United States District Court, S.D. New York
As Amended May 15, 2014.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Gerard Corsini, Plaintiff, Pro se, New York, NY.
For Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Detective Eric Patino, Deputy Inspector Elisa A. Cokkinos, Police Officer Benicie Alezy, Police Officer Victor Colon, Police Officer Jessica Buttacavoli, Sgt. Diana Anitra, of the City of New York, The City of New York, Defendants: Alison Gainfort Moe, LEAD ATTORNEY, New York City Law Department, New York, NY.
For District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Daniel Garnaas-Holmes, Assistant District Attorney, Lisa Delpizzo, Assistant District Attorney, Defendants, Cross Defendants: Christina Frances Ante, LEAD ATTORNEY, New York County District Attorney's Office, New York, NY.
For Elizabeth Morgan, also known as Elizabeth Morgan Cary, Jonathan Cary, Daniel J. McKay, Defendants, Cross Defendants: Eric Michael Arnone, Galluzzo & Johnson LLP, New York, NY.
For Aaron Shmulewitz, Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, L.L.P., Anna Wintour, Conde Nast Corp., Defendants, Cross Claimants: David Robert Brand, Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, LLP, New York, NY.
AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION AND
LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff Gerard Corsini (" Plaintiff" ), filed a complaint on November 5, 2012, against former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the City of New York, and a variety of other parties, asserting causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § § 1983 and 1985 arising from an alleged conspiracy to, inter alia, falsely arrest and maliciously prosecute Plaintiff. Plaintiff thereafter filed an amended complaint (the " AC" ). Defendants Aaron Shmulewitz and Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, LLP (the " Belkin Defendants" ), have moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings. Each of the other named defendants has moved to dismiss the AC pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.
The Court has jurisdiction of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 1331 and 1367.
The Court has carefully reviewed all the submissions of the parties. For the following reasons, the defendants' motions to dismiss the Amended Complaint with prejudice are granted in their entirety. The Belkin Defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions is granted as discussed herein.
Plaintiff alleges that he has been the target of a city-wide conspiracy among the former Mayor, the current District Attorney, sundry individuals within the New York Police Department (the " NYPD" ) ranking from officers to the former police commissioner, a magazine publishing company, and private citizens, to violate his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights in order to protect illegal favored treatment of the film industry and suppress his exercise of First Amendment rights in opposition to what he believes are illegal film and photography shoots. The following allegations are taken from the Amended Complaint unless otherwise noted.
Plaintiff has been an attorney for forty years and has been admitted to practice in the states of New York, Massachusetts, and California. (See, e.g., AC at Ex. 5 (letter to District Attorney Vance, dated October 24, 2011, on " Law Offices of Gerard A. Corsini" letterhead, asserting that " it has been nearly forty years since my graduation from law school and my admissions by examination to the bars of New York, Massachusetts and California." ).) Plaintiff, who was at all relevant times a resident of 433 West 21st Street in New York City, alleges that his neighbors, defendants Ms. Morgan and Mr. Cary, operate a " commercial film and photography studio [in their residence] to the great disruption of the neighborhood" in violation of various local laws and regulations. (AC at ¶ ¶ 1, 6.) Plaintiff has been making complaints about the activities at the Morgan/Cary premises since at least 2009. Plaintiff alleges that he endeavored to expose this illegal business by photographing and video recording the Chelsea Defendants and various other people involved with the filming and photography at the Morgan/Cary premises, to document illegal activities and petition government officials to intervene. Defendant created extensive documentation of the alleged illegal uses of the premises. (See AC at Ex 3.) Plaintiff alleges that all of the defendants acted in concert to protect this illegal film and photography business by conspiring to violate his rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and to commit a variety of tortious offenses against him,
including defamation, false imprisonment, assault, and battery.
Plaintiff alleges that " the policy and custom of the City, including of Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, [is] to permit the 'film' industry to violate the laws and defendants Kelly's, Bloomberg's, Patino's, Vance's, DelPizzo's, Garnaas-Holmes', and the City's willingness as part of that policy to go to any lengths necessary, including plaintiff's multiple unconstitutional false arrests and malicious prosecutions, to prevent exposure of that policy~ custom and usage and of the violations of law by the 'film industry' permitted and covered up thereby." (AC at ¶ 23.) Plaintiff alleges that the Publishers were involved in illegal photographic sessions from June 9 - 11, 2011, as well as on other occasions, at the Morgan/Cary residence. (AC at ¶ 9.)
