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Brown v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 30, 2014

ROBERT K. BROWN, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert K. Brown ("Plaintiff") brings this action against Defendants the City of New York ("City of New York") and New York City Police Department ("N.Y.P.D.") Officers Marcus McCoy ("McCoy") and Stephen Janec[1] ("Janec, " collectively, "Defendants"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting federal claims for false arrest, unlawful imprisonment and malicious prosecution, as well as state law claims for false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress, stemming from Plaintiff's December 13, 2010, arrest and subsequent imprisonment.[2] Defendants move for summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, arguing that there was probable cause to arrest the Plaintiff; that any search and/or imprisonment of the Plaintiff was lawful; that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for malicious prosecution; and that, to the extent that Plaintiff intends to bring any state law claims, those claims are meritless. The Court has jurisdiction of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. The Court has considered carefully the parties' submissions and arguments and, for the following reasons, the Defendants' motion is granted in its entirety.

BACKGROUND[3]

Plaintiff was arrested on December 13, 2010, shortly after 1:00 p.m., in the vicinity of 84th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 8.) Earlier that day, two men, identified as E.K. and O.M., had called the authorities to report that the van that they were using, which belonged to Wynne Plumbing and Heating, had been broken into while it was parked on 85th Street. ( Id. ¶ 6.) Defendants McCoy and Janec responded to the complaint, which they heard about over the police radio. ( Id. ¶ 7.)[4]

The two complainants, E.K. and O.M., told Officer McCoy that they had seen Plaintiff in the driver's seat of the van, attempting to start the ignition in the van and that, when E.K. followed Plaintiff as he attempted to flee, the Plaintiff waved a hammer near E.K.'s face and said something to the effect of "wait a second." (Def. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 9-11.) Officer Janec's memo book indicates that he watched a surveillance video of the parked van at 1:25 p.m., after Plaintiff was arrested. (Lulich Decl., Ex. L.) In his opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff repeatedly alleges that, because he cannot be seen in the video, it exonerates him, and that McCoy violated his rights and was complicit in a false arrest and malicious prosecution by suppressing or withholding the "exculpatory" video. The Court has reviewed the security video, a copy of which was provided to the Court by the Defendants. It shows only a partial view of the van and neither the passenger side door of the van, through which the Plaintiff is accused of having entered, nor pedestrian traffic approaching the door on that side of the vehicle is visible. (Lulich Decl., Ex. M.)

E.K. and O.M. identified Plaintiff as the person who had broken into their van and he was arrested near the scene of the crime, at 84th Street and Park Avenue. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 7-9.) When he was arrested, a backpack containing, among other things, a hammer, screwdrivers and a knife, was vouchered as evidence belonging to the Plaintiff. (Lulich Decl., Ex. H.) Plaintiff denies that the hammer, screwdrivers and knife were his, and asserts that they were actually plumbing tools belonging to E.K. and O.M. that were found on the ground. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 7; Pl. Mem. in Opp. (ECF docket no. 43) at ECF p. 63.) Plaintiff also alleges that he had been "in a pizzaria[sic] having coffee-tea and pastries with a woman at 86th Street and the corner of Lexington Avenue, " and then had walked up 84th Street to Park Avenue to pick up a car that he had borrowed, before he was arrested. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 7; Pl. Mem. in Opp. at ECF p. 21.) Plaintiff contends that Defendants McCoy and Janec pulled up in the police car next to Plaintiff and jumped out of the car, that one of the police officers had a gun in his hand and that they handcuffed the Plaintiff and forcefully searched him before putting him in the back seat of the police car. (Pl. Mem. in Opp at ECF p. 21.)

Plaintiff alleges that he was then made to wait in the police car with the heater running full blast and that, as a diabetic with high blood pressure and asthma, he suffered from having his blood circulation restricted by the handcuffs with the heat running so high. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, when Defendants McCoy and Janec returned to the police car he told them that he was having breathing problems and heart palpitations and they arranged to have an ambulance meet them at the police station and take him to the hospital. (Id.)[5] Plaintiff states that he was returned to the police station six to eight hours later, after being treated at the hospital, and that Defendant McCoy, while processing Plaintiff's paperwork, made a comment to the effect of "what was being done to the plaintiff was not right and that this is not what he joined the police department for." ( Id. at ECF p. 24.) Plaintiff further alleges that Detective Lisa Moran, who had been involved in an arrest of Plaintiff on November 3, 2010, told Plaintiff that "[y]ou will not be getting out of jail this time because I will be making sure of it." (Id.)

