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Beckett v. Incorporated Village of Freeport

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 31, 2014

THE INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF FREEPORT, THE INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF FREEPORT POLICE DEPARTMENT, POLICE OFFICER TIMOTHY P. SEAMAN, The Incorporated Village of Freeport, POLICE OFFICER WILLIAM LUIKART, The Incorporated Village of Freeport POLICE DETECTIVE EDWARD S. MARTIN, III, The Incorporated Village of Freeport, POLICE OFFICER JOHN DOE, The Incorporated Village of Freeport, Individually and in their capacities as Village of Freeport Police Officers, POLICE OFFICER DIANE PERESS, The Incorporated Village of Freeport, POLICE OFFICER DONETTA CUMBERBATCH, The Incorporated Village of Freeport, NASSAU COUNTY, NASSAU COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, DONALD MEESE, Nassau County Detective, DIANE PERESS, Nassau County Police Officer, JOHN DOE, Nassau County Police Officer, Individually and in Their Capacities as Nassau County Police Officers, Defendants.


A. KATHLEEN TOMLINSON, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Leonard Beckett ("Plaintiff" or "Beckett") brought this civil rights action claiming that his constitutional rights were violated by the Defendants in connection with their arresting him on February 6, 2010. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that he was walking along the street in Freeport, New York at approximately 7:50 p.m. on February 6, 2010 when an individual slowed down his vehicle in the street and then exited the vehicle and pursued the Plaintiff. Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") ¶¶ 28-29 [DE 34]. Plaintiff maintains that he was wrongfully pursued on foot by several individuals, was unreasonably seized and detained, and was assaulted and battered. SAC ¶¶ 33-34.

Before the Court is Plaintiff Beckett's motion to amend the Complaint for a third time to include facts which he states occurred after the filing of the SAC and which stem from his recent acquittal on burglary and petit larceny charges. This motion is brought pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 15(a), 15(d) and 21. DE 54. In particular, Plaintiff's counsel points out that shortly after filing the SAC on February 8, 2013, Plaintiff went on trial for a 2007 burglary which took place at 11 Weberfield Avenue in the Village of Freeport. Plaintiff was acquitted of all charges arising from the burglary on June 17, 2013. On August 23, 2013, Plaintiff moved to amend to supplement his pleading to include these "transactions, occurrences, and events" which post-date the SAC. Plaintiff purportedly does not seek to add any new causes of action.

Nassau County, the Nassau County Police Department, and Detective Donald Meese (collectively, the "County Defendants") oppose Plaintiff's third motion to amend, contending that Plaintiff's acquittal on the burglary charges has no connection to the instant action. The Nassau County Defendants maintain that the motion should be denied by the Court as a futility.

The Village of Freeport and the Freeport Police Department (collectively, the "Village Defendants") and the individual Freeport Police Officer defendants are represented by separate counsel. The Village Defendants have also filed opposition to Plaintiff's motion, arguing that there is no basis to amend to add these new factual allegations. Finally, individual Freeport Police Officers Timothy P. Seaman, William Luikart, Thomas D. Seaman, Donetta Cumberbatch, and Detective Edward S. Martin (the "Freeport Police Officer Defendants") also oppose the motion for leave to amend, proffering that Plaintiff's effort to insert new facts constitutes a misguided attempt to restart the discovery process for his eventual assertion of a malicious prosecution claim concerning the 2007 burglary.

For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint is DENIED.


A. The Allegations

Plaintiff filed his original Complaint on May 4, 2011. DE 1. Before Defendants answered, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on August 20, 2011. DE 2. In an Order dated January 25, 2013, this Court granted, in part, and denied, in part, Plaintiff's motion to file a SAC. DE 33. Pertinent to the matter presently before the Court, Plaintiff in that motion sought leave to add a malicious prosecution claim for the 2007 Weberfield Burglary. Id. at 46. However, the Court found that the claim was not ripe at that time, holding that:

It is axiomatic that... a claim for malicious prosecution does not arise until the underlying charges are dismissed in the plaintiff's favor. According to the [Proposed SAC], Plaintiff remains incarcerated on the Weberfield Burglary charges. Consequently, a malicious prosecution claim in connection with the Weberfield Burglary charges cannot stand and Plaintiff is DENIED leave to amend to add a malicious prosecution claim at this time.

Id. (internal citations omitted). In accordance with the directives set forth in the Court's January 25, 2013 Order, Plaintiff filed the SAC on February 8, 2013. See generally SAC.

The SAC alleges that on February 6, 2010, Police Officer Timothy Seaman ("Officer Seaman") received a radio report of a robbery at a liquor store in the Village of Freeport (the "Liquor Store Robbery"). SAC ¶¶ 20-23. The alleged perpetrator was described as a black male wearing a black jacket. Id. ¶ 24. Police Officer Seaman, who was in plain clothes and driving an unmarked vehicle, observed Plaintiff Beckett wearing a red and white jacket over a black jacket. Id. ¶¶ 22, 27. Officer Seamen alleged that as he slowed down his vehicle, Beckett began to run southbound. Id. ¶ 28. After getting out of the car, Officer Seaman pursued Beckett on foot. Id. ¶ 29. Beckett asserts that Seaman did not identify himself as a police officer. Id. After a chase, Beckett was apprehended by Officer Seaman with the assistance of other Freeport Police Officers and was arrested. Id. ¶ 32.

