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Golden v. City of New York

March 7, 2006

ADONIS R. GOLDEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, RICHARD A. BROWN, KENNETH APPELBAUM, CRAIG STEPHEN BROWN, ERIC ROSENBAUM, HEATHER PALMORE, ROBERT ROES 1-10, CHRISTIAN KANEHL, ALBERT MARINELLI AND JOHN DOES 1-10, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gershon, United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Adonis R. Golden brings this suit against defendants City of New York and New York City Police Department Detective Christian Kanehl, alleging claims for violation of his rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and negligence.*fn1 These claims arise from plaintiff's arrest and prosecution for, among other charges, rape, robbery, and murder. Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Alternatively, with respect to plaintiff's state law claims, they seek dismissal. Plaintiff moves for summary judgment on his false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and Section 1983 claims.

I. BACKGROUND

Unless otherwise indicated, the undisputed facts establish the following: On November 9, 1996, Karla Phillips was raped and robbed behind a residence on 233rd Street. According to the rape victim, a man grabbed her from behind so she could not run, put a gun to her head, and dragged her into a driveway. The man fired one round from his gun into the air, and someone looked out the window and screamed. The man then dragged the victim onto 233rd Street and behind a residence and proceeded to rape her and force her to perform oral sex on him. Afterwards, the victim was able to flee and run to a police car parked on the corner of 233rd Street and 135th Avenue. She told the officers of the preceding events, whereupon they called for back-up and immediately canvassed the area. The officers recovered one spent shell casing in the driveway into which the victim had been dragged. The officers also drove the victim around the block in an attempt to locate the man who raped her. The victim described the rapist as a black male, twenty-four to twenty-eight years old, five feet nine inches to five feet ten inches tall, weighing one-hundred forty-five pounds to one-hundred fifty-five pounds, and wearing a black three-quarter length leather jacket.

On the same day, November 9, 1996, a witness, Claire Williams, whose residence looked onto the driveway into which the victim was dragged, told police officers that she heard a gunshot from her driveway, looked out the window, and saw two people struggling. She saw a woman bent over at the waist and a man with something in his hand. Williams then screamed, and the man grabbed the woman and headed in the direction towards the street.

On December 11, 1997, Joyajo Scruggs informed the New York City Police Department and the Queens County District Attorney's Office that he had information regarding a rape and homicide.*fn2 Scruggs entered into a cooperation agreement with the Queens County District Attorney's Office in which he agreed to provide information he had regarding the rape, and the murder of Dean Smith, in exchange for a plea deal and a reduced sentence. Detective Kanehl subsequently interviewed Scruggs. Scruggs stated that, in November 1996, Westerman had paged him and, when he returned Westerman's call, Westerman told Scruggs that the police were outside his residence, and he was uncertain as to what he should do. According to Westerman, he and plaintiff had planned to rob a woman on 234th Street that day but Westerman had returned home. Westerman further told Scruggs that plaintiff later arrived at Westerman's residence, told Westerman that he had grabbed the female from behind, dragged her up a driveway between two houses and demanded money from her; he attempted to rape her but someone living in one of the houses looked out the window, whereupon he fired his gun; he then raped her and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

As a result of the statements obtained from Scruggs, Detective Kanehl located and interviewed Westerman on January 27, 1998. According to Detective Kanehl's deposition testimony regarding the interview and a handwritten statement by Westerman,*fn3 back in November of 1996, plaintiff had a small, black automatic gun, and he admitted to Westerman that he had raped and robbed a woman he had been following. Specifically, Westerman stated that he and plaintiff were walking on 233rd Street when they passed a woman walking in the opposite direction. Plaintiff began to follow the woman, but Westerman continued on to a friend's house. Westerman, however, returned to his own house because there was no one at his friend's house. Ten minutes after Westerman had arrived at his residence, plaintiff banged hard on the side door. Westerman let plaintiff in, and, soon after, the police were outside Westerman's residence. Plaintiff told Westerman that he had grabbed the woman, taken her between driveways and fired a shot into the air to let her know that he was serious. Plaintiff also told Westerman that a neighbor had looked out the window, and he dragged the victim into a yard on the corner of Westerman's block. Plaintiff said that he took the woman's jewelry because she did not have any money. Plaintiff further told Westerman that he made the woman pull down her pants, told her to perform oral sex on him, and tried to rape her from behind. After obtaining Westerman's statements, Detective Kanehl believed he had probable cause to arrest plaintiff on the rape charge, but he did not believe he had probable cause on the murder charge. Therefore, Detective Kanehl did not arrest plaintiff and continued his investigation with respect to the murder charge.*fn4

On July 13, 1999, Detective Kanehl arrested plaintiff without a warrant. On that same day, a lineup was conducted in which plaintiff was a participant. The rape victim did not identify plaintiff as the rapist, picking a "filler" instead.*fn5 It is undisputed that on the day of plaintiff's arrest Detective Kanehl knew that the weapon used in the crimes had not been recovered; a palm print that had been taken from an automobile against which the rape took place did not match plaintiff's palm; the rape test kit that was administered to the victim had not recovered any DNA, semen, blood, saliva, hair, or other physical evidence matching plaintiff; and none of the property stolen during the crimes had been recovered from plaintiff or his residence.

On August 13, 1999, a grand jury indicted plaintiff for two counts of murder in the second degree, in violation of New York Penal Law § 125.25(1) and (2); one count of rape in the first degree, in violation of New York Penal Law § 130.35; four counts of sodomy in the first degree, in violation of New York Penal Law § 130.50(1); one count of robbery in the first degree, in violation of New York Penal Law § 160.15(2); two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, in violation of New York Penal Law § 265.03; and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, in violation of New York Penal Law § 265.02 (4). On October 26, 1999, Justice Robert Hanophy reviewed the grand jury minutes and found that there was sufficient legal evidence to sustain the grand jury's indictment. The State moved to dismiss one count of murder in the second degree (depraved indifference murder) and two counts of sodomy in the first degree, and those charges were dismissed and not submitted to the jury. On October 3, 2002, after a trial, plaintiff was acquitted of all charges. Plaintiff had been imprisoned from the time of his arrest to the day after he was acquitted.

II. DISCUSSION

Defendants move for summary judgment on all the federal and state claims, except the negligence claim, on the grounds that, inter alia, there was probable cause for plaintiff's arrest and prosecution, Detective Kanehl is entitled to qualified immunity, and plaintiff cannot establish a Section 1983 municipal liability claim. Alternatively, they ask the court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims. Plaintiff moves for summary judgment on his federal and state false arrest and imprisonment and malicious prosecution claims on the ground that no probable cause existed for his arrest and prosecution.

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The substantive law will identify which facts are material, and only those facts that might affect the outcome of a suit will preclude summary judgment. Id. at 248. A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. In defending against a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party may not rely on mere allegations, but rather must submit some evidence, by affidavits or otherwise, showing a genuine issue of ...


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