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Dewitt v. City of Troy

August 19, 2010

JAMEL DEWITT AND MARQUESE HILL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF TROY; TROY POLICE OFFICERS WILLIAM BOWLES, STEPHEN SENEY, JEFFREY HOOVER, AND WILLIAM O'NEIL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENTS, SERVANTS AND/OR EMPLOYEES OF THE CITY OF TROY; JOHN DOE AND RICHARD ROE, WHOSE NAMES ARE PRESENTLY UNKNOWN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENTS, SERVANTS AND/OR EMPLOYEES OF THE CITY OF TROY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Plaintiffs Jamel DeWitt and Marquese Hill commenced the instant action against Defendants asserting claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for denial of liberty, unlawful search and seizure, the use of excessive force, malicious prosecution, and related common law claims, arising out of their arrest on January 18, 2008. Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 seeking dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety.

I. FACTS

On January 18, 2008, Plaintiffs Jamel DeWitt and Marquese Hill (collectively "Plaintiffs') decided to get together and hang out. They met in the afternoon and drank alcohol and smoked marijuana. Later that evening, Plaintiffs were driving around the City of Troy, New York ("Troy") in a 1996 Acura. DeWitt was driving and Hill was in the passenger seat.

When Plaintiffs reached the area of 10th Street and Hoosick Street in Troy, a maroon SUV pulled up near their car. The SUV was driven by Defendant Troy City Police Officer Jeffrey Hoover. Hoover was accompanied by Defendant Troy City Police Officer William Bowles. Hoover and Bowles were members of the Street Crimes Unit who did not wear department issued uniforms and drove an unmarked police vehicle (the maroon SUV).

Although Hill admitted being familiar with Bowles and Hoover, Plaintiffs contend that they did not recognize the SUV as belonging to the Troy Police Department or its occupants as being police officers. Based on a prior stop of DeWitt, Bowles claimed to be aware that DeWitt did not have a driver's license. It is unclear exactly when the prior stop occurred and it does not appear that Bowles or Hoover checked on the status of DeWitt's license on January 18. Based on information obtained from a parole officer sometime within the preceding month, Bowles and Hoover also claimed to know that Hill had a parole warrant.

Hoover attempted to stop Plaintiffs' vehicle in a manner designed to prevent Plaintiffs from fleeing in their vehicle. Bowles claims that he got out of the SUV and displayed his badge to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs contend that they did not believe that the maroon SUV had anything to do with pulling them over and deny that Bowles got out of the SUV or displayed his badge. Defendants state that Plaintiffs placed their car in reverse and then proceeded forward toward Interstate 787. Plaintiffs continued from Hoosick Street onto Interstate 787 towards Albany. Bowles and Hoover requested and obtained permission to pursue Plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs operated their vehicle on Interstate 787 at approximately 75-80 miles per hour. Bowles and Hoover followed Plaintiffs from I-787 onto Route 378. Defendant Troy City Police Officers Steven Seney and William O'Neil, who were operating a marked vehicle and were wearing department issued uniforms, heard a radio transmission from Bowles concerning the attempt to stop Plaintiffs' vehicle. Seney requested and obtained permission to leave the City and assist Bowles. Seney activated his emergency lights and siren and proceeded towards Route 378.

As Plaintiffs merged onto Route 378, Hill heard at least one police car with sirens. Defendants believed Plaintiffs attempted to make a U-turn, but were unable to complete the maneuver due to the speed they were traveling. Hill denied that DeWitt tried to make a U-turn. Plaintiffs eventually left Route 378 and turned right onto Woods Lane. Once Plaintiffs' vehicle came to a stop, Bowles and Hoover pulled alongside Plaintiffs' car, existed their vehicle, and attempted to apprehend and arrest Plaintiffs. Officers Seney and O'Neill arrived on the scene. Seney existed his vehicle and went to assist Bowles while O'Nell went to assist Hoover. Seney is claimed to have told DeWitt to stop resisting and that he was under arrest. DeWitt denied being told that he was under arrest and to stop resisting.

Defendants claim that DeWitt resisted arrest and, therefore, Seney executed several baton strikes to DeWitt'e leg. After a second series of baton strikes, Bowles and Seney handcuffed DeWitt. DeWitt was then transported back to Troy where he was held pending arraignment. DeWitt denies that he resisted arrest and asserts that he was pulled to the ground and beaten.

With respect to Hill, Defendants contend that they ordered him several times to get down on the ground and stop resisting arrest and that Hill refused to comply. Hill denies this and claims that the police came up to the car, pulled him out of the car, threw him down on the ground, and started beating him. Eventually, Hill was handcuffed, placed in a police car, and held on the parole warrant.

As a result of the incident, DeWitt claims that he received bruises, scrapes, lumps, and knots, but that no bones were broken and he did not require any surgery. Hill's injuries consisted of a dime-sized laceration on his head, bruises, abrasions and a slight limp. Hill testified at deposition that he has not had continuing medical treatment for his injuries, but still has pain in his head.

Charges were filed in the City of Troy but subsequently dismissed. Charges also were filed in Menands. Hill went to trial on the charges and was found not guilty of resisting arrest. The charge of assault in the third degree was dismissed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Defendant moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 seeking dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims. Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures governs motions for summary judgment. It is well settled that on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, see Tenenbaum v. Williams, 193 F.3d 581, 593 (2d Cir. 1999), and may grant summary judgment only where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56( c). An issue is genuine if the relevant evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of identifying those portions of the record that the moving party believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to a dispositive issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant is able to establish a prima facie basis for summary judgment, the burden of production shifts to the party opposing summary judgment who must produce evidence establishing the existence of a factual dispute that a reasonable jury could resolve in his favor. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon "mere allegations or denials" asserted in his pleadings, Rexnord Holdings, Inc. v. Bidermann, 21 F.3d 522, 525-26 (2d Cir. 1994), or on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation. Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998).

With these standards in mind, the Court will address the pending motion.

III. DISCUSSION

a. False ...


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