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Nash v. Village of Endicott

September 22, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, Chief U.S. District Judge



Plaintiff, Lester Nash, who is presently incarcerated, was arrested twice by officers of the Village of Endicott Police Department in the fall of 2005 for charges involving violations of the New York State vehicle and traffic law, drug violations and endangering the welfare of a child. Plaintiff sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arguing that the defendants, all police officers employed by the Village of Endicott, executed his arrests in violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article 1 §§ 6, 8 11 and 12 of the New York State Constitution. Plaintiff asserts he was arrested because of his race, that he was unlawfully searched, that his vehicle was unlawfully seized, that he was detained without probable cause, that he is a victim of abuse of process, that defendants conspired to violate his rights, that he was falsely arrested, that he was maliciously prosecuted, and that he was retaliated against. Defendants have moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. Plaintiff, though served with the appropriate notice pursuant to Local Rule 56.2, has not filed papers opposing defendants' motions.


On October 18, 2008 at approximately 6:46 p.m. while Police Officer Dwayne Smith was on routine patrol heading southbound on Odell Avenue in the Village of Endicott, he observed a green Honda turning on to Odell Avenue that did not have any headlights on. This observation by Officer Smith was made more than one half hour after sunset on Tuesday, October 18, 2005 as sunset that day was formally at 6:12 p.m. The above circumstance provided Officer Smith with probable cause to believe that the driver of the green Honda was in violation of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 375 which requires motor vehicle operators to illuminate their vehicle's headlights commencing not later than one half hour after sunset. Officer Smith determined that a traffic stop was in order and proceeded to pull over the green Honda. Officer Smith exited the vehicle and approached the driver, plaintiff Lester Nash, who was alone in the vehicle, and advised Mr. Nash that his headlights were not on.

Officer Smith requested that Mr. Nash provide the officer with his license, registration and insurance information for the vehicle. Lester Nash instead provided Officer Smith with a New York State Identification Card setting forth the plaintiff's name and then told the officer that he did not have a valid driver's license. Officer Smith advised Mr. Nash that he needed to find out why the plaintiff had no license and to determine whether there were any outstanding warrants for Mr. Nash's arrest. At this point, Mr. Nash advised Officer Smith that his driver's license was suspended and asked that Officer Smith not issue a ticket. Officer Smith ran plaintiff through the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles database and learned that Mr. Nash's license was revoked and that he had a prior conviction for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree dating to October 14, 2004.

Officer Smith then asked Mr. Nash to sit in the back of his patrol unit and Mr. Nash complied. The officer planned to complete his paperwork and issue two uniform traffic tickets to

Nash. Officer Smith further advised Mr. Nash that New York State required the vehicle to be impounded as Mr. Nash was driving unaccompanied by the registered owner. The officer advised Mr. Nash that an inventory of the vehicle's contents would be made at the impound lot and asked plaintiff whether he wanted to retrieve anything from the vehicle before it was towed. Mr. Nash indicated that he did not, but appeared at that point to become nervous. Officer Smith then asked Mr. Nash whether there was anything dangerous or illegal in the vehicle to which Mr. Nash replied, in sum and substance, that there was a lot of marijuana between the center console and the driver's seat. By this time, Officer Smith was being assisted on scene by Police Officer Quinn who then began a search of the vehicle for any illegal substances. In addition to finding marijuana, Police Officer Quinn also found a white rock substance prompting Officer Smith to ask Mr. Nash whether this was cocaine to which Nash answered "Yes." As a result of the traffic stop, Mr. Nash was cited for a violation of the aforementioned section of the Vehicle and Traffic Law as well as the New York State Penal Law Sections 220.16 and 221.05 (a class B felony and violation respectively) concerning crack cocaine and marijuana.

During the time of the traffic stop, both Police Officer Dwayne Smith and Police Officer Jennifer Quinn were in the scope of their employment as police officers employed by the Village of Endicott and were following proper procedure as set forth in the Endicott Police Department Traffic Stop Procedures Manual. Mr. Nash was arrested, handcuffed and transported to the Endicott Police Department and placed in a jail cell for further processing. Prior to being placed in handcuffs and while in the back of the police car, Mr. Nash was permitted to use his cell phone to make several phone calls to his fiancé, Nikeya Elliott (the registered owner of the vehicle).

Defendant Detective Sergeant Michael Kaminsky processed Mr. Nash following his arrest. Mr. Nash was already known to Detective Sergeant Kaminsky who had already been assisting the New York City Police Department and the New York State Police with a homicide investigation in which the plaintiff was a suspect. During the course of processing Mr. Nash, the Detective Sergeant learned that two cell phones and a Blackberry had been on Mr. Nash's person at the time of the traffic stop and these items might prove germane to the ongoing homicide investigation.

In due course, a search warrant was issued regarding the undercover operations that were ongoing at the time. Additional search warrants issued thereafter based upon information yielded from the prior searches and ongoing investigation.

On November 17, 2005, plaintiff Lester Nash was arrested on two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, one count of criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child. Mr. Nash was arraigned in the Justice Court of the Town of Union on November 17, 2005, and remanded to the Broome County Jail without bail.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Substantive law determines which facts are material; that is, which facts might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 258 (1986).

Irrelevant or unnecessary facts do not preclude summary judgment, even when they are in dispute. See id. The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact to be decided. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). With respect to any issue on which the moving party does not bear the burden of proof, it may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. See id. at 325. Once the movant meets this initial burden, the nonmoving party must demonstrate that there is a genuine unresolved issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

When the non-moving party " 'chooses the perilous path of failing to submit a response to a summary judgment motion, the district court may not grant the motion without first examining the moving party's submission to determine if it has met its burden of demonstrating that no material issue of fact remains for trial." ' Vermont Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F. 3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting Amaker v. Foley, 274 F. 3d 677, 681 (2d Cir. 2001). If the movant does not meet its burden of production, then a court must deny summary judgment even if the non-movant does not oppose the motion. See id. Moreover, the court may not rely solely on the movant's statement of undisputed facts contained in its Rule 56.1 statement. See id. The court must be satisfied that the movant's assertions are supported by the evidence in the record. See id. (citing Giannullo v. City of New York, 322 F. 3d 139, 140 (2d Cir. 2003)). When a nonmoving pro se party has failed to submit papers in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, summary judgment may be granted as long as the court is satisfied that the undisputed facts "show that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law," and plaintiff has received notice that failure to submit evidence in opposition may result in dismissal of his or her case. Champion v. Artuz, 76 F. 3d 483, 486 (2d Cir. 1996).

It is with these considerations in mind that the Court addresses defendants' motions for summary judgment.

B. Defendants' Motions

1. Race Discrimination Against ...

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