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Betts v. Shearman

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

May 2, 2014

JOHN BETTS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MARTHA ANNE SHEARMAN, CITY OF NEW YORK, POLICE OFFICER PABLO RODRIGUEZ, Defendants-Appellees, POLICE OFFICER JANE DOE, Defendant

Argued September 19, 2013.

Page 79

Plaintiff John Betts filed this suit seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arising from his arrest based on allegedly false accusations made by a complaining victim. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (J. Paul Oetken, District Judge) granted defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint.

MICHAEL H. JOSEPH, Law Office of Michael H. Joeseph, P.L.L.C., White Plains, NY, for Plaintiff Appellant.

MICHAEL J. PASTOR, (Kristen M. Helmers, on the brief), for Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, New York, NY, for Defendants-Appellees City of New York and Police Officer Pablo Rodriguez.

CHARLES E. DORKEY, III, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, New York, N.Y. (Rebecca Tingey, on the brief), for Defendant-Appellee Martha Anne Shearman.

Before: WINTER, WALKER, WESLEY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 80

John M. Walker, Jr., Circuit Judge:

In this appeal we consider whether the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (J. Paul Oetken, District Judge ) erred in granting defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action in which the

Page 81

plaintiff seeks damages arising from his arrest based on allegedly false accusations made by a complaining victim.

We hold, first, that because arguable probable cause existed to arrest Betts, his claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, and malicious prosecution were properly dismissed. Second, we hold that Betts's claim for denial of his right to a fair trial was properly dismissed because he failed to meet the required pleading standards. Finally, we hold that Betts's claims against defendant-complainant Martha Anne Shearman were properly dismissed because she did not act under the color of state law. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

BACKGROUND

Because this appeal arises from the district court's dismissal on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we accept as true the following allegations set forth in Betts's complaint. See Doe v. City of New York, 15 F.3d 264, 266 (2d Cir. 1994).

On January 20, 2011 at approximately 11:30 p.m., while Shearman was under the influence of alcohol and other controlled substances, she became verbally combative towards her then husband Betts. To avoid her, Betts locked himself in a spare bedroom. Shearman tried to force her way in and threatened Betts that if he did not let her in, she would call the police. Shearman then called the police and falsely accused Betts of assaulting her.

At approximately 1:00 a.m., Police Officers Rodriguez and Doe responded to the call. In their presence, Shearman accused Betts of assault, harassment, and of slamming her arm against the ground, causing her substantial pain. The officers forcibly entered the spare bedroom where Betts was sleeping and arrested him.

Betts alleges that the officers then assisted Shearman in making a false accusation and coached her in fabricating a version of the events to justify the arrest. Betts also alleges there were reasons for the officers to doubt Shearman's credibility: Shearman was obviously intoxicated, high, and appeared strung out; she had made false accusations against Betts in the past; and there was a lack of physical evidence to support an assault charge.

The officers charged Betts under New York law with assault in the third degree, harassment in the second degree and resisting arrest. Eventually the state ...


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