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Martin v. The County of Suffolk

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 26, 2014


Plaintiff proceeds pro se.

The County Defendants are represented by Megan E. O'Donnell and Susan A. Flynn of the Suffolk county Attorney's Office, Hauppague, NY,

The Islip Defendants are represented by Peter J. Creedon of Creedon & Gill, P.C., Northport, NY.


JOSEPH F. BIANCO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Wesley Evans Martin ("Martin" or "plaintiff') brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the Islip Defendants: Township of Islip ("the Township"), Joseph Mandanisi ("Mandanisi"), John Scimeca ("Scimeca"), Aimee Press ("Press"), and Dennis McHugh ("McHugh"); and the County Defendants: The County of Suffolk ("the County"), Suffolk County Police Department ("SCPD"), Sergeant George F. Hodge III ("Hodge"), Lieutenant James Fiel ("Fiel"), Joshua Shapiro "(Shapiro"), Thomas Spota ("Spota"), and Police Officer Christopher Verwys ("Verwys").[1] Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights in connection with his arrest and prosecution for obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, N.Y. Penal Law § 195.05. Plaintiff also brings state law claims for false arrest and malicious prosecution. Plaintiff was arraigned on the aforementioned charge in 2003, and a jury convicted him of the offense in 2009. On April 16, 2012, a state appellate court reversed the conviction and dismissed the indictment.

Presently before the Court are three motions to dismiss. The County Defendants move to dismiss the complaint with respect to Shapiro and Spota on the ground of absolute immunity, and they also argue that the County cannot be held liable for the district attorneys' prosecutorial acts. The Islip Defendants move to dismiss on the ground that there are no well-pleaded allegations against them. Plaintiff opposes. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion to dismiss the claims against Shapiro and Spota on grounds of absolute immunity, as well as the claims against the County of Suffolk to the extent that they are based on the acts of Shapiro and Spota. The Court does not grant leave to re-plead these claims because any amendment would be futile. The Court also grants the motion to dismiss the claims against defendants Scimeca, Press, and McHugh for failure to allege personal involvement in the alleged false arrest and malicious prosecution, as well as against the Town of Islip for failure to allege a plausible Monell claim, but with leave to re-plead. The Court denies the motion to dismiss as to Mandanisi.


The Court takes the following facts from the complaint and exhibits attached thereto. These are not findings of fact by the Court; instead, the Court assumes these facts to be true for purposes of deciding the pending motions and construes them in a light most favorable to plaintiff, the non-moving party.

A. Factual Background

On July 25, 2003, Rosanna Reilly, the property owner and landlord of a storefront building in Bay Shore, barricaded herself within the premises to avoid being served by McHugh with appearance tickets issued by Press and McHugh, two town investigators employed by Islip. (Complaint ¶¶ 31, 40.) Reilly also called Young and asked him to come to the property. ( Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff arrived, stood on the public sidewalk directly in front of the building, and began to record the activity transpiring at the location. ( Id. ¶ 39.) Shortly thereafter, Mandanisi, the Township's Deputy Commissioner of Code Enforcement, [2] arrived at the property after speaking with McHugh. ( Id. ) Mandanisi spoke with Verwys and Hodge and expressed his dismay with plaintiff's actions. ( Id. ) Hodge then instructed Verwys to arrest plaintiff for obstruction of governmental administration. ( Id. ¶¶ 29, 37, 39.) Hodge said, "Lock him up.... OGA...." ( Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff was pushed to the sidewalk, handcuffed, and taken to the SCPD precinct in Bay Shore. ( Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff was arraigned on charges of obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, was tried by jury six years later in November 2009 and convicted, and was sentenced on December 3, 2009. ( Id. ¶ 32.) Shapiro was the eighth or ninth Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney assigned to the case. ( Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff claims that Shapiro did not properly evaluate and analyze the indictment and should never have prosecuted plaintiff.[3] ( Id. ¶ 42.)

Plaintiff appealed the conviction to the Appellate Division, Second Department, on April 1, 2011. ( Id. ) The Second Department reversed the conviction and dismissed the indictment on April 16, 2012. (Appellate Order, Complaint Ex. A.) The court noted that the evidence at trial established that Verwys had discovered that the owner of the commercial building had called 911 because code enforcement officers were attempting to serve her with summonses. Verwys tried to persuade the owner to open the door, and she refused. Martin subsequently arrived at the building and stood in the doorway while Verwys continued to attempt to persuade the owner to open the door. After Martin failed to comply with Verwys's requests to move aside, Martin was arrested and charged with obstructing governmental administration. The Second Department reversed the conviction for insufficient evidence because (1) the owner had no legal obligation to open the door, and no exigent circumstances would have justified any forcible, warrantless entry; and (2) consequently, Martin's act of standing in the doorway did not obstruct, impair, or prevent the administration of any law or other governmental function, or prevent the police from performing an official function. ( Id. ) Spota's motion for reconsideration was summarily denied. (Complaint ¶ 33.)

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed the complaint on April 10, 2013. Shapiro was served on April 23, 2013, and his answer was due May 14, 2013. The County Defendants moved for a pre-motion conference on May 16, 2013, [4] and filed their motion on June 19, 2013. Plaintiff opposed on July 16, 2013, and the County Defendants replied on August 2, 2013. Fiel and Hodge filed their answer on July 23, 2013. Fiel, Hodge, SCPD, the County, and Verwys filed an amended answer on August 15, 2013. Mandanisi, Press, Scimeca, and Islip moved to dismiss on September 9, 2013. Plaintiff ...

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