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Hilderbrandt v. City of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 11, 2014

ROBERT HILDERBRANDT, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, POLICE OFFICER THOMPSON (Shield No. 2354), 100th Precinct, and POLICE OFFICER CLAUDIO DIAZ (Shield No. 6621), 100th Precinct, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

ALLYNE R. ROSS, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Robert Hilderbrandt, has brought a variety of constitutional and state law claims against Police Officer Rhone Thompson, Police Officer Claudio Diaz, and the City of New York in connection with his arrest on January 9, 2012. Defendants move for summary judgment on the claims against the individual defendants: false arrest, excessive force, assault and battery, First Amendment retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.[1] For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

On January 9, 2012, at 12:22 p.m., George Iacobelli, a tenant of the Baxter Hotel, a single occupancy hotel in Queens, New York, telephoned the New York Police Department to report that someone had been tampering with his room. Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 56.1 ("Defs. Facts"), Dkt. #31, ¶¶ 6-7; Pl.'s Objections and Resp. to Defs. Facts ("Pl. Facts"), Dkt. # 35, ¶¶ 6-7. Officers Rhone Thompson and Claudio Diaz were on duty at the time and responded to the call. Defs. Facts ¶ 8; Pl. Facts ¶ 8.

Upon arriving at the Baxter Hotel, the defendant officers were met outside by Mr. Iacobelli. Mr. Iacobelli told them that some of his possessions, including a television, were missing, and that "management was stealing his stuff." Defs. Facts ¶ 10.[2]Officers Thompson and Diaz followed Mr. Iacobelli to his room on the fourth floor of the hotel. Defs. Facts ¶¶ 11-13; Pl. Facts ¶¶ 11-13.

From his office on the first floor of the hotel, plaintiff saw the officers arrive. Defs. Facts ¶ 13; Dep. of Robert Hilderbrandt ("Pl. Dep.") 76. Plaintiff served as the Baxter Hotel's manager and head of security. Pl. Dep. 42. Soon after the officers followed Mr. Iacobelli into the building, plaintiff made his way to the fourth floor. Defs. Facts ¶¶ 13-14; Pl. Facts ¶¶ 13-14. There, Officer Thompson stood outside Mr. Iacobelli's room, while Officer Diaz stood just inside the door. Pl. Dep. 81-82; Dep. of Claudio Diaz ("Diaz Dep.") 21-22.

The stories of plaintiff and defendants diverge significantly at this point. Drawing all inferences and resolving all credibility issues in favor of the non-moving plaintiff, as required on this motion, the facts significant to the resolution of the issues are as follows.

As plaintiff approached Mr. Iacobelli's room, he inquired of the officers whether there was a problem. Pl. Dep. 86. Officer Thompson told plaintiff, "[i]t doesn't concern [you]." Id. Plaintiff explained to the officers that he was the building manager and in charge of security. Id. After plaintiff tried to peer into Mr. Iacobelli's room, Officer Thompson told him to "step back." Id. at 89. Plaintiff complied. Id. at 90.

After stepping back, plaintiff continued speaking with Officer Thompson, insisting that he had to know whether there was a problem. Id. at 91. At first, Officer Thompson repeated that there was nothing wrong. Id. at 93. After inquiring several more times, plaintiff concluded that "there must be some kind of a reason why you got two patrolmen here with this man. [If there is no problem...] you people are just visitors. And in this building, Mr. Iacobelli knows very well there are no visitors permitted. So if you are here for a legal matter [it] is one thing, if you're here as visitors, you will have to leave the premises." Id. At some point after plaintiff made this statement, Officer Thompson stated that a television had been stolen. Id. at 91. Pointing to a surveillance camera mounted on the ceiling, plaintiff responded that the officers' "problems [were] over, " because a review the videotape would disclose the identity of the perpetrator. Id.

As plaintiff pointed to the camera, the officers moved in to arrest him. Officer Diaz grabbed his raised arm, and Officer Thompson said he was "tired of [plaintiff's] arrogance." Id. at 92. Plaintiff asked why he was being arrested, and Officer Diaz said "quit resisting." Id. Plaintiff then "just lowered [his] arm." Id. When instructed to put his hands behind his back, he did so immediately. Id. at 107-08. Until this point, plaintiff had spoken in a moderate tone and had not raised his voice. Id. at 101-02; Decl. of Robert Hilderbrandt ("Pl. Decl."), Dkt. #36, Ex. 5, ¶ 2. At no time did the defendant officers issue any orders to plaintiff other than their initial request that he step back. Pl. Dep. 98.

After plaintiff had been handcuffed, he was "roughed up a bit." Id. at 110. Plaintiff was pushed from one side of the hallway to the other and ultimately was pinned against one wall by Officer Thompson. Id. at 106, 111, 113. Officer Thompson's left elbow was on plaintiff's right shoulder, with plaintiff's left shoulder being "crushed into the wall." Id. at 111-12. Plaintiff did not struggle, Id. at 111, yet Officer Thompson "kept grinding and grinding" his shoulder. Id. at 112. Plaintiff complained that the officer was hurting his right shoulder, which had previously been injured. Id. Plaintiff emerged from the incident with a lasting injury to his left shoulder. He was unable to raise his left arm in the days after his arrest and continued to experience pain at the time of his deposition, more than two years later. Id. at 114. Plaintiff also experienced pain as a result of tight handcuffs, which caused soreness to his wrists and bruising to his thumbs that lasted "a couple days." Id. at 146, 153, 162-63. After being held against the wall for approximately eleven minutes, plaintiff was escorted out of the Baxter Hotel and into a patrol car. Id. at 122; Decl. of Aimee Lulich, Ex. H ("Video"), at 1:41:32-1:52:50.

As noted, defendants paint a very different picture of their interaction with plaintiff at the hotel. According to the defendants' version of events, plaintiff approached Mr. Iacobelli's room and began to "talk over" Mr. Iacobelli. Diaz Dep. 54; Dep. of Rhone Thompson ("Thompson Dep.") 21. At one point, plaintiff interjected that what Mr. Iacobelli was relating to the officers was not true. Diaz Dep. 34. Plaintiff also ignored the officer's requests that he stop talking and step away from them. Id. at 35-37; Thompson Dep. 30. Officer Thompson told plaintiff that if plaintiff did not stop interrupting the investigation, he would be arrested. Diaz Dep. 38. When plaintiff did not stop, Officer Thompson moved to arrest him. When plaintiff resisted, Officer Diaz had to assist Officer Thompson in pulling plaintiff's hands behind his back. Diaz Dep. 38-39; Thompson Dep. 32. Officer Diaz testified that he simply held the plaintiff against the wall until they exited the building. Diaz Dep. 42.

The parties agree that plaintiff was charged with obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. Defs. Facts ¶ 22; Pl. Facts ¶ 22. The certificate of disposition from his arraignment indicates that plaintiff accepted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal on all charges. Defs. Facts ¶ 22; Pl. Facts ¶ 22. After nine hours in custody, plaintiff was released.

DISCUSSION

1. Standard for Summary ...


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