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Jean v. City of New York

October 22, 2009

FRANTZ JEAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, POLICE OFFICER OTTOMANELLI, AND JONATHAN MONTINA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ramon E. Reyes, Jr., U. S. M. J.

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Frantz Jean ("Jean") brought this action against Defendants City of New York ("the City"), Police Officer Christopher Ottomanelli ("Ottomanelli"), and Jonathan Montina ("Montina") for injuries he allegedly sustained when Jean was arrested and prosecuted for assaulting Montina. Jean claimed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that he was falsely arrested, falsely imprisoned, and maliciously prosecuted in violation of his constitutional rights, and the laws and statutes of the State of New York and the City of New York. In addition, he is suing the City under a theory of respondeat superior. The City has moved for summary judgment on all claims. This Court has jurisdiction because this case presents a federal question, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and seeks to redress an alleged deprivation of Jean's civil rights, see 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3). The parties have consented to have me preside over the case, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Docket Entry 10.) For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is granted, and Jean's complaint is dismissed in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

This case involves conflicting accounts of a fight in the men's restroom at a high school in Brooklyn. Although the parties' accounts of what happened differ, the facts must be presented in the light most favorable to the non-moving party on a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Jean's version of the facts will therefore be credited below.

At the time of the events giving rise to this action, Jean and Montina were students at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, New York. (Plaintiff's Local Rule 56.1 Counter Statement of Material Facts ("Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt.") ¶ 2.) On March 18, 2006, Montina had his cell phone taken by a group of boys at a pizzeria where Jean was eating. (Pl.'s Ex. 1, Jean Affidavit ("Jean Aff.") ¶ 5.) Montina confronted Jean, who denied having taken the phone and said he did not know who had taken it. (Id.) Two days later, Montina and two of his friends interrupted Jean's English class and demanded that he return Montina's phone. (Id. ¶ 7.) Montina's friends were known gang members, and the group threatened to hurt Jean if he did not return Montina's phone. (Id. ¶ 7.)

During the lunch hour that same day, Jean and Montina got into a fight in the men's restroom. Jean was in the bathroom with two of his friends, Travis Fabien and Raymond [Bastien], when Montina and his friends entered the bathroom. (Id. ¶ 9.) Montina started swinging at Jean, who defended himself by swinging back and eventually punching Jean in the face, near his eye. (Pl.'s Ex. 2, Jean Deposition ("Jean Dep.") at 29.) Jean's friends broke up the fight, and Dean Richard Franzese ("Dean Franzese") reported the incident to the New York Police Department, pursuant to school policy. (Pl.'s Ex. 1, Jean Aff. ¶ 11.) Upon arriving at Midwood High School, Officer Ottomanelli learned from Dean Franzese that there had been an altercation inside one of the men's bathrooms. (Pl.'s Ex. 3, Ottomanelli Deposition ("Ottomanelli Dep.") at 10: 5--8.) Ottomanelli spoke with Montina first and observed that he had a substantial injury to his eye. (Id. at 10: 10--15.) Montina told Ottomanelli that he had gone to speak to Jean about a cell phone that had been taken a few days earlier. (Id. at 11: 4--6.) When asked why he did not report it earlier, Montina responded that he knew who had taken the phone and was going to try to get it back at school on Monday. (Id. at 11: 7--13.) Montina then identified Jean as the person who injured his eye. (Id. at 12: 21--23.)

Ottomanelli never questioned Jean to get his side of the story. (Pl.'s Ex. 1, Jean Aff. ¶ 12.) Jean tried telling Ottomanelli that he was the innocent party and that Montina had attacked him, but Ottomanelli did not listen to him. (Id. ¶ 12.) Ottomanelli did not speak to the other students who had witnessed the fight. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 9, 10.) Although there were available statements written by faculty members that described the earlier events of the day, Ottomanelli was not aware of either those statements or statements written by the parties and other witnesses to their fight, and he did not seek to learn about them. (Id. ¶ 22.) After arresting Jean and searching his book bag, Ottomanelli recovered a box-cutting knife. (Id. ¶ 25.)

Ottomanelli arrested Jean on March 20, 2006, on charges of robbery, assault, and criminal possession of a weapon. (Defs' Ex. E, N.Y.P.D. Online Booking System Arrest Worksheet.) On March 21, 2006, Jean was arraigned (Pl.'s Ex. 2, Jean Dep., at 50: 7--15) and released on $350 bail. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 27.) A grand jury indicted Jean on one count of assault in the third degree on June 7, 2006. (Defs' Ex. F, Indictment.) Ottomanelli testified before the grand jury, but did not testify during Jean's criminal trial on June 8, 2007. (Pl.'s Ex. 3, Ottomanelli Dep. at 24: 9--10.) Jean was acquitted of all charges against him on September 21, 2007. (Defs' Ex. G, Certif. of Disp.) Jean and his mother made over twenty appearances in court during the period of March 20, 2006 through September 21, 2007, resulting in his missing substantial amounts of school time and school work, including an important college entrance exam. (Pl.'s Ex. 1, Jean Aff. ¶ 15.)

STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is warranted when the Court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56; Bickerstaff v. Vassar College, 196 F.3d 435, 444 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 530 U.S. 1242 (2000). Summary judgment must be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material issue of fact." See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Miner v. City of Glens Falls, 999 F.2d 655, 661 (2d Cir. 1993). A motion for summary judgment cannot rest on conclusory or speculative allegations, but must be based on concrete particulars. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986); Schwapp v. Town of Avon, 118 F.3d 106, 111 (2d Cir. 1997).

The non-moving party must offer evidence showing that issues of fact exist that must be decided by a fact-finder because they may reasonably be decided in favor of either party. Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 884 (1990); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "Where no such showing is made, 'the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the non-moving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [his] case with respect to which [he] has the burden of proof." Lujan, 497 U.S. at 884 (citations omitted).

ANALYSIS

Defendants' motion must be granted because Ottomanelli is shielded from suit by his qualified immunity, and as discussed more fully below, ...


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