At the Village police station, Plaintiff found himself, "bruised, battered, bleeding from the mouth, and drifting in and out of consciousness." SAC ¶ 64. Plaintiff "spat his blood into a cup" and the cup was then "recovered by defendant Nassau County Police Detective Donald Meese and held as evidence along with Beckett's clothing." Id. ¶ 39. Detective Meese then forwarded the evidence to the Nassau County Medical Examiner's Office for DNA analysis. Id.

Plaintiff has set forth numerous claims arising out of his arrest in connection with the Liquor Store Robbery. The civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are based on Defendants' alleged unlawful search and seizure, unreasonable detention, assault, battery, use of excessive force, brutality, and unlawful punishment, all in violation of Plaintiff's rights protected under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Plaintiff also sets forth state law causes of action, including violations of the New York State Constitution, false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, and battery.

Beckett was incarcerated after having been convicted upon a plea of guilty to the Liquor Store Robbery. SAC ¶ 46. He was sentenced to five years in prison and five years post-release supervision. Id. On October 8, 2011, however, the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department ("Second Department") reversed Beckett's conviction on the grounds that the Freeport police had unlawfully pursued and seized Plaintiff, rendering all evidence against him "fruit of the poisonous tree." Id. ¶ 49. In reaching that decision, the Appellate Division held that "the pursuit of the defendant and his seizure were unlawful" and "[c]onsequently, the physical evidence, identification testimony, and the defendant's statement to law enforcement officials should have been suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree.'" People v. Beckett, 88 A.D.3d 898, 899-900, 931 N.Y.S.2d 126 (2d Dep't 2011) (internal citations omitted).

On November 18, 2011, the Liquor Store Robbery charges against Plaintiff were dismissed. SAC ¶ 51. However, while Plaintiff was in custody at the Village Police Department, "[d]efendants collected the blood that Beckett expelled from his mouth and subjected it to DNA analysis by the New York State police." Id . ¶ 52. The blood taken from Plaintiff was "allegedly found to match DNA that was recovered on February 14, 2007 from 11 Weberfield Avenue in the defendant Village, the scene of an alleged burglary. ¶ 53. In light of this evidence, Plaintiff alleges, Nassau County Police Detective Michelle A. Clifford filed a felony complaint against the Plaintiff. SAC ¶ 54.

On June 20, 2011, a grand jury sitting in Nassau County "handed down a sealed indictment that charged Beckett with one count of burglary in the second degree in violation of New York State Penal Law § 140.25(2) and one count of petit larceny in violation of New York State Penal Law § 155.25." SAC ¶ 55. Plaintiff's bail was originally set at $100, 000 in cash by a Nassau County court. Id. ¶ 56. However, since Plaintiff "lacked the means to post bail in the said amount, " he remained incarcerated in the Nassau County Correctional Facility until bail was reduced to $5, 000 cash in July of 2012. Id. After posting bail, Plaintiff was released from custody July 14, 2012 following nineteen months of incarceration. Id.

B. Acquittal of Weberfield Burglary Charges

On June 17, 2013, a Nassau County jury acquitted the Plaintiff on the burglary and petit larceny charges from the 2007 Weberfield Burglary. DE 50 at 1. Two days later, on June 19, 2013, Plaintiff's counsel filed a letter notifying the Court of the acquittal and requesting leave to amend a third time, explaining that

[t]he reason for this request is that all New York state court criminal proceedings against Mr. Beckett have finally terminated. On June 17, 2013, a jury acquitted Mr. Beckett of all of the charges pending against him pursuant to Nassau County Court Indictment No. 376-12.
As a result of the acquittal, Mr. Beckett wants to amend his complaint in this action to allege that the unlawful and malicious acts and/or omissions of the defendants resulted in the said state court prosecution. In response to Mr. Beckett's prior motion to amend his complaint to include the claims arising from the aforementioned state court prosecution, Your Honor ruled that these claims were not ripe for adjudication.
It is respectfully submitted that, with the termination of the state court proceeding in favor of Mr. Beckett, these claims are now ripe for adjudication. Therefore, Mr. Beckett would like to include those claims in this action and litigate all of his claims against the defendants in this action.

Id. at 1-2. Plaintiff's counsel also argues that she has put the Court and all defendants on notice that the state criminal proceedings would have a bearing on the instant civil action throughout the pendency of the instant federal civil rights action. Id. at. 2. Counsel stated that she has, moreover, requested the Court to "delay the prosecution of this action to await the outcome of the criminal proceeding" at multiple points during the pendency of this litigation, most recently on May 10, 2013. Id.

On July 18, 2013, the parties participated in a Telephone Status Conference before this Court. See DE 53. The Court addressed Plaintiff's request for leave to amend the SAC, which the Court noted, is uniformly opposed by the Defendants. Id. ¶ 1. The Court ultimately granted Plaintiff leave to file the requested motion and set a briefing schedule with the parties. Id. ¶ 2.

In her motion, Plaintiff's counsel argues that: (1) Plaintiff acted promptly in notifying the Court and Defendants of his desire to amend; (2) the amended pleading is not futile; (3) the amendments will not require Defendants to expend additional resources in discovery or trial preparation; and (4) granting leave to amend to add the new allegations would serve judicial economy. See Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Amend Complaint ("Pl.'s Mem.") at 2-6 [DE 54-2].

In opposition, the County Defendants argue that Plaintiff's proposed amendments are futile because no "nexus" exists between the DNA retrieved by the Village Police after the February 2010 Liquor Store Robbery and the DNA used in the June 2013 prosecution of Plaintiff for the 2007 Weberfield Burglary. See Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Amend His Complaint a Third Time ("County Defs.' Opp.") at 6-7 [DE 59]. Moreover, the County Defendants assert that Plaintiff has set forth no facts that Detective Meese or any other individually ...

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