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Spinks v. Reinstein

January 23, 2007

MICHAEL S. SPINKS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INVESTIGATOR RON REINSTEIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN OFFICER AND EMPLOYEE OF THE CITY OF ROCHESTER AND/OR THE ROCHESTER POLICE DEPARTMENT; INVESTIGATOR C.J. DOMINIC, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN OFFICER AND EMPLOYEE OF THE CITY OF ROCHESTER AND/OR THE ROCHESTER POLICE DEPARTMENT; INVESTIGATOR GLENN WEATHER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN OFFICER AND EMPLOYEE OF THE CITY OF ROCHESTER AND/OR THE ROCHESTER POLICE DEPARTMENT; CITY OF ROCHESTER; AND ROCHESTER POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Michael S. Spinks ("plaintiff") brings this action alleging that Investigator Ron Reinstein ("Reinstein"), Investigator C.J. Dominic ("Dominic"), Investigator Glenn Weather ("Weather"), the City of Rochester (the "City") and the Rochester Police Department ("RPD") (collectively "defendants") violated his constitutional rights by falsely arresting and maliciously prosecuting him for the murder of Richard Cooper. Plaintiff also claims that he was subjected to false imprisonment and violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1

Defendants move for summary judgment claiming that there are no material facts in dispute, and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law since plaintiff has failed to state a viable cause of action against them. Specifically, defendants claim that plaintiff can not establish a claim for false arrest, false imprisonment, or malicious prosecution because defendants have established as a matter of law that there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff. Plaintiff points to the fact that he was not indicted by a Grand Jury and that the Grand Jury "no-billed" the charges against him. Accordingly, plaintiff asserts there was no probable cause to arrest him. In support of defendants' claim, they argue that because plaintiff is unable to establish that the Grand Jury indictment was procured by fraud the presumption of probable cause stands, and plaintiff cannot make a claim for false arrest, false imprisonment, or malicious prosecution. Defendants further argue that because they have not acted improperly, plaintiff's claims for violations of his civil rights must be denied.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment, and dismiss plaintiff's complaint.

BACKGROUND

On August 27, 2002, at approximately midnight, Richard Cooper ("Cooper") was shot and killed in front of Rochester General Hospital at a bus stop at Portland Avenue in the City of Rochester. Cooper was with his girlfriend Marshona Atterberry ("Atterberry") at the bus stop and she witnessed the shooting. Shortly before the shooting, Cooper had been treated and released for wounds he received from a bite to his neck in a fight with Worda Spinks ("W. Spinks"). W. Spinks is Atterberry's ex-boyfriend and the father of her daughter. Soon after the shooting, defendants Dominic and Reinstein, homicide investigators with the RPD, interviewed Atterberry. According to Atterberry's testimony, the assailant was wearing dark clothing, a dark baseball cap, and something pulled over his face so that "only the area around his eyes" was visible. Atterberry also stated that she saw the assailant flee the scene and enter a black Ford Taurus station wagon owned by W. Spinks.*fn2

On October 3, 2002, Investigators Reinstein and Dominic again interviewed Atterberry. During that interview, Atterberry indicated that based on her recollection of the assailant's eyes and the way he walked, she believed that plaintiff was the shooter. On the basis of this information, defendants showed Atterberry a photo array of six (6) individuals with only the eye area visible. Atterberry identified the photo of plaintiff as the shooter. Based upon the information received by defendants, plaintiff was arrested on October 11, 2002 and the people filed a Felony Complaint against plaintiff for murder in the Second Degree the next day. A preliminary hearing was held on October 17, 2002 before Rochester City Court Judge Thomas Rainbow Morse. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, Judge Morse found "based on the testimony, including the identification, as well as other circumstantial evidence ... adduced at [the] hearing, there is sufficient basis" to hold plaintiff Spinks for action by the Grand Jury. On March 20, 2003, a Grand Jury dismissed the charges against plaintiff and the charges were terminated as of that date.

Plaintiff claims that in Atterberry's statement to investigators on August 27, 2002, she failed to mention any details concerning the assailant's eyes or anything about the manner in which he walked. In addition, plaintiff claims that although at the time of the shooting Atterberry could only see the eyes and complexion of the assailant, the photo array included the picture of the plaintiff with "his nose, eyebrows, upper lip and nearly all of his forehead" visible. Plaintiff asserts he should not have been included in the photo array. Plaintiff also states that Investigator Dominic spoke with Geraldine and Worda Spinks, Sr. (plaintiff's parents) and told them that he knew their son did not commit the murder, but believed he was withholding information and so they arrested him in order to pressure him to release the information. Plaintiff, claims that because defendants lacked probable cause to arrest him, he should not have been arrested, held in police custody, or prosecuted for murder.

Defendants contend in their reply papers*fn3 that the affidavits of Geraldine and Worda Spinks, Sr. should be stricken. Defendants assert that they served documents demands on plaintiff requesting "all oral or written statements ... made by ... any of the individually named defendant officers" relating to the incident or claims alleged in this case. Plaintiff responded that he had no knowledge of any statements made by defendants. However, in spite of the discovery response, plaintiff has introduced the affidavits of plaintiff's parents for the first time in opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment. It is clear that the allegedly incriminating statement contained in the affidavits were responsive to defendants' discovery demands requesting all oral or written statements by defendants and thus should have been produced in response by plaintiff. Defendant asserts that based upon plaintiff's failure to produce the alleged statement by Investigator Dominic in discovery, the affidavits of Geraldine and Worda Spinks, Sr. should be stricken and disregarded by this Court.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "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 judgment as a matter of law." When considering whether a genuine issue of fact exists for purposes of a motion for summary judgment, all inferences and ambiguities must be resolved in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. See R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54 (2d Cir. 1997). It is only if after considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the court finds that no rational jury could find in favor of that party, a grant of summary judgment is appropriate. See Annis v. County of Westchester, 136 F.3d 239 (2d Cir. 1998).

II. False Arrest, False Imprisonment, Malicious Prosecution, and Civil Rights Claims

A. Legal Standards

1. False Arrest and False ...


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