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Martinez v. Golding

July 27, 2007

MICHAEL MARTINEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAN GOLDING, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, MICHAEL ROGAN, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, AND MICHAEL MILZA, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conner, Senior D.J.

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Michael Martinez brings this action against state investigators Jan Golding*fn1 and Michael Rogan*fn2 and Assistant District Attorney Michael Milza*fn3 for false arrest, malicious prosecution and conspiracy to violate plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, on February 8, 2004, Golding arrested plaintiff on suspicion of forcible rape, and the District Attorney of Broome County subsequently prosecuted him for the crime of Rape in the First Degree in violation of N.Y. PEN. LAW § 130.35.*fn4 On August 25, 2004, a jury acquitted plaintiff of the charge, and he now alleges that defendants arrested and prosecuted him maliciously and without probable cause. Golding and Rogan contend that both the arrest and prosecution were supported by probable cause and thus move pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56 for summary judgment seeking dismissal of plaintiff's claims. For the following reasons, their motion is granted. In addition, plaintiff's claims against Milza are dismissed because he is entitled to absolute immunity from suit for any actions taken pursuant to his duties as a prosecutor.

BACKGROUND

Viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff,*fn5 the record reveals the following relevant facts. The complainant*fn6 alleged that plaintiff, with the assistance of an unidentified male, forcibly raped her on the night of February 4, 2004. (See Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 34, 35.)*fn7 That same night she informed her cousin, Brian Reinhardt, that she had been raped, and the next day Reinhardt called the Middletown barracks of the New York State Police to report the incident. (See id. ¶¶ 18-19.) Golding was assigned to investigate the case. (See Golding Decl. ¶ 5.)

At the barracks, Golding took the complainant's statement and supporting deposition, according to which the following events transpired.*fn8 (See Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 21, 37; Golding Decl. ¶¶ 5, 9.) The complainant and Reinhardt rented a motel room on the night of February 4, 2004 and, at approximately midnight, the complainant called plaintiff to "hang out" because she was bored. (See Golding Decl., Ex B.) When she met plaintiff, he was in his car with another male whom she did not recognize. She followed them to plaintiff's house in her own car and, when they arrived, plaintiff told them to be quiet because his dad was upstairs sleeping. They went downstairs to plaintiff's room and watched television. The complainant sat on the bed near the headboard, plaintiff sat on the foot of the bed and the unidentified individual sat on the floor.

According to the complainant, they all watched television for awhile, and then plaintiff said to his friend that he intended to have sexual intercourse with the complainant, or, as he put it, he "was going to hit that." Plaintiff then told the complainant several times that they were going to have sex, and the complainant replied, "No we're not" and indicated that she had a boyfriend. Plaintiff responded that it did not matter and said that "'Chrissy and Lizzie let him 'hit it' and they had boyfriends." After a few minutes, plaintiff approached the complainant on the bed and said, "Yeah, I'm gonna get it tonight."

It was at this point, according to the complainant, that the unidentified male pinned her down by her arms so that her back was flat on the bed. Plaintiff then pulled his jeans down and removed the complainant's pants and underwear. While the unidentified individual held her arms down on the bed, plaintiff forced the complainant's legs apart and engaged in forcible sexual intercourse with her. The complainant did not consent to the activity and repeatedly told them to stop. After hearing noise from upstairs, which they thought was plaintiff's father, plaintiff and the other individual let the complainant free and all three individuals left the house. According to the complainant, the rape lasted approximately ten minutes. The complainant drove to the motel where she and her cousin were staying and told him what had happened. Her cousin called the police the next day.

After taking the complainant's statement, Golding escorted her to the Orange Regional Medical Center for a Sex Abuse Nurse Examination ("SANE"). (See Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 41; Golding Decl. ¶ 10.) The SANE examination revealed bruising and possible bite marks to the left wrist, a six inch superficial scratch on the left outer thigh, bruising of the left inner thigh, bruising of the right arm and three small blue bruises on the left ankle. (See Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 49; Golding Decl. ¶ 11.) In addition, the SANE report indicated that the complainant exhibited "redness in the posterior fourchette, vagina and fossa [navicularis] . . . ." (See Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 50; Golding Decl. ¶ 11.) Golding concluded that the injuries were consistent with the complainant's allegation that she had been forcibly raped. (See Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 51; Golding Decl. ¶ 12.)

After analyzing the SANE report and interviewing the complainant, Reinhardt and Chrissy Medina, a friend of the complainant, Golding consulted with his colleagues and several officers of the Middletown Police Department. (See Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 52; Golding Decl. ¶ 13.) According to Golding, the officers all agreed that probable cause existed to arrest Martinez and, on February 8, 2004, Golding made the arrest. (See Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 53-54; Golding Decl. ¶¶ 13-14.) Pursuant to a court order, Golding obtained a buccal swab from plaintiff for DNA analysis, which matched the DNA of semen found in the complainant during the SANE examination. (See Golding Decl. ¶ 16.)

Thereafter, the District Attorney's Office of Broome County sought an indictment against plaintiff for Rape in the First Degree in violation of N.Y. PEN. LAW § 130.35, and Assistant District Attorney Milza was assigned to prosecute the case. (See Am. Complt. ¶ 5.) On February 14, 2004, a grand jury indicted plaintiff for the crime. (See Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 55.) In August 2004, the District Attorney's office tried the case to a jury, which ultimately acquitted plaintiff of the charge.

(See Am. Complt. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff subsequently filed this suit for false arrest, malicious prosecution and conspiracy to violate his Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable seizures. Golding and Rogan now move for summary judgment on the claims asserted against them.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, summary judgment may be granted where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986). The court's role at this stage of the litigation is not to decide issues of material fact, but to discern whether any exist. See Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., L.P., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994). The burden rests on the movant to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, the court resolves all ambiguities and draws all permissible factual inferences against the movant. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Nevertheless, to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party may not rest upon unsubstantiated allegations or conclusory ...


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