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Lacey v. Yates County

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 27, 2014

CHARLES LACEY, Plaintiff,
v.
YATES COUNTY, YATES COUNTY SHERIFF RONALD SPIKE, YATES COUNTY SHERIFF'S INVESTIGATOR MICHAEL CHRISTENSEN, YATES COUNTY LIEUTENANT SOTIR, Individually and in their Official Capacities, YATES COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY JASON COOK, YATES COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY ADRIENNE MUIA, Individually and in Their Official Capacities, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Charles Lacey, Plaintiff, Pro se, Middlesex, NY.

For Yates County, Yates County Sheriff Ronald Spike, Yates County Sheriff's Investigator Michael Christensen, Yates County Lieutenant Sotir, Individually and In Their Official Capacities, Yates County District Attorney Jason Cook, Yates County Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Muia, Individually and In Their Official Capacities, Defendants: Gerard E. O'Connor, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lippman O'Connor, Buffalo, NY.

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DECISION AND ORDER

ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This action arises out of a 2009 incident in which a neighbor alleged tat Plaintiff Charles Lacey assaulted him with a baseball bat. A grand jury indicted Plaintiff for felony assault and menacing in the

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second degree. Plaintiff was subsequently acquitted. Plaintiff then commenced this action alleging civil rights violations against Yates County and its various law enforcement officials who were involved with the investigation and subsequent prosecution of Plaintiff. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted and the complaint is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

I. The Incident, the Investigation, and the Prosecution

Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from a disability that limits his mobility so that he walks with leg braces and uses a wheelchair. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 17). Plaintiff further alleges that on October 22, 2009, he was involved in a verbal altercation with a neighbor, William J. Barry (" Barry" ). ( Id. at 119).

The next day, Defendant Yates County Sheriff's Investigator Michael Christensen (" Investigator Christensen" ) allegedly came to Plaintiff's home to investigate a complaint that Plaintiff assaulted Barry. ( Id. at 28). According to Plaintiff, Investigator Christensen yelled at Plaintiff that he knew that Plaintiff " did it," that Plaintiff had broken Barry's arm, and that Plaintiff was going to jail. ( Id. at ¶ 30). Plaintiff complains that Investigator Christensen should have questioned Barry's version of events, particularly in view of Plaintiff's disability and the prior history of problems between Plaintiff and Barry. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 29-34).

Within hours after being confronted by Investigator Christensen, Plaintiff alleges that he and his wife complained to Defendant Yates County Sheriff's Lieutenant Sotir (" Lieutenant Sotir" ) about the manner in which Investigator Christensen was conducting his investigation. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 35, 36). Lieutenant Sotir purportedly told Plaintiff that he would make inquiries with Investigator Christensen, but when Plaintiff contacted Lieutenant Sotir for an update one hour later, Lieutenant Sotir told Plaintiff that he should call Investigator Christensen. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 37, 38). Later that same afternoon, Investigator Christensen allegedly spoke to Plaintiff's spouse and stated that Plaintiff should appear in Middlesex Town Court and that Plaintiff would be released on his own recognizance. ( Id. at 39). Plaintiff appeared in Middlesex Town Court that evening where he was charged with a misdemeanor. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 40, 41). On November 26, 2009, Plaintiff appeared in Potter Town Court and pleaded not guilty to the charges. ( Id. at ¶ 42).

At some point in 2010, a grand jury was convened and indicted Plaintiff for felony assault and menacing in the second degree. ( Id. at ¶ 45). Investigator Christensen allegedly testified before the grand jury that he had spoken with Barry who " explained to [him] the circumstances that occurred." ( Id. at ¶ 46). Plaintiff alleges that Investigator Christensen testified about two bruises on Barry's leg, but he did not mention a broken arm. ( Id. at ¶ 47). Barry allegedly testified before the grand jury that Plaintiff came running towards him with a baseball bat in his hands. ( Id. at ¶ 48).

