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SMITH v. CITY OF NEW YORK

January 11, 2005.

LAMONT SMITH and LISA SMITH, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, and DETECTIVE FRANKIE ROSADO, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM PAULEY, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

This federal civil rights action involves claims by Lamont Smith for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and deprivation of his Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiff Lisa Smith asserts a claim for loss of consortium under New York law as a result of the arrest and criminal proceeding against her husband, Lamont Smith. Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn1 Plaintiffs move for sanctions against defendants for their failure to preserve certain documents relevant to this action. For the following reasons, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted and plaintiffs' motion for sanctions is denied.

BACKGROUND

  On August 4, 2001, Lamont Smith was arrested and charged with the rape of a seventeen year-old female acquaintance identified as "D.G." (Defendants' Statement Pursuant to Rule 56.1 ("Defs. 56.1 Stmt.") ¶¶ 11, 33-34; Deposition of Frankie Rosado, dated January 14, 2004 ("Rosado Dep.") at 55; Declaration of Seth D. Eichenholtz, dated March 12, 2004 ("Eichenholtz Decl.") Ex. D; Deposition of Lamont Smith, dated November 19, 2003 ("Smith Dep.") at 41.) While driving his van the prior evening, Smith picked D.G. up and then left her on a street in Mount Vernon early in the morning of August 4, 2001. (Smith Dep. at 41, 58-59; Affidavit of Lamont Smith, dated April 5, 2004 ("Smith Aff.") ¶¶ 1-19; Eichenholtz Decl. Ex. F.)*fn2 D.G ran to a nearby house for assistance. (Eichenholtz Decl. Ex. F.) The Mount Vernon police interviewed D.G. and transported her to the Emergency Room at Montefiore Medical Center (the "Hospital"). (Eichenholtz Decl. Ex. F.)

  Hospital staff notified the New York City Police Department. New York City Police officer Rosado was assigned to investigate D.G.'s complaint. (Rosado Dep. at 29.) Rosado spoke with other police personnel at the Hospital, who informed him of what they had learned from the Mount Vernon police. (Rosado Dep. at 29, 31-32.) Rosado also spoke with D.G. and then went to D.G.'s home in an attempt to locate her mother. (Rosado Dep. at 30-31.)

  Meanwhile, Smith went to D.G.'s home, picked up D.G.'s mother and took her to the Hospital. (Smith Dep. at 67, 70.) When they arrived, Hospital security guards prevented Smith from leaving and notified Rosado. (Rosado Dep. at 42, 83; Smith Dep. at 73-74.) Rosado returned to the Hospital where other police personnel informed him that Smith had been apprehended by security staff as he attempted to leave. (Eichenholtz Decl. Ex. B.)*fn3 Rosado then spoke with D.G., who was crying and appeared to be upset. (Rosado Dep. at 44.) D.G. described the rape to Rosado and identified Smith as the perpetrator. (Rosado Dep. at 45-46, 48-49.) The Hospital's treating doctor advised Rosado that he had not observed any physical injuries on D.G. and that a "rape kit" was being prepared. (Rosado Dep. at 50-51.) At the time, Rosado observed that it was odd for a rape suspect to accompany the victim's mother to the Hospital and that he personally believed Smith's claim of innocence. (Deposition of Loretta McCoy, dated February 17, 2004 ("McCoy Dep.") at 28-29.) Thereafter, Rosado arrested Smith. (Rosado Dep. at 55-56.)

  Rosado swore out a criminal complaint at the Bronx District Attorney's Office. (Eichenholtz Decl. Ex. B.) Smith was arraigned on August 5, 2001, and released on August 10, 2001. (Smith Aff. ¶¶ 40-41.) Assistant District Attorney Rachel Singer interviewed D.G. several days after the alleged attack and concluded she was credible. However, the rape kit yielded no physical evidence. (Singer Dep. at 90-91, 93, 140, 142, 148.) A.D.A. Singer did not put D.G. into the grand jury because D.G. was too distraught by an unrelated family crisis. (Singer Dep. at 75-76, 123-26, 131, 139, 141, 148, 154.) On May 1, 2002, the rape charge was dismissed for failure to comply with New York's speedy trial rules, N.Y.C.P.L. § 30.20 (McKinney 2003). (Eichenholtz Decl. Ex. I. at 3; Singer Dep. at 117-18.)

  On July 22, 2002, plaintiffs filed a notice of claim against the City of New York and commenced this action on April 30, 2003.

  DISCUSSION

  I. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

  A. Summary Judgment Standard

  Courts may grant summary judgment only if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact" and "the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The movant bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issues of material fact exist. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986); accord McLee v. Chrysler Corp., 109 F.3d 130, 134 (2d Cir. 1997). Once the movant satisfies this requirement, the burden shifts to the non-moving party "to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. The court is required to resolve any ambiguities and to make all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Flanigan v. Gen. Elec. Co., 242 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

  B. False Arrest and False Imprisonment

  The elements of a false arrest or false imprisonment claim are similar under New York law and Section 1983 based on the Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. See Hygh v. Jacobs, 961 F.2d 359, 366 (2d Cir. 1992); Dukes v. City of New York, 879 F. Supp. 335, 340 (S.D.N.Y. 1995); see also Brome v. City of New York, No. 02 Civ. 7184 (WHP), 2004 WL 502645, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 15, 2004) (false arrest and false imprisonment claims are synonymous under New York law). To establish a false arrest claim, a plaintiff must show that: (1) the defendant intentionally confined the plaintiff; (2) the plaintiff was aware of the confinement; (3) the plaintiff ...


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