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Naeem Brown v. the City of New York

March 29, 2013


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


Plaintiff Naeem Brown alleges that Police Officer Evagelos Dimitrakakis, Police Officer Bobby Mohip, and the City of New York ("the City") violated his civil rights in connection with his arrest and prosecution for allegedly selling crack cocaine. Plaintiff brings the following claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (1) false arrest; (2) malicious prosecution; (3) malicious abuse of process; (4) unlawful search; (5) denial of a fair trial; (6) failure to intervene; and (7) municipal liability. The municipal liability claim alleges that the City has policies or practices of arresting minorities on the pretext of drug transactions, manufacturing evidence in drug transactions, strip-searching without reasonable suspicion, and arresting innocent people to meet productivity goals. He also raises a state law claim for malicious prosecution. Dimitrakakis and Mohip assert the defense of qualified immunity.

Discovery has been conducted on the claims asserted against the individual defendants, and defendants collectively move for summary judgment on these claims. Discovery on the municipal liability claim has been stayed pending the outcome of the present motions, and defendants now move to dismiss the municipal liability claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. For the reasons stated on the record at oral argument and as set forth below, the summary judgment motion is granted in part and denied in part. The motion to dismiss is denied.


The following facts are drawn from the parties' summary judgment submissions and are uncontested unless otherwise noted.

On November 16, 2006, Officers Dimitrakakis and Mohip waited in a parked car to watch for street narcotics sales at 101st Street and Northern Boulevard in Queens. Plaintiff was standing on this corner, talking to other people. From here, the stories diverge.

According to defendants, Dimitrakakis saw a man, later identified as Adaberto Perez, and a woman approach plaintiff at the corner. Dimitrakakis watched Perez hand money to plaintiff, and then saw plaintiff squat down, reach into a hole in his pants, remove a bag, and hand it to Perez. Dimitrakakis radioed his observations to other officers. Mohip contends that he did not see this transaction and only learned about it from Dimitrakakis. After the couple walked away, a sergeant stopped them and found crack cocaine on Perez.

Perez was arrested and the woman was allowed to leave. Dimitrakakis saw her approach plaintiff, gesturing in a manner that suggested she was telling him about the arrest. Plaintiff left, and Dimitrakakis radioed a description of plaintiff and his movements. An unmarked police car pulled into the intersection. Plaintiff started to run with two officers pursuing him by foot and by car. Defendants' version of events is drawn in part from deposition testimony from Dimitrakakis, Mohip, the sergeant who arrested Perez, and the officers who pursued plaintiff.

According to plaintiff, however, he did not sell drugs or engage in any actions that could reasonably be interpreted as selling drugs. He was just talking to two friends on the corner. He denies speaking with the woman, and denies speaking to or conducting any transactions with Perez. Plaintiff maintains that he did not squat and remove an item from a hole in his pants, though he admits he had a small hole in his pants. Plaintiff insists that he did not run from the police. Plaintiff's version of events is drawn in the main from his own declaration and deposition testimony, in which he denies engaging in the conduct described by Dimitrakakis and accuses Dimitrakakis of lying.

It is undisputed that Dimitrakakis arrested plaintiff, completed the arrest report, filed the criminal court complaint, gave statements to prosecutors, and testified before the grand jury and at pretrial hearings. It is also undisputed that plaintiff had $20 on him at the time of his arrest, that he told an officer "I hope you don't put this junkie on me" after seeing Perez at the precinct, and that he told the police that he was in possession of marijuana. Perez, the buyer, pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance. Plaintiff was indicted for sale and possession of a controlled substance. Plaintiff was held in custody for 13 months until he was tried and acquitted.


"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). On a summary judgment motion, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

A. False Arrest

Defendants contend that they are entitled to summary judgment on the false arrest claim because probable cause, or at least arguable probable cause, existed for plaintiff's arrest. They point out that it is undisputed that plaintiff was at the corner, was wearing clothing that matched Dimitrakakis's description, had $20 on him (roughly the value of the drugs found on the buyer), was arrested near where the suspected dealer fled, stated "I hope you don't put this junkie on me," and admitted marijuana possession. Defendants thus contend that Dimitrakakis acted reasonably in reporting his observations and arresting plaintiff, even if ...

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