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Apostol v. City of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 26, 2014



ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Melanie Apostol and Frankie Rodriguez bring this action against the City of New York, and New York City Police Department ("NYPD") Officers Skye Morales and Volkan Sarman (collectively, "defendants"), alleging several civil rights violations. Presently before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion is granted.


This action arises from the arrest of Apostol and Rodriguez on February 1, 2011. On that day, plaintiffs, who are friends, ran into each other at a local tax preparation store. (Apostol Dep., Apr. 11, 2012 ("Apostol Dep."), Mosaku Decl. (Doc. No. 66) Ex. 1 at 16:22-23.) Apostol offered Rodriguez a ride home in her car, which Rodriguez accepted. ( See id. at 26:7-27:20.) Apostol drove Rodriguez to the front of Rodriguez's apartment building and stopped the car near a fire hydrant. ( Id. at 28:4-29:24.) Apostol was sitting in the driver's seat, and Rodriguez was in the front passenger's seat. ( Id. )

At approximately 7:40 P.M., while on patrol in an NYPD vehicle, Officers Morales and Sarman noticed plaintiffs sitting in Apostol's vehicle. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ("Defs.' 56.1") ¶ 11 (Doc. No. 64).) Sarman, believing that the vehicle was parked illegally, used the computer system in his police car to run a search of the vehicle's license plates in the New York State Police Information Network ("NYSPIN") database. ( Id. ¶ 12.) NYPSIN indicated that the license plates had been reported stolen from Schenectady, New York. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Morales then drove the police vehicle in front of Apostol's car to block it from leaving the scene, and defendants approached Apostol's car. ( See Apostol Dep. at 31:21-32:20.)

According to Officer Morales, upon reaching the passenger side of Apostol's car, he observed one marijuana cigarette in the center console, one marijuana cigarette on the passengerside floorboard, and a small quantity of "loose marijuana" on both the passenger-side and driverside floorboards. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 17; Morales Dep., Apr. 12, 2012 ("Morales Dep."), Mosaku Decl. Ex. 3 at 51:22-52:21.) Morales then asked Rodriguez to step out of the car and took Rodriguez to the rear of the car. ( Id. at 54:12-55:23.) Officer Sarman approached the driver's side of the car, told Apostol to exit, and, once Apostol did so, handcuffed Apostol and took her to the rear of the car as well. (Apostol Dep. at 36:18-37:25; Sarman Dep., Apr. 12, 2012 ("Sarman Dep."), Mosaku Decl. Ex. 4 at 30:4-32:19.) After both plaintiffs were outside Apostol's car, Morales showed the marijuana to Sarman (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 18; Sarman Dep. at 35:25-36:20, 38:19-39:3.) Morales retrieved and secured the two marijuana cigarettes at the scene but did not secure the loose marijuana until Apostol's car had been driven to the precinct. ( See Morales Dep. at 63:3-64:16, 87:21-89:3; Ex. 6.) While Morales testified that Sarman transported Apostol's car to the precinct ( see Morales Dep. at 87:21-88:4), Sarman testified that he could not recall whether the vehicle he drove to the precinct was Apostol's or the NYPD's ( see Sarman Dep. at 53:17-54:15).

When defendants arrived at the precinct, the sole charge they entered into the command log in connection with plaintiffs' arrest was "GLA" (grand larceny auto) ( see Pls.' 56.1 ¶ 22; Publicker Decl. Ex. G (Doc. No. 63).) Morales testified that he vouchered both the cigarettes and the loose marijuana at the precinct. (Morales Dep. at 64:14-16.) While subsequent field and laboratory tests confirmed that the cigarettes Morales vouchered, in fact, contained marijuana, the record contains no voucher or lab report concerning the loose marijuana. ( See Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 28-29; Mosaku Decl. Ex. 20.)

According to plaintiffs, in contrast, Apostol's car did not contain any marijuana. ( See Apostol Dep. at 45:5-47:11; Rodriguez Dep., Apr. 11, 2012 ("Rodriguez Dep."), Mosaku Decl. Ex. 2 at 40:23-41:4.) Rather, according to Rodriguez, defendants "toss[ed] up" the vehicle while looking for contraband but did not find anything. (Rodriguez Dep. at 36:3.) After plaintiffs were arrested and searched, they were placed in the back of Apostol's car for about five minutes. Two or three additional officers arrived in an NYPD van and drove plaintiffs, in the van, to the precinct. ( See id. 39:20-21, 41:11-12; Apostol Dep. at 47:15-24.) After the police discovered that the plates on Apostol's car were, in fact, not stolen, they informed plaintiffs that they had found marijuana in Apostol's car. (Pls.' 56.1 Stmt. ("Pls.' 56.1") ¶ 17 (Doc. No. 67).)

In any event, it is undisputed that at approximately 8:01 P.M., defendants arrested, handcuffed and searched both plaintiffs, and other members of the NYPD transported plaintiffs to the 120th Precinct. ( See Pls.' 56.1 ¶¶ 20-22.) Within an hour of arriving back at the precinct, Morales contacted the Schenectady Police Department to verify that the plates on Apostol's car were stolen. (Morales Dep. at 66:9-17.) The Schenectady Police Department informed Morales that, in fact, the plates were not stolen. ( Id. at 66:18-24.) Morales then processed plaintiffs' arrest based solely on the marijuana allegedly in Apostol's car. ( Id. at 69:20-70:18.) Sarman transferred information Morales had handwritten on the arrest paperwork into an NYPD computer. (Sarman Dep. at 46:11-16.) Morales later prepared and signed charging documents in Richmond County Criminal Court, wherein he describes observing Apostol and Rodriguez in a vehicle along with two cigarettes containing "a dried green leafy substance" and "a loose quantity of the same dried leafy green substance" Morales determined was marijuana. ( Id. at 97:18-98:25; Feb. 2, 2011 Criminal Complaint ("Crim. Compl."), Mosaku Decl. Ex. 19.)

Plaintiffs were confined for several hours between the time of their arrest and their February 2, 2011, arraignment in Richmond County Criminal Court, when they were both charged with criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree, N.Y. Penal L. § 221.10(1), and unlawful possession of marijuana, id. § 221.05. (Pls.' 56.1 ¶¶ 30-31.) Apostol was arraigned at 3:00 P.M., approximately nineteen hours after her arrest, and she subsequently accepted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal ("ACD").[2] (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 35-37 (Doc. No. 14).) Rodriguez was arraigned at 5:00 P.M., approximately twenty-one hours after his arrest, and also accepted an ACD. ( See id. ¶ 38-40.) The prosecution took no further action against plaintiffs, and ultimately, the court dismissed the charges against them. ( See Pls.' 56.1 ¶¶ 33-39.)

Plaintiffs commenced this action on August 6, 2011 ( see Doc. No. 1) and amended their complaint on January 4, 2012. ( See Am. Compl.) At this stage of the proceedings, the only remaining claims are (1) Rodriguez's claims for false arrest and false imprisonment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New York State law; (2) Rodriguez's claim against the City for respondeat superior liability relating to his state law cause of action for false arrest; (3) plaintiffs' claim against Morales and Sarman for denying their right to a fair trial by fabricating evidence; and

(4) plaintiffs' claims against Morales and Sarman for failing to intervene to prevent violations of plaintiffs' constitutional rights. ( See Doc. Nos. 57, 61.) Defendants move for summary judgment on these remaining claims.


I. Standard of ...

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