On December 2, 2010, the Belkin Defendants, who are Ms. Morgan's attorneys, sent Plaintiff a letter (the " Letter" ) advising him that Ms. Morgan had informed defendant Shmulewitz of Plaintiff's efforts to thwart Ms. Morgan's use of her home, " including: stating publicly that Ms. Morgan has a commercial photo studio in her house (which is false); stating publicly that Ms. Morgan is violating the law by doing so (which is also false); verbally accosting Ms. Morgan at her house and in the street; and verbally accosting, harassing and photographing guests and visitors of Ms. Morgan on their way into and from her house." (Id. at Ex. 4.) The Letter asked Plaintiff to " cease and desist immediately from all contact with [Ms. Morgan], as well as the conduct delineated [in the Letter] . . . ." (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that the Letter " forms the bedrock of lies to which all of the deceit, false reporting, perjury, false arrests, malicious prosecutions and First and Fourteenth Amendment violations can be traced" because it demonstrates the formation of a conspiracy to have him falsely arrested for harassment and stalking. (AC at ¶ 1(a)(i)(dd).) Plaintiff alleges that the Belkin Defendants devised a plan of inducing a variety of witnesses to lie and perjure themselves to create a false basis for his arrests.
Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Morgan subsequently " importuned" his arrest on several occasions by falsely complaining to the NYPD that he was stalking and harassing her. Accordingly, Plaintiff alleges that, on April 29, 2011, while he was photographing a variety of the film and photography activities on his street, City Defendants Buttacavoli, Alezy, Anitra and an unidentified officer falsely arrested Plaintiff for harassment. He also alleges that they " grabb[ed] his hand and video camera and attempt[ed] to wrestle it from him by means of such offensive physical contact after placing him in fear of same." (AC at ¶ 1(a)(i)(aa).) Plaintiff also alleges that his April 29, 2011, arrest was pursuant to " the importuning inducements and urgings [sic] of defendants Wintour, Conde Nast[,] Morgan, Cary, McKay with the substantial aid and assistance of [the Belkin Defendants.]" (Id.) In an August 31, 2011, criminal court complaint that is annexed to Plaintiff's amended complaint as Exhibit 7, Defendant Detective Patino states that he was informed that, on April 26, 2011, at approximately 7:00 a.m., Ms. Morgan " left her residence accompanying [her] two young daughters and observed [Plaintiff Corsini] standing at the bottom of the stairs to [Morgan's] home," that " [Corsini] blocked [Morgan's] path and refused to move for some time, while yelling, in substance, at [Morgan], YOU ARE A MANIPULATIVE LIAR AND ARE RUINING THIS BLOCK." (AC at Ex. 7.) A police report attached to the AC, dated August 30, 2011, further details the April 26, 2011 incident. (AC at Ex. 3.) Detective Patino wrote that, " on 4/26/11 [Ms. Morgan]
states that she was already becoming very frightened for her and her families [sic] safety that she had to start using a car service to pick her up at the door to take her children to school. On this date [Ms. Morgan] walked out of her building her [sic] two kids hands and [Plaintiff] blocked her path to the car and would not get out of the way." (Id.) In the report, Detective Patino further noted that Plaintiff admitted to taking photographs and video of Ms. Morgan and her family, acknowledged the April 26 incident, and noted " if she thinks im [sic] crazy why didnt [sic] she just cross the street and or walk around me." (Id.) Plaintiff does not, however, allege any other specific facts indicative of conspiratorial interaction between any of these defendants and any police or other authorities. Plaintiff further alleges that he was handcuffed tightly during this arrest, and that the handcuffing caused him pain and " physical injury." (AC at ¶ 1(a)(i)(aa).) Plaintiff proffers, in his opposition papers, that he suffered " longterm nerve damage" as a result of this incident. (Docket entry no. 106 at pg. 33.) Plaintiff alleges that the state court criminal complaint related to this incident was dismissed by the court on June 20, 2011. (AC ¶ 21.)
Plaintiff alleges that, on June 21, 2011, he met with Deputy Inspector Elisa A. Cokkinos to discuss his arrest on April 29, 2011. Deputy Inspector Cokkinos sent Plaintiff a letter dated June 24, 2011, which confirmed the June 21 meeting and noted that:
I am pleased we had the opportunity to meet in my office on June 21, 2011 and candidly discuss our mutual concerns regarding film production at 441 West 21st Street . . . . My supervisors and police officers stand ready to assist and impartially enforce applicable Vehicle and Traffic Laws and Quality of Life issues stemming from film production. It is the intention of the Police Department that all applicable laws be enforced as promulgated by the appropriate agencies. This includes permits issued by the Mayor's Office of Film and Television Production. If there are violations observed by responding police officers the situation will be remedied and proper notification will be made as required.
