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Georgette Sorrell, Juana Rosario, Machel Williams, and Donald v. the Incorporated Village of

June 4, 2012

GEORGETTE SORRELL, JUANA ROSARIO, MACHEL WILLIAMS, AND DONALD MORENCY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF LYNBROOK, LYNBROOK POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND POLICE OFFICERS JOHN DOE 1-10 IN THEIR OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, Senior District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Georgette Sorrell, Juana Rosario, Machel Williams, and Donald Morency commenced this action on January 6, 2010 asserting claims against defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, as well as New York common law, to recover for damages they allegedly sustained in connection with their arrest on October 11, 2008. Discovery in this action closed on July 12, 2012. Presently before the Court is plaintiffs' motion, made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), seeking to amend the Complaint to: (1) substitute "Police Officer John Does 1-10" with Lynbrook Police Officers Patrick J. Hahl, Peter R. Festa, Brian Paladino, Brian Cunningham, and Eric Bruen, and (2) to add the County of Nassau, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Detectives Robert J. Lashinsky and Greg M. Arena, and Nassau County Police Officer Marissa D. Stork as defendants. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the proposed Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") (see Decl. of Marjorie Mesidor, dated July 12, 2010 ("Mesidor Decl."), Ex. A), and are presumed true for purposes of this motion.

The Parties

Plaintiffs are African-Americans who reside in Suffolk County, New York. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5.) Defendants Patrick J. Hahl, Peter R. Festa, Brian Paladino, Brian Cunningham, and Eric Bruen (the "Lynbrook Police Officers") were employed at all relevant times as Police Officers in the Lynbrook Police Department, which is described as a "legal subdivision and agency of" the Incorporated Village of Lynbrook (the "Village"). (Id. ¶ 9.)

At all relevant times, defendant Marissa D. Stork served as a Police Officer with the Nassau County Police Department, and Greg M. Arena and Robert J. Lashinsky worked as Detectives with the Nassau County Police Department. The Amended Complaint describes the Nassau County Police Department as "a legal subdivision and agency" of Nassau County (the "County"). (Id. ¶ 8.)

Plaintiffs' Arrest

On or about October 11, 2008 at approximately 9:00 p.m., Sorrell drove a white 1994 four-door Honda Accord south on Peninsula Boulevard in Lynbrook, New York. Morency, Williams, and Rosario were passengers in the vehicle. The Lynbrook Police Officers stopped the vehicle and informed Sorrell that "the vehicle she was driving fit the description of a similar vehicle involved in a criminal incident that night." (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiffs assert that they were "improperly profiled" by the Lynbrook Police Officers, who "assumed" that they had engaged in criminal activity "simply because Plaintiffs were African American." (Id. ¶ 18.)

Subsequently, Arena and Lashinsky arrived at the scene. After approximately two hours had passed, plaintiffs were ordered out of the car "and told to stand in a line, as a police cruiser carrying two individuals in the backseat, slowly drove by." (Id. ¶ 20.) Shortly thereafter, the Lynbrook Police Officers handcuffed plaintiffs and told them that "everything would be resolved at the Precinct." (Id. ¶ 21.) The Lynbrook Police Officers, Arena, and Lashinsky then searched Sorrell's car. (Id.)

Plaintiffs are Taken to the Fifth Precinct

Plaintiffs were taken to the Fifth Precinct,*fn1 placed in separate rooms, and "interrogated." (Id. ¶ 23.) The Lynbrook Police Officers, Arena, Lashinsky, and Stork searched the contents of plaintiffs' cell phones and took a series of Polaroid photographs of plaintiffs as well as the items collected from them. While doing so, defendants "ridiculed" plaintiffs and refused to give plaintiffs a reason for their detainment. Plaintiffs also assert that Sorrell's car was searched "several times" throughout the night, and that it was "vandalized." (Id. ¶ 27.)

Plaintiffs allege that Stork conducted an unlawful strip search of Sorrell and Rosario, and that Sorrell and Rosario were not permitted to use the bathroom. Plaintiffs also assert that Williams was strip searched in a separate bathroom.

Plaintiffs are Released and the Charges Against Them are Ultimately Dropped Overall, plaintiffs were interrogated for approximately 12 hours and then were taken to "headquarters," where they spent an additional 24 hours. (Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiffs were not arraigned until October 13, 2008. Sorrell was released on $5,000 bail and Rosario was released on her own recognizance. Morency, who had been home on a work release program furlough, was remanded. Williams was unable to make bail and was held for nine days at the Nassau County Correctional Facility.

Plaintiffs allege that Arena and Lashinsky "actively instigated and encouraged [their] baseless prosecution" for robbery. (Id. ¶ 32.) Plaintiffs were charged with, and indicted on, a count of Robbery in the Second Degree, a Class C Felony. (Id. ¶ 32.) Plaintiffs contend that their indictments were "based primarily on the testimony of [Hahl and Lashinsky] as complaining witnesses." (Id. ¶ 33.) Plaintiffs assert that the Lynbrook Police Officers "conducted a show up" at the time that Sorrell's vehicle was stopped, and that the show up "was suggestive in that the victim was asked to identify four individuals surrounded by police as the perpetrators." (Id. ¶ 34.) Moreover, plaintiffs assert that during the show up, "the female victim" identified only Sorrell, Rosario, and Williams, but did not identify Morency. According to plaintiffs, Lashinsky and Arena "proceeded to do a photo pack with the male victim." (Id. ¶ 36.) Again, Morency was not identified. Nonetheless, Morency was "kept under unlawful arrest." (Id.)

The charges against plaintiffs were ultimately dropped on January 27, 2009. In the "Dismissal Memo," the Assistant District Attorney noted that plaintiffs' descriptions did not match the descriptions of the suspects that were given to the Lynbrook PD and was broadcast over the radio on the night of the robbery. (Id. ¶¶ 37, 38.) According to plaintiffs, despite the "glaring factual differences" between the suspects' and plaintiffs' descriptions, and despite the fact that the victims did not identify Morency during either the show up or the photo pack, the defendants detained and arrested the plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 38.) Video surveillance later obtained by plaintiffs' criminal counsel showed that plaintiffs had stopped at a gas station approximately 40 miles from the scene of the crime at the time the robbery occurred, which made it "factually impossible" for plaintiffs to have committed the robbery at all. (Id. ¶ 41.)

The Causes of Action

In the Amended Complaint, plaintiffs assert Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), for false arrest, excessive force, and malicious prosecution. Plaintiffs have also brought conspiracy claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 ("Section 1985"), and state law claims for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal ...


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