the purported `arrest warrant.'" (Hayes Decl. dated Oct. 16, 2003 ("Hayes Decl. II") ¶ 7).

  Lostracco and Maler searched Hayes at the time of the arrest and confiscated the approximately $31,000 that they found on him.*fn4 (Compl. at 1). Paul Bunton, who was traveling in the car with Hayes, was permitted to take possession of all of Hayes' personal property except for the cash. (Hayes Decl. I ¶ 3; Hayes Decl. II ¶ 3). The troopers then took Hayes to the Monticello Police Department and put him in a holding cell. (Hayes Decl. I ¶¶ 3-4). That same morning, when the Monticello police officers realized that in fact there was not an outstanding arrest warrant for Hayes, they released him from custody, but refused to return his money. (Hayes Decl. I ¶ 4). Officer Bunce allegedly told Hayes that the money would be held pending an investigation and threatened to arrest Hayes for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct if Hayes did not leave the stationhouse immediately. (Id.). Hayes' father, who had come to the station to pick up his son, inquired about Hayes' money and Bunce said that plaintiff should contact the police later that day for further information. (Compl. at 1-2). Hayes claims that Bunce knew at that time that he was without legal authority to retain Hayes' money. (Hayes Decl. II ¶¶ 4-5).

  Later that day, when Hayes called about the money, Officer Bunce said that Detective O'Connor would be responsible for the matter. (Compl. at 2). Hayes claims that O'Connor did not respond to repeated phone calls and letters over a period of two to three weeks. (Id. at 2). During that time, Hayes spoke to Bunce on a number of occasions, but Bunce, according to Hayes, "willfully failed to fulfill his duty" to return plaintiff's money. (Id. at 3).

  Hayes alleges that when he finally reached O'Connor, two to three weeks after the traffic stop, the detective told Hayes that the money had been turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"). (Id. at 2). Hayes claims that O'Connor refused to tell Hayes how to contact the DEA. Instead, O'Connor said that he would take Hayes' contact information and supply it to the DEA, which would contact Hayes in two to three weeks. (Id.; Hayes Decl. II ¶ 5). Hayes asserts that he gave Officer O'Connor his Bronx, New York address, as well as a home and mobile phone number. (Compl. at 2). After five weeks, Hayes had still not heard from the DEA, and so he called its New York City Field Office. (Id.). An agent there told Hayes to write a request to the Asset Forfeiture Section of the DEA. (Id.).

  Hayes claims that O'Connor did not transfer the funds to the DEA until June 21, 2001 — two weeks after the arrest — as exhibited by the seizure date on the DEA's notice of seizure letter. (Hankins Decl. Ex. 1). Hayes claims that Bunce and O'Connor intended to keep the funds if Hayes failed to demand their return, but when Hayes pursued the issue, O'Connor deliberately provided the DEA with Hayes' former Hurleyville, New York address — not his then current address — to frustrate Hayes' collection efforts. (Compl. at 2; Hayes Decl. II ¶ 4). Hayes also asserts that O'Connor perjured himself*fn5 and wrongfully turned the money over to the DEA without justification. (Hayes Decl. I ¶ 5).

  Hayes claims that Monticello police officers have engaged in widespread violations of civil rights, including committing perjury in sworn testimony, using excessive force and harassing citizens. (Compl. at 3). He further alleges that the Village of Monticello has participated in these violations by its awareness of their existence and failure to take any action to address institutional problems in the police department. (Id.).

  II. Discussion

  A. Standard for Summary Judgment

  Summary judgment may be granted "only when the moving party demonstrates that `there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Allen v. Coughlin, 64 F.3d 77, 79 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(c)); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). The Court must "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor, and may grant summary judgment only when `no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the nonmoving party.'" Allen, 64 F.3d at 79 (citation omitted) (quoting Lund's, Inc. v. Chemical Bank, 870 F.2d 840, 844 (2d Cir. 1989)). Because Hayes is proceeding pro se, this Court will hold his pleadings to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. . . ." Haines v. Kerner, 404 ...


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