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Fowler v. Kingston City Police Dep't

September 22, 2009

JAMARR FOWLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KINGSTON CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT; CITY OF KINGSTON, NEW YORK; OFFICER BENNY REYES; OFFICER ERIC VAN ALLEN; AND OFFICER RICK NEGRON, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Jamarr Fowler ("Plaintiff" or "Fowler") filed the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), asserting claims for unlawful strip search, false arrest, and malicious prosecution. See generally Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 22). Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for partial summary judgment, filed on November 10, 2008, as well as Defendants' Motion for summary judgment, filed on October 31, 2008. Pl.'s Motion (Dkt. No. 46); Defs.' Motion (Dkt. No. 40). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion is denied, and Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

On August 29, 2004, Defendant Benny Reyes ("Reyes"), an officer with the Kingston Police Department, was on routine patrol in a marked car in the area of Prospect Street and Van Deusen Street in the City of Kingston, New York ("Kingston" or the "City"). Deposition of Benny Reyes ("Reyes Dep.") at 9-10 (Dkt. No. 46, Ex. 4). On four or five occasions during Reyes' patrol, he came upon a group of approximately four or five individuals who dispersed when his vehicle approached. Id. at 10. At approximately 4:00 a.m., Reyes spotted Fowler and another individual standing in the vicinity of the intersection of Prospect Street and Van Deusen Street in Kingston. Id. at 12-13. Reyes called for backup, exited his patrol car, and proceeded to approach and question Fowler. Id. at 16-18. Reyes testified that he couldn't remember if Fowler had been loud before Reyes exited his vehicle, and that Reyes didn't see him selling drugs or displaying a weapon. Id. at 19.

Defendant Officers Rick Negron ("Negron") and Eric Van Allen ("Van Allen") (collectively with Reyes, the "Officers") arrived at the scene after Reyes called the station dispatcher and notified the dispatcher that he was conducting a field interview of two subjects. Id. at 18. Fowler testified that Reyes asked him for his identification, and Fowler complied. Deposition of Jamarr Fowler ("Fowler Dep.") at 36 (Dkt. No. 46, Ex. 6). Reyes testified that he was "pretty sure" that Fowler supplied Reyes with identification after Reyes so requested. Reyes Dep. at 24. Reyes testified that after Negron and Van Allen arrived, Fowler became agitated. Id. Officers Negron and Reyes both testified that Fowler became very loud during his interaction with them. Deposition of Richard Negron ("Negron Dep.") at 9-10 (Dkt. No. 46, Ex. 3); Reyes Dep. at 17. Reyes and Van Allen observed that Fowler's pants were at least partially unzipped. Reyes Dep. at 25-26; Deposition of Eric Van Allen ("Van Allen Dep.") at 19 (Dkt. No. 46, Ex. 2). Van Allen testified that the Officers gave Fowler a verbal command to keep his hands in plain view. Van Allen Dep. at 19. Reyes testified that he began a pat down search of Fowler at the scene because Fowler kept reaching into the back of his pants in spite of the instructions to keep his hands in plain view, and Reyes was concerned that Fowler might have had a weapon on him. Reyes Dep. at 26.

Fowler testified that Van Allen kept asking him if he had any guns or drugs on him during the search. Fowler Dep. at 39. Van Allen testified that Fowler was defiant both before and during the search. Van Allen Dep. at 19. Fowler testified that during the search, Van Allen put gloves on, picked up the back of Fowler's shirt and tried to force his hand down the back of Fowler's pants. Fowler Dep. at 42, 46. Van Allen denies trying to force his hands into Fowler's pants. Van Allen Dep. at 26, 28. Fowler testified that during the search, he spun around, which caused Van Allen's hand to get caught inside the back of Fowler's jeans and caused Van Allen to trip. Fowler Dep. at 42-43, 46. Fowler testified that at this point, the Officers "got physical" with him. Id. at 43, 46. Reyes testified that the Officers arrested Fowler for disorderly conduct after he resisted during the search. Reyes Dep. at 27. No weapons or contraband were found on Plaintiff's person during the course of the pat down search. Van Allen Dep. at 20.

Following the arrest, Van Allen and Negron transported Fowler to the Kingston police station. Negron Dep. at 12; Van Allen Dep. at 18. Fowler testified that after he was placed in the booking area, Van Allen commanded that Fowler be strip searched. Fowler Dep. at 50. Fowler also testified that an unnamed sergeant gave the command to "strip him." Id. at 51. Fowler refused to take his clothes off. Id. at 52. Fowler testified that after this refusal, the Officers, along with two other unidentified officers, tripped him, threw him to the floor violently, and started to strip him. Id. at 53-54. Fowler testified that Officer Van Allen "started digging in [his] anal area[,]" but didn't find anything. Id. at 54-55. Fowler denies having drugs on him during the search at the police station or at any point that day. Id. at 58.

Reyes and Van Allen testified that the Officers took Fowler to the ground after he refused to take off his belt. Reyes Dep. at 31; Van Allen Dep. at 31. Reyes further testified that Fowler resisted during the attempted search. Reyes Dep. at 32. Negron testified that Fowler became aggressive and combative when the Officers tried to take his belt. Negron Dep. at 16, 19.

The Officers testified that during the struggle, they observed a small plastic bag between Fowler's buttocks, and that Officer Van Allen retrieved the bag. Negron Dep. at 20-21; Reyes Dep. at 32, 34; Van Allen Dep. at 32. The Officers eventually subdued Fowler and handcuffed him. Reyes Dep. at 36. Van Allen testified that he conducted a field test of the bag, which was suspected to be cocaine. Van Allen Dep. at 37.

Fowler was later indicted by an Ulster County Grand Jury on one count each of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree and disorderly conduct. Am. Compl. ¶17. Fowler was incarcerated for over seven months in custody of the Ulster County Sheriff Department. Id. at 2. On March 21, 2005, J. Michael Bruhn, County Judge of Ulster County held a suppression hearing in this matter. Dkt. No. 46, Attach. 10. Judge Bruhn determined that "the search of this defendant and seizure of contraband from him was in violation of his Constitutional rights and as such the defendant's motion to suppress must be and is granted." Id. at 2. Accordingly, Judge Bruhn dismissed the indictment. Id. at 3.

Fowler initiated this action on August 28, 2007, and filed an Amended Complaint on March 4, 2008. Dkt. No. 22. Plaintiff seeks damages for the Officers' alleged (i) unlawful strip search, (ii) false arrest/ false imprisonment, and (iii) malicious prosecution. See generally Am. Compl.*fn1

Fowler also asserts claims for municipal liability against both Kingston and the Kingston City Police Department. See id. Defendants filed their Motion for summary judgment on October 31, 2008. Dkt. No. 40. Plaintiff filed a Motion for summary judgment on November 2, 2008, and later amended his Motion on November 10, 2008. Dkt. No. 46. Plaintiff moves for summary judgment only as to Defendants' liability, and seeks a trial as to damages. See id.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment will be granted when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED R. CIV. P. 56(C); see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 (1986). Summary judgment is inappropriate if, resolving all ambiguities and drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, there exists a dispute about a material fact "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 255 (1986). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Id. at 248.

If the moving party meets its initial burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists for trial, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts" in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. The non-movant "must come forth with evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find in her favor." Brown v. Henderson, 257 F.3d 246, 251 (2d Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). "The non-moving party may not rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation" to show that a genuine issue as to a material fact exists. Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998) (citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Statute of ...


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