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Igor Yevstifeev v. Brad Steve

May 18, 2012

IGOR YEVSTIFEEV, SVIATLANA HARNIZONAVA, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BRAD STEVE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TOWN OF BRIGHTON POLICE OFFICER, ROBERT FISHER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A TOWN OF BRIGHTON POLICE OFFICER, FRANK SCARCELLI, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A TOWN OF BRIGHTON COURT REPORTER, TOWN OF BRIGHTON, TOWN OF BRIGHTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, THOMAS VOELKL, TOWN OF BRIGHTON POLICE CHIEF, TOWN OF BRIGHTON COURT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Igor Yevstifeev ("Yevstifeev") and his wife, Sviatlana Harnizonava (collectively "plaintiffs"), proceeding pro se, bring this action against The Town of Brighton Police Department, its police chief, two police officers, the Brighton Town Court and a court reporter, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 ("Section 1983"). In brief, plaintiffs allege that the defendants unlawfully arrested and tried Yevstifeev for driving while intoxicated and other offenses, in violation of both plaintiffs' First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights, and that defendants thereafter conspired to cover up their misconduct.

Familiarity with the underlying undisputed facts, summarized here, is presumed. On November 11, 2005, Brighton Police Officers Brad Steve and Robert Fisher were investigating a hitand-run motor vehicle accident. Using a license plate number provided by several eyewitnesses, the officers traced the suspect vehicle to plaintiffs' residence. Upon discovering Yevstifeev's motor vehicle at the home, which matched witness descriptions and had damage consistent with the accident scene, the officers interviewed Yevstifeev, who was found to be intoxicated. Sobriety tests were administered and Yevstifeev was eventually arrested. During this time, Harnizonava made several attempts to halt the investigation and arrest, including physically blocking the officers' path and ignoring orders to return to the home, and attempting to open the door of a patrol car to release Yevstifeev from the back seat.

Harnizonava was arrested and charged with obstructing government administration in the second degree, while Yevstifeev was arrested and ticketed for driving while intoxicated, refusal to perform a breath screening test, unsafe backing and leaving the scene of an accident. Upon arrival at the police station, Yevstifeev refused to cooperate with booking procedures. After being placed in a holding cell to "calm down" for a time, Yevstifeev was permitted to leave the cell to continue processing. While Yevstifeev testified at his deposition that he could not recall what happened when he left the cell, Officers Steve and Fisher testified that as Yevstifeev exited the cell, he charged Officer Steve and attempted to punch him in the face. Officer Steve kicked Yevstifeev in the abdomen to decentralize him, causing Yevstifeev to fall and strike his head on a counter. Officers Steve and Fisher testified that Yevstifeev continued to struggle and throw punches as they restrained and handcuffed him, and returned him to a holding cell. Yevstifeev was then charged with resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration in the second degree. A medical technician was called to examine Yevstifeev, and found that no medical treatment was necessary. Later, after continued agitated behavior and alleged verbal threats, which Yevstifeev testified that he did not recall making but might have made, Yevstifeev was placed under a mental hygiene arrest and transported to Strong Memorial Hospital.

Following a non-jury trial in the Brighton Town Court, Yevstifeev was found guilty of resisting arrest and obstruction of government administration. On appeal to the Monroe County Court, the conviction for obstruction of government administration was upheld, the conviction for resisting arrest was overturned, and the trial court's finding of probable cause for the arrest was upheld. Harnizonava received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal on the charge of obstruction of government administration. (Dkt. #56-4 at Exhs. L, M).

Plaintiffs commenced this action on October 21, 2008. (Dkt. #1). On August 12, 2010, the Court granted a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' claims against one of the defendants, Brighton Town Court Reporter Frank Scarcelli. (Dkt. #36). The remaining defendants now move, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56, for summary judgment dismissing the complaint (Dkt. #55). Plaintiffs oppose that motion, and have also moved to treat certain testimony given by the defendant police officers, Brad Steve ("Steve") and Robert Fisher ("Fisher") at Yevstifeev's pretrial hearing and trial, as perjuries and/or denials of due process (Dkt. #49). For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motion is granted, plaintiffs' motion is denied, and the complaint is dismissed in its entirety.

DISCUSSION

I. The Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment will be granted if the record demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.

R. Civ. P. 56(c). See also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). "When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-587 (1986).

Where, as here, the parties opposing summary judgment are proceeding pro se, the Court must "read the pleadings ... liberally and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Corcoran v. New York Power Auth., 202 F.3d 530, 536 (2d Cir.1999). Nevertheless, "proceeding pro se does not otherwise relieve [an opposing party] from the usual requirements of summary judgment." Fitzpatrick v. N.Y. Cornell Hosp., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25166 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). In responding to a properly-supported motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs may not reply upon conclusory allegations or denials, but instead must produce evidence in admissible form, setting forth "concrete particulars" showing that a trial is needed. R.G. Group, Inc. v. Horn & Hardart Co., 751 F.2d 69, 77 (2d Cir. 1984).

II. Plaintiffs' Section 1983 Claims Against the Town

"[I]n order to state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and that such violation was committed by a person under the color of state law." Kern v. City of Rochester, 93 F.3d 38, 43 (2d Cir. 1996). Where Section 1983 claims are brought against a municipality, the plaintiff must plead and prove that: (1) there was an official policy or custom; (2) which caused the plaintiff ...


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