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Johnson v. City of New York

June 7, 2010

VANDYKE JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, COMMISSIONER OF THE NYPD OR HIS SUCCESSOR; P.O. DANIELLE WUBNIG, SHIELD NO. 23048, IN HER PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL CAPACITY; NEW YORK UNIVERSITY; DEAN OF SCPS ROBERT LAPINER; NYU INVESTIGATIONS MANAGER PATRICK WING; NYU PUBLIC SAFETY ADMIN. ROBERT HUGHES; NYU PUBLIC SAFETY, RORY DEEGAN; : NYU STUDENT AFFAIRS THOMAS GRACE DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sidney H. Stein, U.S. District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Pro se plaintiff Vandyke Johnson, a former graduate student at New York University, brings this action against NYU and a number of its employees (collectively, the "NYU defendants") as well as against the City of New York, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, and Police Officer Danielle Wubnig (collectively, the "City defendants") arising from his arrest at an NYU gymnasium and subsequent prosecution on allegedly false allegations of larceny, charges of which he was ultimately acquitted at trial. In relevant part, the complaint raises claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution pursuant to both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New York state law*fn1 and seeks monetary damages.

The City defendants have moved for summary judgment on plaintiff's section 1983 claims as well as his state law claims, arguing that as a matter of law plaintiff cannot establish a claim for malicious prosecution or false arrest under either section 1983 or state law, and accordingly, that summary judgment is appropriate. Johnson opposes the motion contending issues of material fact remain in dispute with respect to each of his claims.

Because the Court finds, with no issues of material fact in dispute, that each of plaintiff's section 1983 and state law claims fails as a matter of law with respect to the City defendants, the motion for summary judgment is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are not in dispute:

A. The Parties

Plaintiff Vandyke Johnson was, as of August 2006, a graduate student at NYU. (Am. Compl. at I.A.)

Defendant P.O. Danielle Wubnig is a New York City police officer. (Id.; Defs.' Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Defs.' 56.1") ¶ 23.) Defendant Raymond Kelly is the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department. The City of New York is itself named as a defendant. (Am. Compl. at I.A.)

Also named as defendants are Robert Lapiner, the Dean of NYU's School of Continuing Professional Studies; Patrick Wing, an NYU Public Safety Investigation Manager; Robert Hughes, an NYU Public Safety Administrator; Thomas Grace of "NYU Student Affairs"; and Rory Deegan of NYU's public safety division. (Am. Compl. I.A.)

B. Johnson's Arrest and Prosecution

This action stems from plaintiff's arrest at NYU's Coles Sports Center on August 23, 2006 on charges of larceny. Plaintiff, who was entitled to use Coles because he was an NYU graduate student, was in the men's locker room when he was accused by another patron, defendant Rory Deegan, of breaking into Deegan's locker. Deegan confronted Johnson and then called the police. (Am. Compl. at III.C; Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 17-18; Aff. of Rory Deegan dated Sept. 15, 2009 ("Deegan Aff.") ¶¶ 16-19, Ex. C. to Decl. of Matthew Weir dated Nov. 2, 2009 ("Weir Decl.").)

At approximately 1:09 p.m., Officer Wubnig arrived at Coles and spoke with both plaintiff and Deegan. Deegan told Officer Wubnig that he had deposited his backpack- which contained his wallet-in a locker that he secured with a personal combination lock. However, when he returned to the locker room after his workout, Deegan saw plaintiff in front of Deegan's open locker, holding Deegan's wallet, and "thumbing through" the "cash section" of the wallet and examining its contents. (Id. ¶¶ 14-18; Deegan Aff. ¶¶ 3-14.) By contrast, Johnson told Officer Wubnig that "nothing happened" and that Deegan was "bugging out," adding that "I have my own money." (Id. ¶ 21.)

Nonetheless, after inspecting the wallet and based on the information obtained from Deegan, Officer Wubnig placed Johnson under arrest and took him to the precinct. (Id. ΒΆΒΆ 20, 23.) NYU safety officials then proceeded to empty Johnson's locker at Coles, which contained a bag that had metal pliers and a metal bar ...


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