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Richard J. Connolly v. Joseph F. Calvanese and Robert Coleman

June 7, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge


Plaintiff Richard J. Connolly commenced the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging claims of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and the use of excessive force in connection with his arrest and prosecution. Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 seeking dismissal of the Complain in its entirety. Plaintiff opposes the motion.


On August 7, 2008, Plaintiff was at a friend's house for dinner. Sometime thereafter, Plaintiff left his friends house and proceeded to drive on the New York State Thruway. Plaintiff entered the Thruway at Exit 21 at approximately 11:40 p.m. At approximately 11:45 p.m., the toll collector radioed the Thruway dispatcher and reported that a northbound red Subaru bearing license plate DVT7533 was being operated in an erratic manner and identified the situation as a possible "1192" or driving while intoxicated ("DWI").

Plaintiff ultimately ended up on the Thruway heading south. Plaintiff pulled into the southbound New Baltimore Service Area parking lot so he could use the restroom and get a cup of coffee. Unsure whether the service area was open, Plaintiff remained in his car with the motor running to see whether anyone came out of the building. Plaintiff remained in his vehicle for approximately thirty minutes.

Defendant New York State Trooper Joseph Calvanese heard the radio transmission concerning the red Subaru. At 11:57 p.m., Calvanese responded that he had located the red Subaru at the New Baltimore Service Area.*fn1 Calvanese noted that Plaintiff was not in a parking space, but was positioned over the parking lines in the parking lot with the engine running. Calvanese asked Plaintiff if he knew why he had been pulled over, to which Plaintiff replied, "[y]ou didn't; I've been sitting her about a half an hour now." Calvanese responded that Plaintiff smelled like alcohol and inquired whether Plaintiff had been drinking. Calvanese further claims that he observed Plaintiff's eyes to be glassy and his speech slurred. Plaintiff admitted to drinking one beer at approximately 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.

Calvanese directed Plaintiff to exit the vehicle. Plaintiff responded that he had a brain injury, was partially paralyzed on one side, and, among other things, could not walk.*fn2

Due to Plaintiff's injuries, he was unable to perform various standard field sobriety tests. Calvanese did have Plaintiff touch his right thumb to the fingers on his right hand while indicating which digit he was touching and recite the alphabet. The parties dispute whether Plaintiff passed these tests. Calvanese also asked Plaintiff to blow into a small hand held device. Plaintiff complied to the best of his ability. Plaintiff claims that the device registered a blood alcohol content of 0.0%. Calvanese, on the other hand, states that, based on the device's design, the person taking the test cannot see the results. While Plaintiff was blowing into the machine, Calvanese cursed at Plaintiff, asked whether Plaintiff was "a fucking retard," and placed Plaintiff under arrest.

Calvanese handcuffed Plaintiff's right wrist only and placed Plaintiff in the back of the police car. Calvanese read Plaintiff his Miranda rights. Calvanese also requested that Plaintiff submit to a breathalyzer test. Defendants contend that Plaintiff refused to take a breathalyzer test. Plaintiff denies that he refused to take such a test anytime while at the rest area or while in the police car.

Calvanese arrived with Plaintiff at the Troop T station at approximately 1:00 a.m. The parties dispute the next series of events. According to Plaintiff, he was taken directly to the area in the station where fingerprinting is done.*fn3 Defendant New York State Trooper Robert Coleman fingerprinted Plaintiff's right hand and then attempted to fingerprint his left hand. To fingerprint Plaintiff's left hand, Coleman grabbed around the fingers of Plaintiff's left hand and yanked his hand out straight toward the paper and ink, trying to get Plaintiff to open his fingers. In the process of doing so, Coleman pulled Plaintiff's left arm out of the socket. Plaintiff complained to the sergeant that "they started to hurt me, pull my arm out."

Defendants contend that this is not possible because the fingerprint card is secured on the very outside of a waist-high counter, the suspect stands at the ink plate with his elbow flexed at approximately 90 degrees, and someone extending their arm out would reach beyond the ink plate. Defendants further maintain that Coleman offered to not fingerprint Plaintiff's left hand or to do the best they could and that Plaintiff agreed to fingerprint his left hand.

According to Plaintiff, his fingers ultimately did extend out and Coleman fingerprinted the fingers on Plaintiff's left hand all at the same time. Defendants argue that the fingerprint card demonstrates that Plaintiff's left hand was never fingerprinted all at once. Coleman did not successfully fingerprint Plaintiff's left hand.

Plaintiff asserts that Defendants then proceeded to put certain information into the breathalyzer machine in anticipation of conducting a breathalyzer test. Defendants claim to have asked Plaintiff twice whether he would submit to the test. According to Plaintiff, he refused to take the test after Defendants injured him during the course of fingerprinting.*fn4

Defendants then drove Plaintiff to the New Baltimore Town Court for arraignment. After arraignment, Plaintiff was taken to the Greene County Correctional Facility. Plaintiff was not placed in a cell, but was ...

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