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Garraway v. Broome County

April 7, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge



Plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizures and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection and due process. Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 based on the untimeliness of Plaintiff's claim and his failure to state a cause of action. Plaintiff opposes arguing his claim is timely under the "prison mailbox rule" and that there are genuine issues of fact warranting a trial.


Plaintiff claims that on or about May 15, 2000 he entered into an oral agreement with Esther Gardner for a "month-to-month lease" of a mobile home. Plaintiff contends that he made a rent payment for the remainder of the month and was given "the only key to the property so he could move in." (Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts at ¶ 1). Gardner, however, states she never met or talked with Plaintiff prior to May 31, 2000 and that she did not lease any property to him. (Gardner Aff. ¶ 9.) Gardner's daughter, Margaret Dunn, claims that Denise Houck, Plaintiff's then girlfriend, contacted her a few weeks prior to May 31, 2000 about renting the property. (Dunn Aff. ¶ 2.) Dunn claims she and Houck had an oral agreement that Houck would not move in until she had paid Dunn the first month's rent and a security deposit. Dunn gave Houck permission to fix the property up prior to moving in and gave Houck a key. Dunn states she never intended to rent the property to Plaintiff, but rather to Houck and her children. (Dunn Aff. ¶ 8.) No formal lease documents were drawn up. There remains a factual dispute as to what rental agreements, if any, were made between Plaintiff, Houck, Gardner, and Dunn.

Dunn became aware that Houck had moved in without making any rent or security deposit payments. (Dunn Aff. ¶ 5. ) Dunn claims Houck told her she would have the rent money within the next few days and, upon that belief, Dunn allowed Houck to stay in the mobile home. Id.

On May 31, 2000, Gardner went to the mobile home and saw that Houck and Plaintiff had moved in and had pit bulls living on the property. Gardner claims she no longer wanted Houck to lease the property and called the Broome County Humane Society and the Broome County Sheriff's Office to see what actions could be taken. (Gardner Aff. ¶ 5.

When the Humane Society arrived, Plaintiff came outside from within the mobile home and an argument ensued between he and Gardner as to her request for the Humane Society to remove Plaintiff's dogs. Shortly thereafter, Defendant Sheriff's Deputy Rowlands arrived on the scene and claims he was advised by Gardner that Plaintiff did not belong on the property. (Rowlands Aff. ¶ 3.)

Defendant Sheriff's Chief Civil Deputy Bill claims he responded to the scene after hearing a discussion of it on his radio. Upon arrival, Bill claims he spoke with Gardner who advised him that, while Plaintiff and Houck were going to lease the property and had been given permission to do some work inside the home, they had not been given permission to move into the residence. Bill claims Houck told him what Gardner said was true and that no money had exchanged hands and there was no formal lease agreement. (Bill Aff. ¶ 4.) Bill claims that he then advised Houck that in his opinion she and Plaintiff were "not in the residence legally" and that they would ultimately have to leave. Bill states that he advised Houck of the legal processes by which she could contest the landlord's representations. (Bill Aff. ¶ 4.)

Defendant Sheriff's Deputy Smith claims that upon his arrival, Rowlands was interviewing Plaintiff who stated his name was Hubert A. Garraway and was refusing to offer any form of identification. Hubert Garraway is Plaintiff's brother. (Smith Aff. ¶ 3. ) Smith claims he was advised by the Humane Society employees that Plaintiff's name was Anthony Garraway and that they had a number of prior dealings with him. (Smith Aff. ¶ 4). Smith claims Plaintiff continued to give conflicting information as to his name, social security number and other identification information. Smith states that just prior to placing Plaintiff into custody on suspicion of committing criminal impersonation, he was advised of an active arrest warrant outstanding for Plaintiff from the Binghamton Police Department regarding a Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree charge. (Smith Aff. ¶ 6.) Smith claims he never entered or searched the mobile home.

Because Defendants suspected Plaintiff was lying about his identity, Rowlands entered the mobile home to find a form of personal identification for Plaintiff. Rowlands claims he entered the mobile home upon the belief that Plaintiff did not belong there and that Gardner had the authority to consent to the search. (Rowlands Aff. ¶ 8.) Rowlands claims the search entailed "nothing more than glancing over any papers or documents that might have been lying around the residence." (Rowlands Aff. ¶ 7.) Rowlands claims he did not remove any items from the property. Id.

Plaintiff offers a conflicting version of the events. Plaintiff claims that Houck was not present and that she was at work during the entire incident. Plaintiff admits he would not offer any form of identification to Defendants and that he stated he was Hubert. Plaintiff claims Defendant Smith unlawfully entered the mobile home and returned with letters written and sent to Anthony Garraway. Plaintiff claims Rowlands also unlawfully entered the mobile home, found Plaintiff's wallet within a pair of Plaintiff's pants and removed Plaintiff's license and social security card. Plaintiff claims these identification cards were obtained from an illegal search and were illegally seized. Plaintiff claims the identification cards were taken from the property to the station where Plaintiff was processed.

It is undisputed that Plaintiff was arrested and charged with Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law §190.25) and Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree (New York Penal Law §145.00). Following the incident, Gardner began a formal eviction proceeding and posted a 3-day notice on the door of the mobile home. Following the posting, Gardner believed no one remained in the mobile home. (Gardner Aff. ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff filed the instant claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 claiming a violation of his Constitutional Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizures and a violation of his due ...

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