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Marisol Rodriguez v. City of New York

March 28, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States District Judge.


On October 14, 2008, Marisol Rodriguez*fn1 ("plaintiff") filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants City of New York, Officer Angel Santos, Detective John McDonald, and Sergeant John Gilbert, violated her constitutional rights by falsely arresting and maliciously prosecuting her for allegedly harassing defendant Santos. (Compl. (Doc. 1); Amended Compl. (Doc. 24).) Plaintiff also asserts claims under New York state law.*fn2

(Amended Compl. ¶¶ 63--68.) Presently before the Court are two separate summary judgment motions, one filed by defendants City of New York, Detective John McDonald, and Sergeant John Gilbert (together, "City Defendants") (City Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. (Doc. 70)), and the other filed by defendant Officer Santos (Def. Santos's Mot. Summ. J. (Doc. 71)).

For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motions are GRANTED and the complaint is dismissed in its entirety.


A. Facts

At some time prior to January of 2006, plaintiff and defendant Angel Santos, an officer with the New York Police Department ("NYPD"), were involved in a personal romantic relationship. The parties dispute how and when the romantic relationship ended, who initiated the breakup, and how the nature of the relationship changed over time. (See Declaration of Marisol Rodriguez ("Rodriguez Decl.") (Doc. 73-3) ¶¶ 2, 7, 24, 28, 36 (claiming that she and defendant Santos "comit[ted] to each other," but he grew physically abusive, and she attempted to distance herself from him); Deposition of Angel Santos ("Santos Dep.") (Doc. 73-9), Ex. 3 to Declaration of Matthew Flamm ("Flamm Decl."), at 40--43, 48 (characterizing their relationship as "just a sexual agreement").) Defendant Santos ultimately made a complaint against plaintiff for harassment and stalking, and a prosecution was initiated and ultimately dismissed. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 1, 19.) The arrest and prosecution related to defendant Santos's complaint form the basis of plaintiff's present action.

1.Defendant Santos's Complaint

On December 31, 2005, defendant Santos made a criminal complaint against plaintiff at NYPD's 72nd Precinct. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.) Defendant Santos was interviewed by Detective McDonald. Santos alleged that plaintiff had followed him on the street, repeatedly appeared at his apartment uninvited, left letters and photographs at his apartment building, knocked on his windows and doors, pushed objects through his window, and verbally threatened him. (Id. at ¶ 2.) Defendant Santos turned over what he represented to be examples of the letters and photographs left at his apartment. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 2.) Defendant Santos also told Detective McDonald that he and plaintiff had been involved in a romantic relationship and that plaintiff previously had filed a complaint against Santos with the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau ("IAB"). (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 3.) Detective McDonald warned defendant Santos at that time about filing a false report or making a complaint for retaliatory purposes. (Deposition of John McDonald ("McDonald Dep.") (Doc. 73-10), Ex. 4 to Flamm Decl., at 124:8--9.) Plaintiff concedes that Santos and McDonald had never met before. (Oct. 28, 2009 Deposition of Marisol Rodriguez ("Rodriguez Dep. II"), Ex. 2 to Flamm Decl., at 192.)

On three occasions, defendant Santos provided the NYPD with a surveillance videotape from his apartment building. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4.) One of the videotapes, which Detective McDonald saw, depicts plaintiff at Santos's apartment building on January 1, 2006. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4; Surveillance Video 2008036338, Ex. E to Hudson Decl., at 19:53:19--20:05:42.)

2.Detective McDonald's Investigation

After interviewing defendant Santos, Detective McDonald called Lieutenant Ferraro, the officer then assigned to plaintiff's IAB complaints. (McDonald Dep., at 17--18.) Detective McDonald and Lieutenant Ferraro spoke two or three times regarding plaintiff's IAB complaints prior to plaintiff's arrest. (March 16, 2010 Deposition of Nicholas Ferraro ("Ferraro Dep. I"), Ex. 12 to Flamm Decl., at 15--16.) Detective McDonald testified that Lieutenant Ferraro told him "there was a history between the parties." Particularly, according to McDonald, Lieutenant Ferraro explained that plaintiff had filed complaints against Santos, and that, at that time, one of her complaints was pending and another had been withdrawn. Lieutenant Ferraro also relayed to Detective McDonald "the general nature of the complaints" that plaintiff had filed against Santos, including that one involved an allegation of sexual assault. (Id.) Detective McDonald testified, however, that Lieutenant Ferraro did not give him "the specifics" as to plaintiff's allegations. (Id.) Lieutenant Ferraro also explained to Detective McDonald that he had "dealt personally" with plaintiff, and "told her to stay away from [Santos]." (McDonald Dep., at 17-- 18.)

Lieutenant Ferraro confirmed that he and Detective McDonald spoke two or three times about the complaints lodged by plaintiff against Detective Santos, and that the two never met. (Ferraro Dep. I, at 12--15.) Ferraro testified that while he did not have a recollection of the details of his conversation, ((March 29, 2010 Deposition of Nicholas Ferraro ("Ferraro Dep. II"), Ex. 13 to Flamm Decl., at 33), Ferraro "just gave [McDonald] an overall view of the case," and "didn't get into anything specific; just times, dates, dates when stuff happened." (Ferraro Dep. I,at 16.)

