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Maliha v. Faluotico

February 28, 2007

WILLIAM MALIHA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FRANK FALUOTICO AND SARA G. MALIHA, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff William Maliha ("Plaintiff") initiated this action against Defendants Frank Faluotico ("Defendant Faluotico") and Sara Maliha ("Defendant Maliha") following a domestic dispute involving Plaintiff and Defendant Maliha. Compl. (Dkt. No. 1). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants caused his false arrest and violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free of illegal search and seizure. Id. at ¶ 44. Plaintiff also alleges that "[b]y falsifying official government documents for and with the purpose of injuring plaintiff and denying him a fair trial, defendants violated plaintiff's right to due process as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution." Id. at ¶ 45. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys' fees. Id. at 9.

Presently before the Court are two Motions for summary judgment brought by Defendants pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dkt. Nos. 29, 30. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Defendants' Motions for summary judgment and dismisses the case in its entirety.

I. Background

Plaintiff and Defendant Maliha were married in May, 1993. Compl. (Dkt. No. 1) at ¶ 4. On June 19, 2002, the couple had an argument at their residence. Deft. Faluotico Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 29, Attach) at ¶ 10. Plaintiff alleges that the altercation occurred after he grabbed his camera from Defendant Maliha, who, in response, flung around and started punching him in the face. Plntf's Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 36) at 9. It is undisputed that during the incident, Plaintiff held Defendant Maliha by her wrists and backed her up into a kitchen cabinet. Deft. Maliha's Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 31, Attach. 3) at ¶¶ 4-5; Plntf's Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 36) at 3. While Plaintiff pinned Defendant Maliha to the kitchen counter and cabinets, Defendant Maliha told their daughter to call 911. Deft. Maliha's Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 31, Attach. 3) at ¶ 7. Defendant Maliha took the telephone and started to call 911, but Plaintiff grabbed the telephone's antenna and asked Defendant Maliha not to call the police. Plntf's Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 36) at 10. Defendant Maliha left the house with her daughter and went to her neighbor's house to call 911. Deft. Maliha's Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 31, Attach. 3) at ¶¶ 9-10.

Deputy Sheriff John M. Sperath of the Ulster County Sheriff's Department ("Sheriff's Department") responded to the 911 call. Id. at ¶ 11-12. After Deputy Sperath left, Defendant Maliha called Defendant Faluotico. Deft. Faluotico Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 29, Attach) at ¶ 20. Defendant Faluotico was then employed as a Detective in the Sheriff's Department. Id. at ¶ 1. He knew Plaintiff and Defendant Maliha and was aware that Plaintiff was a volunteer member of the Sheriff's Department. Deft. Faluotico Aff. (Dkt. No. 29, Attach. 17) at ¶ 4. Defendant Faluotico was also personally aware that Plaintiff had a large collection of weapons in his home. Id. at ¶ 5. At the time of the incident at issue, Plaintiff owned approximately 12 long rifles and 10 to 13 handguns. Deft. Faluotico Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 29, Attach. 18) at ¶ 6.

During their phone conversation, Defendant Maliha told Defendant Faluotico that Plaintiff had grabbed her and pushed her up against the counter, that she had marks on her arms, and that Plaintiff had harassed her. Deft. Faluotico Depostion (Dkt. No. 29, Attach. 11, Ex. H) at 50. Defendant Maliha also said that her daughter was in the house when the incident occurred and that Defendant Maliha was afraid of Plaintiff. Id. at 51. After speaking with Defendant Maliha, Defendant Faluotico called the Sheriff's Department's headquarters and Deputy Sperath. Deft. Faluotico Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 29, Attach. 18) at ¶¶ 21-22. Deputy Sperath returned to the scene after his conversation with Defendant Faluotico and prepared a complaint charging Plaintiff with harassment in the second degree. Id. at ¶ 23.

Through a request under New York's Freedom of Information Law, Plaintiff obtained tape recorded conversations between members of the Sheriff's Department related to his arrest. Plntf's Mem. of Law (Dkt. No. 35) at 9, n.9. Based on these recordings, Plaintiff alleges that Deputy Sperath initially reported that he had no basis to arrest Plaintiff, and that it was only after Defendant Faluotico intervened that Deputy Sperath prepared a complaint that "materially exaggerated [P]laintiff's conduct."*fn1 Id. at 9, 19.

At approximately 10:00 pm that evening, Deputy Sperath and Deputy Eric arrested Plaintiff at his home. Id. at 25. Plaintiff was arraigned in front of Hurley Town Court Judge Parker and ordered to stay away from Defendant Maliha. Id. at ¶¶ 28-29. Judge Parker ultimately dismissed the criminal charge of second degree harassment. Id. at ¶ 34. Both Defendant Maliha and Plaintiff subsequently filed family offense petitions in Ulster County Family Court. Deft. Maliha's Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 31, Attach. 3) at ¶¶ 17-18.

Family Court Judge Mary Work presided over a trial regarding the petitions and custody of the Malihas' daughter in September, 2002. Id. at ¶ 21. In a Decision and Order dated June 27, 2003, Judge Work found that Plaintiff "started the physical part of the altercation by coming across the room, grabbing Sara Maliha's arm and attempting to forcibly remove the camera from her." Work Dec. & Order (Dkt. No. 29, Attach. 4, Ex. B) at 6. Moreover, Judge Work found that while Defendant Maliha fled the residence and went to a friend's house to call the police, Plaintiff did not act likewise. See id.

In New York, family court and the criminal courts have concurrent jurisdiction over any proceeding concerning acts which would constitute harassment in the second degree between spouses. N.Y. Family Ct. Act § 812 (Consol. 2007). Judge Work found that Plaintiff had harassed Defendant Maliha in the second degree as defined under New York Penal Law § 240.26 (1). Id. at 7-8. After hearing testimony from both Plaintiff and Defendant Maliha, Judge Work concluded:

The Court believes that William Maliha did grab Sara Maliha before he tried to grab the camera. He had to cover more than ten feet to reach her, and she was in the process of leaving with the camera. Her report that he grabbed her first and then reached for the camera makes sense. Whether she struck him once as she admitted or three times as he claimed, she clearly did so after he grabbed her, and her intent was to get away from him, not to harass, annoy or alarm him. William Maliha on the other hand clearly subjected Sara Maliha to physical contact, intended to alarm her into giving up the camera and then to prevent her from calling the police.

Id. at 7. However, Judge Work did dismiss Defendant Maliha's petition against Plaintiff in the interests of justice; she did so because there was little point in holding a hearing on a family offense that appeared to be an isolated event, no other events had been reported to the court in the nine (9) months following the filing of the petitions, and that took place as the marriage failed. Id. at 8.

II. Discussion

A. Summary Judgment ...


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