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Smith v. Ortiz

May 25, 2006

EUGENE SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
P.O. JOHN A. ORTIZ, DET. WILLIAM S. COLLINS, DET. HAROLD POGEWEIT, SGT. CHRISTOPHER NAPOLITANO, P.O. ALEXANDER MYLNARYK, P.O. JOHN KIERNAN, COMMISSION HOWARD SAFIR, AND ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY ELIZABETH V. ROECKELL, IN THEIR OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Deborah A. Batts, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Eugene Smith brings this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges claims of false arrest, excessive force, malicious prosecution, deprivation of his right to counsel, infliction of cruel and unusual punishment, and a violation of his due process and equal protection rights. Aside from former Police Commissioner Howard Safir and Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Roeckell, Defendants are members of the New York City Police Department ("NYPD"). Defendants are being sued in both their individual and official capacities.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. They seek dismissal of the claims against them on the grounds that: (1) probable cause existed to preclude any malicious prosecution or false arrest claims; (2) Plaintiff has failed to bring forth any facts to support his excessive force claim; (3) Plaintiff's Sixth Amendment right to counsel had not attached at the time of the allegedly defective lineup; (4) Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim fails as a matter of law; (5) Plaintiff fails to state a claim under the Equal Protection Clause; (6) the individually named officers are entitled to qualified immunity; (7) Defendant Roeckell is entitled to absolute immunity; (8) Defendant Safir had no personal involvement in Plaintiff's case; and (9) any purported state claims are time-barred.

For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's case is based on events surrounding his arrest and prosecution in state court for allegedly committing three burglaries.

The first burglary took place on October 18, 1997 at the residence of Mr. Philip Santise. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1; Santiago Decl. at Exs. A, M.) Mr. Santise came home and discovered that his backdoor screen was broken. He then saw an unknown person flee from his home. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 1-12; Santiago Decl. at Exs. A, M.) Mr. Santise's mother, Gwendoline Santise, reported the burglary to the New York City Police Department ("NYPD"). On November 3, 1997, Mr. Santise identified Plaintiff in a photo array as the person he saw fleeing from his home on the day of the burglary. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 3-4; Santiago Decl. at Exs. H, M.)

The second burglary took place on August 3, 1998 at the residence of Elizabeth Velez. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 7-8; Santiago Decl. at Exs. B, N.) Ms. Velez and her son found their living room window open and a window screen cut in two places. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 9-10; Exs. B, N.) After Ms. Velez filed a complaint with the NYPD, Police Officer Mlynaryk took fingerprints from the window frame of the window with the cut screen. (Santiago Decl. at Exs. C, D.)

The third burglary took place on the morning of August 11, 1998 at the residence of Nicole Domenci. Ms. Domenci saw Plaintiff removing items from her jewelry box and dresser. When Plaintiff saw Ms. Domenci looking at him, he fled. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 16-17.)

On the evening of August 11, 1998, Plaintiff was arrested without a warrant at his brother's apartment in New York City. (Compl. at 4.) Both parties agree that Defendant Ortiz participated in Plaintiff's arrest; Plaintiff contends that Defendant Collins also participated in his arrest. (Id.; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 22.) During the arrest, no physical struggle ensued between Plaintiff and the arresting officer. (Pl.'s Dep. at 206.) The officer did not hit Plaintiff; Plaintiff did not sustain any physical injuries nor did he require any medical treatment as a result of his injuries. (Id. at 209.)

On August 12, 1998, Plaintiff was placed in a lineup. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 26.) At that lineup, Mr. Santise, the victim of the October, 1997 burglary, and Ms. Domenci, the victim of the August 11, 1998 burglary, identified Plaintiff as the person who burglarized their homes. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 5, 18.) Also on that day, Officer Collins conducted a "latent fingerprint evaluation" of the fingerprints taken from Ms. Velez' window and matched them to Plaintiff's fingerprints. (Santiago Decl. at Exs. C, D.) After the lineup, Plaintiff was taken to Central Booking. (Pl.'s Dep. at 217.) Plaintiff was arraigned on two criminal complaints, charging him with three counts of Burglary in the Second Degree, two counts of Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree, one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, two counts of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree, and one count of Petit Larceny. (Santiago Decl. at Exs. O, P.)

On August 17, 1998, the Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Plaintiff with three counts of Burglary in the Second Degree, three counts of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree, two counts of Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree, two counts of Petit Larceny and one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree. (Id. at Ex. K.) Both Philip Santise and Elizabeth Velez testified before the Grand Jury. (Id. at Exs. M, N.)

Plaintiff was found not guilty by a jury on one count of Burglary in the Second Degree on June 27, 2000. (Compl. at Ex. C.) On November 1, 2000, Plaintiff was found not guilty of all remaining criminal charges. (Santiago Decl. at Ex. L.)

On May 25, 2001, Plaintiff filed his Complaint before this Court against Defendants.*fn1 After discovery, Defendants filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment, to dismiss all claims against them. In compliance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, Defendants served on Plaintiff a Statement Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.2.

II. DISCUSSION

Defendants have moved for summary judgment for dismissal of the Complaint.

A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment may be granted only when there is no genuine issue of material fact remaining for trial and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also, e.g., Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-248 (1986); Corselli v. Coughlin, 842 F.2d 23, 25 (2d Cir. 1988).

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), "[t]he judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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." The Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean that, "[T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an ...


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