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Maureen Wilk v. Town of Poughkeepsie

July 10, 2012

MAUREEN WILK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWN OF POUGHKEEPSIE, NEW YORK, OFFICER RUSSELL TOMPKINS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE TOWN OF POUGHKEEPSIE,
OFFICER MICHAEL LOUCKS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE TOWN OF POUGHKEEPSIE, AND KEVIN DAHOWSKI,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge:

OPINION AND ORDER

Maureen Wilk ("Plaintiff") brings this action, pro se, against the Town of Poughkeepsie ("Poughkeepsie"), Officer Russell Tompkins ("Tompkins"), Officer Michael Loucks ("Loucks") and Kevin Dahowski ("Dahowski"), under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983").*fn1 Plaintiff alleges that her federal constitutional rights were violated as a result of a malicious prosecution following her arrest on July 9, 2006 and preceding her acquittal of a driving while intoxicated ("DWI") charge. Defendants Tompkins and Loucks ("Defendants") have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Facts

This action arises from a single vehicle motor vehicle collision involving Plaintiff, who is a female, and one other individual, Kevin Dahowski, who is a male. Plaintiff and Dahowski were traveling in a car together at a "high rate of speed" on Route 9G, also known as Violet Avenue, in the Town of Poughkeepsie just before one o'clock in the morning on July 9, 2006. (Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 6; Affidavit of Fact ("Pl.'s Aff.") 1.) Shortly after passing another car on the two-lane road, the Dodge Dart in which Plaintiff and Dahowski were traveling went off the road and crashed into a fence. (Pl.'s Aff. 1; Plaintiff's Rule 56.1 Statement Response ("Pl.'s 56.1") ¶ 1; Am. Comp. ¶ 6; Littell Dep. 10:7-13.)

Officers Tompkins and Loucks were among those who responded to the accident and arrived at the crash site separately, with Tompkins being on the scene before Loucks. (Tompkins Aff. ¶ 5; Tr. 52:7-9.) Tompkins was not the first responder to the scene, however, as "[f]ire department and EMS personnel beat [him]" there. (Tr. 8:21-23; Pl.'s Aff. 1 ("The paramedics were the first people on the scene . . . the police department arrived about 10 minutes later.").)*fn2 In fact, by the time Tompkins arrived at the crash site, there were "already ambulances on scene, fire department equipment apparatus on scene, and the road was shut down by fire department personnel, as well as police officers . . . ." (Tr. 9:21-25.)

Tompkins made multiple observations of the physical evidence at the crash site, noting that "[t]he vehicle was in bad condition" with "alcohol [beverage] containers" in and around it, and damage visible on the "front end of the car, [and] the body panels of the car." (Id. 10:13, 18-19.) Significantly, Tompkins also concluded that "the only damage that entered the passenger compartment . . . was on the passenger side of the vehicle or the passenger side of the car." (Id. 10:19-22.)

Tompkins spoke with Plaintiff and observed Dahowski at the accident site, noting that Dahowski was "visibly injured" and that it appeared that "his head had struck some portion of the interior of the vehicle." (Tompkins Aff. ¶ 3.) Tompkins did not "observe any injuries" to Plaintiff, "although she was complaining of neck pain." (Id.) Tompkins administered nystagmus tests for intoxication to Plaintiff and requested that Plaintiff perform an "alphabet test" to the same end - all of which Plaintiff failed. (Tr. 18:3-4; 19:17-19.) Tompkins concluded that Plaintiff was "obviously intoxicated" (Tompkins Aff. ¶ 7), a fact that is not in dispute.*fn3 Finally, Tompkins "was advised by the EMT personnel at the scene that the location of [] Dahowski's injuries were consistent with impact to that portion of the interior of the passenger side vehicle that had been compromised." (Id. ¶ 4.)

While at the scene, Officer Loucks interviewed witnesses and directed traffic. An eyewitness, Edward Littell ("Littell"), told Loucks that "he had seen the accident and observed [a] female occupant in the driver's seat when he approached it." (Loucks Aff. ¶ 2; Littell Dep. 12:20-22 ("There was a woman in the driver's seat with her head against the steering wheel, and there was a man in the passenger's seat.").) Loucks relayed this information to Tompkins. (Loucks Aff. ¶ 2; Tompkins Aff. ¶ 5.)

It is undisputed that after accompanying Plaintiff on a brief visit to the hospital, where Plaintiff refused treatment, Tompkins then placed her under arrest for driving while intoxicated.*fn4

(Pl.'s Aff. 1-2; Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 7.) Although initially charged as a felony, Plaintiff's DWI charge was reduced to an unclassified misdemeanor prior to trial. (Irwin Aff. ¶ 3.) Following a jury trial, Plaintiff was acquitted on March 12, 2008. (Id. ¶ 3; Rule 56.1 Statement Response ¶ 11.)*fn5

Littell was subpoenaed as a trial witness but appeared too late to testify and the prosecution was denied the opportunity to re-open its case to allow Littell to testify. (Irwin Aff. ¶ 9; Id., Ex. B (Littell trial subpoena); Littell Dep. 17:17-19.)

Plaintiff asserts that Dahowski was driving the car on July 9, 2009. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.)*fn6

Referring to Littell, Plaintiff also theorizes that "Tompkins and Loucks fabricated the name of a phantom witness, which witness did not exist." (Id. ΒΆ 14.) Plaintiff also asserts that it is her belief that "the only reason [she] was charged and not [] Dahowski," was because Dahowski's father "who is now deceased, was a long time police officer." (Pl.'s Aff. 2.) Plaintiff has offered no evidence to support this belief. Plaintiff, nonetheless, argues that Defendants have "since expanded and stretched the facts" to "meet the criteria of reasonable cause." (Id.) To this end, Plaintiff ...


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