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Strawn v. Holohan

January 4, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Raymond Strawn brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Kevin Holohan, a New York State Police Trooper, violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Pending under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is Holohan's motion for summary judgment. See Dkt. No. 33. For the reasons that follow, Holohan's motion for summary judgment is granted.

II. Facts

The facts, construed in the light most favorable to Strawn, are as follows. On December 18, 2001, Trooper Kevin Holohan and Investigator Michael Zwingelberg of the New York State Police were dispatched to investigate a situation at Averill Park High School, following a report by a school administrator. See Holohan's Statement of Material Facts Pursuant to N.D.N.Y. R. 7.1(a)(3) (hereinafter "Holohan SMF") ¶¶ 1-3; Dkt. No. 33. Earlier that day, Rebecca Harris, a classmate of Strawn's, told the school guidance counselor, Tara Arsenault, about a notebook Strawn had showed her and comments Strawn had made to her. See Holohan SMF ¶ 7; Dkt. No. 33. Arsenault relayed the information to school administrators, including Assistant Principal Colleen Gomes. See Holohan SMF ¶¶ 9-10; Dkt. No. 33. Gomes called Strawn into her office, where she asked him about his notebook. See Holohan SMF ¶ 10; Dkt. No. 33. Strawn volunteered to show Gomes his notebook, and Gomes read an entry entitled "School Shootings."*fn1 See Holohan SMF ¶¶ 11-12; Dkt. No. 33. Upon learning of the "School Shootings" story, Principal Nancy Noonan, who was a school administrator during the Columbine school shootings, decided to call the police. See Holohan SMF ¶¶ 15, 16; Dkt. No. 33.

When Holohan arrived at Averill Park, the school was on "lockdown." See Holohan SMF ¶ 17; Dkt. No. 33. After speaking with administrators, Holohan learned that Strawn had shared and discussed his notebook with two female students, Holly Bermas and Rebecca Harris. See Holohan SMF ¶ 5; Dkt. No. 33; Strawn Counter SMF ¶ 3; Dkt. No. 45. Among the stories that Strawn shared with the girls was "School Shootings," which described "the perfect plan" in which Averill Park students are tricked into evacuating the school due to a bomb threat only to be killed when a bomb explodes in the field in which the evacuated students are standing. See Holohan SMF ¶¶ 12, 13; Dkt. No. 33. Strawn discussed "School Shootings" with the girls on more than one occasion during the three weeks preceding December 18. See Holohan SMF ¶¶ 4-6; Dkt. No. 33.

After Holohan spoke with Assitant Principal Gomes, he met with Strawn and read Strawn's notebook. See Holohan SMF ¶¶ 18-19; Dkt. No. 33. Holohan discussed the "School Shootings" story with Strawn. See Holohan SMF ¶ 20; Dkt. No. 33. Strawn told Holohan and Gomes that he had attempted suicide in the past. See Holohan SMF ¶ 25; Dkt. No. 33. Holohan felt that Strawn "showed a lot of indicators of [the event] being an actual real incident." See Holohan SMF ¶ 26; Dkt. No. 33. For instance, he described Strawn as being evasive in answering questions and revealing a history of suicidal tendencies. See id. Holohan also felt that Strawn's notebook contained very graphic content. See id.

While Holohan was interviewing Strawn, Investigator Zwingelberg arrived at the school. See Holohan SMF ¶ 27; Dkt. No. 33. Zwingelberg talked with Principal Noonan, who told him that Strawn had brought a gun to his previous school in California. See Holohan SMF ¶ 28; Dkt. No. 33.*fn2

Zwingelberg reviewed Strawn's notebook for himself and was very concerned after reading "School Shootings." See Holohan SMF ¶¶ 31-32; Dkt. No. 33.*fn3 Meanwhile, Holohan conducted a search of the school with his canine partner. See Holohan SMF ¶ 29; Dkt. No. 33.

Zwingelberg treated the events of the day as a serious threat. See Holohan SMF ¶¶ 34-37; Dkt. No. 33. As the senior officer on site, Zwingelberg consulted the Rensselaer County District Attorney's office about the situation. See Holohan SMF ¶¶ 38, 40; Dkt. No. 33. Zwingelberg and Holohan subsequently decided to place Strawn under arrest. See Holohan SMF ¶ 41; Dkt. No. 33. Zwingelberg filled out the arrest complaint, and Holohan signed it. See Holohan SMF ¶ 44; Dkt. No. 33. Strawn was arrested for Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Second Degree, in violation of N.Y. PENAL LAW § 240.55.

Strawn was taken to Sand Lake Police barracks and processed. See Holohan SMF ¶ 45; Dkt. No. 33. After processing, Zwingelberg took him to be arraigned before Town Justice Mort Schulman, who remanded Strawn to Rensselaer County Jail without bail and ordered a psychiatric evaluation. See Holohan SMF ¶ 46; Dkt. No. 33. Holohan did not escort Strawn to the barracks, nor did he attend Strawn's arraignment or preliminary hearing. See Holohan SMF ¶ 47; Dkt. No. 33. At Strawn's preliminary hearing on December 24, Judge Schulman heard testimony from Bermas and Harris and ultimately concluded that probable cause existed to believe Strawn committed the crime of Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Second Degree. See Holohan SMF ¶¶ 48-50; Dkt. No. 33. The Town Court ordered that Strawn be held without bail pending trial. See Holohan SMF ¶ 51; Dkt. No. 33. On February 4, 2002, Strawn was released from jail into home confinement. See Holohan SMF ¶ 52; Dkt. No. 33. Strawn was eventually acquitted of all criminal charges on June 10, 2002. See Holohan SMF ¶ 54; Dkt. No. 33.*fn4

Subsequently, Strawn commenced the instant suit, alleging claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment.*fn5

III. Discussion

A. Standard of Review--Motion for ...

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