(AC at Ex. 2.) In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff characterizes the Cokkinos letter as " thanking plaintiff for meeting with her, expressing mutual concern about the issues raised, including film activity both at Morgan's and Cary's property and elsewhere on the block and the disruption and violations resulting therefrom, and her offering to work to address those violations of mutual concern, as a direct and proximate result of a policy of reckless indifference to plaintiff's and others constitutional rights as well as the need for training and supervision of those under her and defendant Kelly's commands." (AC at ¶ 27.)
Plaintiff further alleges that, on June 29, 2011, Detective Colon and an unidentified individual illegally stopped, detained, and falsely imprisoned him without probable cause. Plaintiff alleges that this arrest was the product of a call from an unidentified woman in the street who called him " crazy," " stalker," " interested in young girls," and " a creepy porno mate [sic]" in order " to lay a false predicate for 'stalking'." (AC at ¶ ¶ 1(a)(i)(bb); 28.) Plaintiff alleges that Detective Colon and another officer spoke to the unidentified woman at the scene and then demanded that Plaintiff stop filming a truck parked illegally in front of a fire hydrant and threatened that, if he did not do so, " plaintiff would be taken to a mental ward of a hospital." (Id. at ¶ 28.)
Plaintiff further alleges that employees of the Publishers repeated the " vile defamation of defendant McKay on behalf of defendants Morgan and Cary." (Id. at ¶ 9.) Plaintiff does not allege that Mr. McKay made any defamatory statements himself; rather Plaintiff alleges conclusorily that Mr. McKay, who Plaintiff alleges is employed by Ms. Morgan, induced the unidentified woman to make the statements recited in the preceding paragraph as part of the conspiracy. (Id.; see also id. at ¶ 1(a)(i)(a).)
Plaintiff further alleges that, on August 31, 2011, he was arrested by Detective Patino " with [the] DA defendants' advise [sic] and inducement," based on the allegedly false reports of Ms. Morgan and Mr. McKay. (AC at ¶ 1(a)(i)(cc).) According to Plaintiff, Ms. Morgan filed a complaint with the NYPD stating that " plaintiff's point and shoot camera lit up her whole 8,000 sq. foot house on December 16, 2010, preventing the shoot from proceeding." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that this statement was false because the photography session had ended before he was photographing the activities in Ms. Morgan's home from the sidewalk. (Id.) The District Attorney's Office filed a criminal Information in the Criminal Court of the State of New York, New York County, related to his August 31, 2011 arrest, charging Plaintiff with two counts of Stalking in the Fourth Degree. (Docket entry no. 114 at Ex. B and D.) The Information alleged that Plaintiff " engaged in a course of conduct directed at Elizabeth Morgan, and knew or reasonably should have known that such conduct was likely to cause reasonable fear of material harm to the physical health, safety, or property of such person . . ." from November 10, 2010 to July 21, 2011. (Id.) The Information further alleged that Plaintiff, during the same period, " intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, engaged in a course of conduct directed at Elizabeth Morgan, and knew or reasonably should have known that such conduct was likely to cause such person to reasonably fear that her employment, business, or career was threatened, where such conduct consisted of appearing, telephoning, or initiating communication or contact at such person's place of employment or business, and [Plaintiff] was previously clearly informed to cease that conduct." (Id.) The Information also charged Plaintiff with intentionally disobeying a court order on March 13, 2012, and April 4, 2012. (Id.)
Plaintiff hand-delivered a letter to the District Attorney on October 24, 2011, seeking to persuade him to dismiss the August 31, 2011, criminal Information voluntarily. Plaintiff wrote:
the complaint itself makes clear that the criminal 'offense' alleged is really the taking pictures of the complainant's public, commercial activities and the workers engaged therein, and not any conduct specifically directed at the complainant, and certainly not conduct intended to 'to hound, frighten, intimidate or threaten her'. Moreover, even her perjurious embellishments don't satisfy the requirements of the penal code, the standards outlined by the Court of Appeals in Stuart or the First Amendment for 'stalking', whose meaning is that commonly understood (where one pursues another from place to place) and ...