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Wade v. City of Kingston

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 30, 2014

RONNIE WADE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF KINGSTON, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

LAWRENCE E. KAHN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Pro se Plaintiff Ronnie Wade ("Plaintiff") alleges violation of his constitutional rights by Defendants City of Kingston; County of Ulster; Edward Brewster ("Brewster"); Timothy Matthews ("Matthews"); Robert Henry; John Turk; Shawn McDermott; Dirk Budd; Brian Robertson; and John Paulding (collectively, "Defendants"). Dkt. No. 1 ("Complaint"). Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Dkt. Nos. 25 ("Motion"); 25-4 ("Defendants' Memorandum"). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is denied.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

A. Plaintiff's Arrest

On March 4, 2009, Plaintiff was arrested by law enforcement members of the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team ("URGENT"). Dkt. No. 27 ("Plaintiff's Memorandum") at 1. The URGENT officers were working under the direct supervision of Matthews, a Kingston Police Lieutenant. Id.

Upon Plaintiff's arrest, URGENT members confiscated $1, 985.00 from Plaintiff's wallet, as well as two cellular phones, a brief case, tools, and heating equipment from Plaintiff's vehicle. Id . Law enforcement also searched Plaintiff's home, pursuant to a search warrant, where an additional $2, 000 was confiscated. Id. at 2. None of Plaintiff's property was inventoried, nor was he provided with any receipts or vouchers. Id . Plaintiff's personal property was then transferred to the custody of the Kingston Police Department ("Kingston P.D."), where it was allegedly placed in evidence lockers under the direct and exclusive control of Matthews. Id.

B. Article 78 Proceeding

On November 18, 2011, in response to Plaintiff's Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") request, the Ulster County District Attorney's Office ("Ulster County D.A.") provided Plaintiff with an asset forfeiture form, which itemized Plaintiff's personal property that had been confiscated, as well as the chain of custody. See Pl.'s Mem. at 3. On March 1, 2012, Plaintiff demanded the return of his personal property from the Ulster County D.A. but was informed that the Kingston P.D. had taken possession of the items. Id . Plaintiff served a demand on the Kingston P.D. for his personal property but received no response. Id.

After the Kingston P.D. refused to return Plaintiff's personal property, Plaintiff filed an Article 78 petition in the nature of mandamus against Kingston and URGENT on or around April 26, 2012, in Ulster County Supreme Court. Pl.'s Mem. at 5. Plaintiff sought only the return of his property; he did not demand monetary relief or allege any constitutional violations. Id . The Kingston P.D. responded that it was neither in possession of Plaintiff's property, nor did it have any knowledge of its whereabouts.[2] Id.

In a decision dated September 9, 2012, the Hon. Henry F. Zwack found that the Kingston P.D. and URGENT were required by law to return Plaintiff's property, and that Kingston failed to provide sufficient factual allegations that it neither possessed nor had knowledge of the status of Plaintiff's personal property. State Decision at 5; see also id. ("Kingston has carefully avoided addressing the question of whether Kingston ever took custody of petitioner's property, and if so, what became of the property.").

After obtaining the favorable decision, Plaintiff wrote a letter to the Kingston P.D. authorizing his wife to pick up his property;[3] however, Plaintiff's wife was refused his property. Pl.'s Mem. at 6. The Kingston P.D. did not respond to Plaintiff's further correspondence to retrieve his property. Id . On September 16, 2013, without admitting fault, Kingston and URGENT stipulated to pay Plaintiff $2, 285 as compensation for the loss of Plaintiff's personal property. Id .; see also Dkt. No. 27-1, Ex. G.

C. The Complaint

Plaintiff commenced this action on May 31, 2013, alleging violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' failure to enact or enforce written procedures or protocols for the handling and safekeeping of Plaintiff's personal property confiscated during his arrest, resulting in the loss of his personal property, denied Plaintiff his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Id . ¶¶ 74-105. Plaintiff seeks ...


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