According to the record evidence, Plaintiff made at least three complaints to IAB against defendant Santos, spanning approximately one year prior to her arrest. (Rodriguez Decl. ¶ 33, 45; Ferraro Dep. I, at 8--9.) Two alleged incidents of violence and threatening behavior, and a third complaint alleged an incident of sexual assault. (Rodriguez Decl. ¶¶ 29, 33, 45; Ferraro Dep. I, at 8--9.) None of plaintiff's complaints to IAB were ever substantiated. (Internal Affairs Bureau Investigative Findings, Ex. 15 to Flamm Decl.)*fn4

Lieutenant Ferraro interviewed plaintiff approximately three times, including at her home and in the District Attorney's Office. (Rodriguez Dep. II, at 193.)*fn5 Plaintiff provided IAB with an "instant message" communication between plaintiff and defendant Santos, dated July 13, 2005, wherein plaintiff expressed to Santos that she did not want to speak with IAB anymore and he encouraged her to tell IAB that "we [meaning plaintiff and Santos] haven't spoken in a long time." (America Online Communication (Doc. 73-14), Ex. 8 to Flamm Decl.) Lieutenant Ferraro believed that he did not mention the instant message communication to Detective McDonald. (Ferraro Dep. II, at 61.)

As the IAB investigating officer on these complaints, Lieutenant Ferraro was in possession of Detective Santos' IAB file, which may have included matters unrelated to plaintiff's IAB complaints.*fn6 However, Lieutenant Ferraro specifically testified that he did not physically give the IAB file to Detective McDonald (Ferraro Dep. I, at 15--16), and there is no record evidence that the contents of the file, or information regarding matters unrelated to plaintiff's own IAB complaints, were ever communicated to Detective McDonald.*fn7

3.Plaintiff's Interview and Arrest

On January 6, 2006, Detective McDonald and another unidentified officer visited plaintiff's home, and plaintiff voluntarily accompanied them back to the 72nd Precinct. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 6.)*fn8 At the precinct, Detective McDonald and plaintiff discussed defendant Santos's allegations against her, and Detective McDonald showed plaintiff a portion of the videotape depicting her at defendant Santos's building. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff admitted to Detective McDonald that she was present at defendant Santos's apartment building on at least two of the days during the period of time covering the acts alleged by defendant Santos. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff claims she told Detective McDonald that she was there because defendant Santos demanded that she return his clothing and gifts. (Rodriguez Decl. ¶ 60.) Detective McDonald does not recall this statement, and he instead recalls that plaintiff said she was there visiting a friend. (McDonald Dep., at 65--66.)'

Plaintiff also claims that after viewing the videotape and discussing the evidence, Detective McDonald told plaintiff that "this is unsubstantiated evidence, but my boss told me to make the arrest." (Rodriguez Decl. ¶ 63.) Detective McDonald testified that he does not recall commenting on whether the videotape substantiated anything, and disputes telling plaintiff that he was told to make the arrest. (McDonald Dep., at 68--69.) Plaintiff was then arrested for aggravated harassment in the fourth degree and stalking in the second degree. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10.)

4.Sergeant Gilbert's Role

On January 1, 2006, the day after his interview with defendant Santos, Detective McDonald completed a Criminal Follow-Up Informational, or "DD-5", associated with defendant Santos's complaint. (Criminal Follow-Up Informational ("DD-5"), Ex. B to Hudson Decl.) The "details" section of the DD-5 describes Santos's allegations, the notes, letters, and videotapes turned over by defendant Santos, and his statements about his romantic relationship with plaintiff and her complaints to IAB. (Id.) The DD-5 indicates that the surveillance video turned over to IAB was "of Rodriguez placing a letter and pictures of [Santos] and a female friend on his door." (Id.) It also states that "[a]ccording to Mr. [S]antos the relationship ended at his behest over a year ago," that "[s]ince that time, Rodriguez has refused repeated re-quests by Mr. [S]antos to leave him alone" and that IAB had "advised [her] to 'stay away' from Mr. Santos and not attempt to contact him." (Id.)

Sergeant Gilbert's name appears on the January 1, 2006 DD-5 as the "Reviewing/Closing Officer." (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 14.) Detective McDonald was required to prepare such follow-up reports following assignment of the case. (McDonald Dep., at 107:14--108:9; Deposition of Matthew Gilbert (Doc. 73-11) ("Gilbert Dep."), Ex. 5 to Flamm Decl., at 23:9--12, 36:9--20.) A supervisor was required to review the reports, but a meeting or discussion with the supervisor was not required. (McDonald Dep., at 107:14--108:9; Gilbert Dep., at 23:9--12, 36:9-- 20.) Detective McDonald and Sergeant Gilbert do not recall discussing plaintiff's arrest with one another. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff concedes that Sergeant Gilbert has never met defendant Santos. (Rodriguez Dep. II, at 192.) To date, plaintiff has never met nor interacted with Sergeant Gilbert. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 15.)

5.Plaintiff's Prosecution

Plaintiff's prosecution was commenced with the filing of a misdemeanor criminal information. (Jan. 7, 2006 Criminal Information, Ex. 11 to Flamm Decl.)Neither Detective McDonald nor Sergeant Gilbert signed the charging instrument. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff was arraigned on January 7, 2006, the day following her arrest, and was released. (Roriguez Dep. II, at 83--84.) Two amended criminal informations were signed by prosecutors, and Defendant Santos signed supporting depositions swearing to the facts attributed to him in these amended informations.*fn9 (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 12; Feb. 2, 2006 Supporting Deposition to Criminal Information, Ex. K to Hudson Decl.; Criminal Informations and May 1, 2007 Supporting Deposition, Ex. 11 to Flamm Decl.) On October 4, 2007, almost 20 months after her arrest, plaintiff's criminal case was dismissed on speedy trial grounds. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 19.)*fn10

Plaintiff "concedes that defendant Santos was not acting under color of law" at any relevant time. (Pl.'s Mem. Opp. Mot. Summ. J. (Doc. 73), at 1 n.1.) The parties agree that Detective McDonald and Sergeant Gilbert were on duty and acting within the scope of their ...

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