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Michael Charles Garrett v. the City of New York

September 26, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John G. Koeltl, District Judge:


The plaintiff, Michael Charles Garrett, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendant, Detective Michael Puma, (the "defendant" or "Detective Puma") violated the plaintiff's rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. In particular, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant is liable for false arrest and malicious prosecution. The defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, arguing that all of the plaintiff's claims are without merit.*fn1


The standards to be applied to a motion for summary judgment are well established. "The Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists . . . ." Rodriguez v. City of New York, 72 F.3d 1051, 1060-61 (2d Cir. 1995). In determining whether that burden has been met, the Court is required to resolve all ambiguities and credit all factual inferences that could be drawn in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. See, e.g., Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). "It is not the province of the court itself to decide what inferences should be drawn . . . .; if there is any evidence in the record from any source from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, summary judgment is improper . . . ." Howley v. Town of Stratford, 217 F.3d 141, 151 (2d Cir. 2000); see also Bank of Am., N.A. v. Vergest Ltd., No. 10 Civ. 4682, 2011 WL 92751, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 11, 2011).


The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. On the morning of October 31, 2008, an unknown perpetrator stabbed William Won, the victim, near the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Thirty-Second Street in New York City. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 2; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. (Pl.'s 56.1 Resp.) ¶ 2.) In response to a 911 call placed by an observer, New York City patrol officers and emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene, and transported the victim to Bellevue Hospital. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 3-4; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 3-4.) The victim sustained loss of blood and permanent injuries, and was hospitalized for a week following the incident. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 5-6; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 5-6; Scharfstein Decl. Ex. D ("Won Dep."), at 25:2-26:14.)

Night Watch detectives, crime scene analysts, and police officers, including Police Officer Robert Groppe, investigated the scene of the crime. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 7-8; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 7-8.) Police officers canvassed the surrounding area for cameras, and Officer Groppe recovered and invoiced a Budweiser beer bottle. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 9-10; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 9-10; Scharfstein Decl. Ex. G.)

The case was assigned for investigation to the defendant, Detective Puma, when he arrived at work at 8:00 a.m. on October 31, 2008. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 11; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 11.)

With the assistance of other detectives, the defendant investigated the case and interviewed the complaining witness. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 12; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 12.) The defendant canvassed the area surrounding the scene of the crime, identified cameras that may have captured the incident, and reviewed film from these cameras. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 14-15; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 14-15.) The defendant contacted the Technical Assistance and Response Unit ("TARU") and the Pattern Identification Module System ("PIMS") to help him preserve the film, and to determine whether the film had captured the face of the perpetrator and, if so, whether the film could be enhanced to render visible the face of the perpetrator. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 16; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 16.) There is no evidence that TARU and PIMS provided any useful results. (Scharfstein Decl. Ex. M at NYC 000183, NYC 000184.)

On December 12, 2008, because the investigation did not initially lead to the identification or arrest of any suspect, the defendant, with the approval of a supervisor, closed the case. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 18-19; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 18-19.) However, on January 5, 2009, the plaintiff's DNA was recovered through DNA analysis from the beer bottle that Officer Groppe retrieved from the scene of the crime. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 20; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 20.) As a result, the case was reopened. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 21-22; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 21-22.)

On January 15, 2009, the victim viewed a photo array. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 27; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 27.) The victim selected the plaintiff, who appeared at position number two in the photo array, stating that the plaintiff "looked most familiar" to him of the men depicted in the photo array. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 27-28; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 27-28; Won Dep. at 39:5-10; see Scharfstein Decl. Ex. K.) The photo array consisted of pictures of the plaintiff and five other individuals. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 24; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 24.) The defendant created the photo array by entering the plaintiff's information in a computer program called "Photo Manager," which selected other photographs to be included in the photo array. (Scharfstein Decl. Ex. C. ("Puma Dep."), at (150:19-151:22.) After Photo Manager generated the photo array, the defendant examined the photo array to ensure that the other participants looked similar to the plaintiff, and found that they did. (Puma Dep. at 151:19-152:22.)

Following the photo array, the defendant brought the plaintiff into custody. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 32; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 32; Puma Dep. at 113:13-19.) The victim subsequently viewed a line-up in which the plaintiff appeared at position number two. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 33, 35; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 33, 35.) The victim stated that the plaintiff was the only participant in the line-up who "looked familiar" to him, and identified the plaintiff as the person who had stabbed him. (Won Dep. at 21:18-22:3, 46:23-47:12, 53:11-18.) After the victim identified the plaintiff, the defendant prepared the arrest processing paperwork and the plaintiff was arrested for Assault in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 120.05[2]). (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 38-39; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 38-39.) After the plaintiff was provided with Miranda warnings, the defendant alleges that the plaintiff made an oral statement to the defendant indicating that he witnessed the victim being stabbed and that he did not drink alcohol. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 40-42; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 40-41; Scharfstein Decl. Ex. U.) The plaintiff disputes that he made such a statement to the defendant and argues that Detective Puma fabricated the statement in order to destroy the plaintiff's credibility. (Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 42; Parker Decl. Ex. 1 ("Garrett Aff."), at ¶¶ 27-30.)

The defendant testified that he gave all of the paperwork he had on the case to the District Attorney's office. (Puma Dep. at 168:23-169:3.) The paperwork included, among other things, a DD-5 report indicating that an Argus (NYPD) camera had recorded the incident and that "there [was] a chance that the [perpetrator's] face was captured." (Scharfstein Decl. Exs. J & N at NYC 000111.) In addition, the existence of cameras in the vicinity of the incident was referenced in a complaint report, a police department memorandum dated October 31, 2008, and other DD-5 reports dated October 31, 2008, all of which were maintained in the District Attorney's office file. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 48; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 48; Scharfstein Decl. Exs. E, F, J & N at 000118.)

On January 22, 2009, the defendant signed a criminal court affidavit, prepared by Assistant District Attorney ("ADA") Rena Paul, charging the plaintiff with Assault in the First Degree and Assault in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal Law §§ 120.10[1], 120.05[2]) and indicating that the victim had informed the defendant that the plaintiff had stabbed the victim, causing the victim pain and injury. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 49-50; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 49-50.) The plaintiff was arraigned on January 23, 2009, at which time the state court set bail at $100,000. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 51-52; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 51-52.)

ADA Rena Paul spoke with the victim several times on the telephone and met with him in person before the grand jury proceeding. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 53-54; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 53-54; Won Dep. at 18:6-19:15, 53:24-56:13.) On January 28, 2009, ADA Rena Paul presented the case to the grand jury. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 55; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 55.) The plaintiff, the defendant, and the victim each testified before the grand jury. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 56; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 56.) The grand jury returned an indictment against the plaintiff, which included one count of Assault in the First Degree (New York Penal Law § 120.10[1]). (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 57; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 57; Scharfstein Decl. Ex. T.)

The defendant contends that the plaintiff filed multiple motions and grievance papers with the state court following his indictment, but did not mention the video film or the presence of cameras at the scene of the crime in any of his submissions. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 58-64, 66.) The plaintiff responds that he was aware of the existence of video cameras at the scene of the crime and believed there was a video of the incident, and that he was not required to mention the existence of video cameras or the video film in his court submissions. (Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 62, 66.) In the grievance the plaintiff submitted to the state court, he stated that there were transit workers at the scene of the crime who might have relevant information. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 65; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 65.)

On February 25, 2009, the plaintiff was released from custody on his own recognizance. (Scharfstein Decl. Ex. R at 000032.) On September 16, 2009, the indictment against the plaintiff was dismissed on speedy trial grounds. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 67; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 67; ...

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