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Lowery v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 6, 2014

NATAVIA LOWERY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

KATHERINE B. FORREST, District Judge.

On September 22, 2010, pro se plaintiff Natavia Lowery commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her constitutional rights against the City of New York, the New York City Department of Corrections ("DOC"), and DOC employees Commissioner Dora B. Schriro, "Captain Santiago, "[1] and other unknown corrections officers, both individually and in their official capacities.[2] (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 8-11, ECF No. 2). Plaintiff's complaint, liberally construed, asserts claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and sexual abuse, and she seeks both money damages and injunctive relief. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18, 20, 22-23, 29, 33-35.)

Before the court is a motion to dismiss the complaint by defendants. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is GRANTED and this action is dismissed, subject to the Court's instructions below.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Following the filing of this action, on October 4, 2010, United States District Judge Laura T. Swain referred the action to United States Magistrate Judge Frank Maas for general pretrial supervision. (ECF No. 3.) On January 14, 2011, defendants' counsel requested, inter alia, a stay of this action pending resolution of the parallel state criminal proceeding in which plaintiff was a defendant and which formed the basis for several of her claims. (ECF No. 11.) Judge Maas directed plaintiff to respond to the application within two weeks; when plaintiff failed to do so, Judge Maas granted defendants' request for a stay on February 16, 2011. (ECF Nos. 11, 12.)

This case was transferred to the undersigned on November 16, 2011. (ECF No. 13.) Following transfer, this Court vacated the order of reference to Judge Maas and ordered the parties to appear for a telephonic status conference on January 6, 2012. (ECF No. 14.) During the conference, and in a subsequent Order, the Court ordered the parties to notify the Court of the resolution of plaintiff's parallel criminal proceeding within ten days of such resolution. (ECF No. 15.) The Court continued the stay and received updates as to the status of the parallel criminal proceeding throughout 2012 and 2013. (ECF Nos. 18, 20-22, 24-29.) In a letter dated December 9, 2013, defendants informed the Court that plaintiff's criminal case had been dismissed and sealed, and requested that the stay of this action be lifted. (ECF No. 30.) Accordingly, in an Order dated December 10, 2013, the Court lifted the stay. (ECF No. 31.)

Following the execution of releases by plaintiff pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law §§ 160.50/160.55 (see ECF Nos. 33-39, 41), on March 21, 2014, defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 45.) Plaintiff opposed the motion in both an April 4, 2013 letter and an April 21, 2014 opposition, and defendants submitted their reply in further support of their motion to dismiss on April 29, 2014. (ECF Nos. 50-52.) Plaintiff submitted an additional letter, dated May 6, 2014, in response to defendants' arguments concerning whether she should be granted leave to amend the complaint should the motion to dismiss be granted, which the Court accepted. (ECF Nos. 53, 54.)

II. FACTS

Plaintiff is currently an inmate at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a New York state prison, after having been "convicted in the highly publicized murder trial of Linda Stein... [and] sentenced to a term [of] life imprisonment." (Compl ¶ 13.) Previously, and at all relevant times for the purposes of this action, plaintiff was an inmate at the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island, a DOC facility. (Stackhouse Deel. Ex. C, ECF No. 48.) On January 13, 2010, plaintiff was arrested for throwing a mixture of urine and other substances at a corrections officer. (Id. Ex. B)[3] On May 17, 2010, plaintiff was indicted by a grand jury in New York Supreme Court, Bronx County, on charges of aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate, obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, and criminal mischief in the fourth degree. (Id. Ex. C; Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.)

Plaintiff alleges that this indictment was based on "material false accusations, in the absence of any competent, legally sufficient and admissible evidence to sustain such offense." (Compl. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff alleges that the investigations conducted by defendants DOC and City of New York were "inadequate, false, and were tainted by official misconduct." (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff also alleges that she was placed under arrest by defendants DOC and City of New York without "legal justification and/or probable cause." (Id. ¶ 20.) On December 4, 2013, the underlying criminal prosecution of plaintiff was dismissed, and the records thereof were sealed. (Stackhouse Deel. Ex. D.)

Plaintiff further alleges that she was sexually harassed on two occasions by defendant Captain Santiago, a DOC corrections officer. (Compl. ¶¶ 9, 22, 28.) On the first occasion, for which plaintiff does not provide a date, plaintiff alleges that Santiago made "sexual advancement" towards her, and warned her that "there would be reprisals and repercussions" if she complained. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) Following this encounter, plaintiff alleges that she spoke with her family members about the incident and, as a result, her step-father filed a complaint with the "Inspector General's Office." (Id. ¶ 24.) On the second occasion, plaintiff alleges that, on June 13, 2010, Santiago exposed his genitals to her and stated that he was sexually attracted to her. (Id. ¶¶ 28-29).

Plaintiff alleges that defendants Schriro, DOC, and City of New York "engage in a custom and or [sic] policy which caused the abrogation of plaintiff's Constitutional rights." (Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff also alleges defendants Santiago and other unknown officers "acted in a manner which was inconsistent with that of trained law enforcement personnel." (Id. ¶ 32.)

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in ...


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