During the course of the prosecution of Plaintiff, the Yates County District Attorney's Office purportedly requested, on January 25, 2011, all medical documents regarding Plaintiff's disability. ( Id. at ¶ 50). The District Attorney's Office allegedly received voluminous documentation of Plaintiff's disability demonstrating that he could not have committed the alleged assault against Barry. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 51-53).

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The District Attorney's Office allegedly ignored this information. ( Id. at ¶ 53).

In February 2011, photos purporting to depict Barry's arm injury allegedly surfaced for the first time. ( Id. at ¶ 57). Plaintiff alleges that Barry had not previously claimed to have an arm injury ( id. at ¶ 56), although this allegation contradicts Plaintiff's allegation that Investigator Christensen accused Plaintiff of breaking Barry's arm when he confronted him the day after the incident. ( Id. at ¶ 30).

Plaintiff alleges that on March 1, 2011, " Claimant was found not guilty on both counts and the charges were dismissed in his favor." ( Id. at ¶ 69).

II. Procedural History

On February 24, 2012, Plaintiff commenced the present litigation. (Dkt. 1). Plaintiff's complaint purports to assert seven causes of action: (1) a first cause of action against all Defendants alleging that they violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by falsely arresting and imprisoning Plaintiff and maliciously prosecuting him in violation of his constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) a second cause of action against Defendant Yates County Sheriff Ronald Spike (" Sheriff Spike" ) for alleged supervisory liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) a third cause of action against Investigator Christensen for allegedly depriving Plaintiff of his liberty without due process of law in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) a fourth cause of action alleging that the County of Yates is liable for the purported wrongful actions of its final policymakers in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (5) a fifth cause of action alleging that Plaintiff was retaliated against in violation of his First Amendment rights for having made a complaint against Investigator Christensen; and (6) sixth and seventh causes of action against Investigator Christensen alleging that he intentionally, recklessly and negligently caused Plaintiff to suffer emotional distress.

On May 25, 2012, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 5). On July 18, 2012, Plaintiff filed opposition papers to the motion through his counsel.[1] (Dkt. 10). Thereafter, on February 21, 2014, this case was transferred to the undersigned (Dkt. 13), with no decision having been rendered concerning the pending motion.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

In considering a motion to dismiss, a court generally may only consider " facts stated in the complaint or documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference." Nechis v. Oxford Health Plans, Inc., 421 F.3d 96, 100 (2d Cir. 2005). A court should consider the motion " 'accepting all factual allegations in the complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor.'" Ruotolo v. City of N.Y., 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007)). To withstand dismissal, a plaintiff must set forth " enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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.'" Turkmen v. Ashcroft, 589 F.3d 542, 546 (2d Cir. 2009)

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(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)).

" While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Thus, " at a bare minimum, the operative standard requires the plaintiff to provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Goldstein v. Pataki, 516 F.3d 50, 56-57 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

As a threshold matter, the Court notes that Defendants attach and rely, in part, upon the transcript of a hearing held pursuant to section 50-h of the New York General Municipal Law in support of their motion to dismiss the complaint. ( See Dkt. 5-3). Generally speaking, it is inappropriate to rely upon materials that are outside the four corners of the complaint on a motion to dismiss. See Friedl v. City of N.Y., 210 F.3d 79, 83-84 (2d Cir. 2000) (finding reversible error where the district court relied on material outside the pleadings on a motion to dismiss); see also Peone v. Cnty. of Ontario, No. 12-CV-6012 CJS, 2013 WL 775358, at *1 (W.D.N.Y. Feb 28, 2013) (" In general, the Court would not consider a 50-h hearing transcript on a 12(b)(6) motion." ); Aguilera v. Cnty. of Nassau, 425 F.Supp.2d 320, 323 (E.D.N.Y. 2006) (declining to consider 50-h transcript that was not attached to or incorporated by reference into the complaint); Fontanez v. Skepple, No. 12-CIV-1582 (ER), 2013 WL 842600, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 6, 2013), aff'd, No. 13-1301-CV, 563 F.App'x 847, 2014 WL 1687794 (2d Cir. Apr. 30, 2014) (declining to consider 50-h testimony upon which only defendant relied). Defendants have offered no ...


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