Plaintiff's arrest was processed at the 19th Precinct and his pants and shirt from the time of his arrest were vouchered as evidence. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff alleges that he remained naked (or in his underwear) and handcuffed for approximately ten minutes, before he was given back his "Red, White and Blue Jacket, his underwear, undershirt, and tan boots along with hospital pajamas to wear." (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 12.) (Compare Pl. Mem. In Opp. at ECF p. 26 with Lulich Decl., Ex. B., Tr. 111:9-112:6.)

At the time of his arrest, Plaintiff was on parole and was in violation of the conditions of his parole.[6] (Def. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 4-5, 8.) On November 3, 2010, Plaintiff had been arrested for, among other crimes, criminal possession of stolen property and unlawful use of a motor vehicle. ( Id. ¶ 4.) The November 3, 2010, charges were pending in New York County Supreme Court under case number XXXX-XXXXX at the time of the arrest that forms the basis of Plaintiff's allegations in this case. Plaintiff had not reported the November 3, 2010, arrest to his parole officer and had missed at least four mandatory check-ins with that officer by December 13, 2010. ( Id. ¶ 5.)[7]

On December 14, 2010, Plaintiff was arraigned for attempted grand larceny in the fourth degree, menacing in the third degree, auto stripping in the third degree, criminal mischief in the fourth degree, and possession of burglar's tools under New York County Criminal Court number 2010NY091520. ( Id. ¶ 13.) E.K. and O.M. identified the Plaintiff as the perpetrator of the break-in of their van and signed affidavits attesting to this. Plaintiff's bail was set at $1.00 because there was a parole hold on Plaintiff. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 13.)[8] Following his arraignment, Plaintiff was remanded into custody of the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC") for violating his parole - not because of the criminal charges arising out of the December 13, 2010, incident. ( Id. ¶ 14.)

From December 13, 2010, until March 28, 2012, the charges under New York Supreme Court case no. 2010-05448 and New York Country Criminal Court docket no. 2010NY091520 were both pending against the Plaintiff as separate actions. ( Id. ¶ 15.) During the criminal proceedings in New York County Supreme Court case no. 2010-0558, Plaintiff was evaluated by at least two mental health professionals and found to be unfit to proceed to trial. ( Id. ¶ 16.) In July 2011, Plaintiff was transferred to the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center, upon an Order of Commitment, and was treated there until September 2011, when he was transferred back into custody at Riker's Island. (Id.; Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 16.)

On March 14, 2012, following a bench trial, Plaintiff was convicted of criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree and unauthorized use of a vehicle in the second degree, under case number XXXX-XXXXX. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 17; Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 17.)[9] On March 28, 2012, Plaintiff was sentenced to two to four years on each charge. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 17.) However, if Plaintiff had been tried and convicted of the charges brought under docket number 2010NY09150, any sentence would statutorily have been required to run concurrently with, and not have exceeded, the sentence already imposed under case XXXX-XXXXX. Therefore, on April 10, 2012, the charges relating to the instant arrest under case number 2010NY091520 were dismissed as covered by Plaintiff's conviction in case number XXXX-XXXXX. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 18.)[10] Neither Defendant McCoy nor Janec testified in any of Plaintiff's criminal proceedings. ( Id. ¶ 19.) From December 14, 2010, to March 28, 2012, Plaintiff was incarcerated because he violated parole prior to the December 13, 2010, arrest and from March 28, 2012, he was incarcerated pursuant to his conviction in case number XXXX-XXXXX. ( Id. ¶ 22.) The only period during which Plaintiff was held on account of the charges for which he was arrested on December 13, 2010, was from the time of the arrest until his December 14, 2010, arraignment on the charges.

DISCUSSION

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a Court should grant summary judgment when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the burden of showing that it is entitled to summary judgment, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986), and a "material fact" is one that might affect the outcome of a suit under governing law. See Kinsella v. Rumsfeld , 320 F.3d 309, 311 (2d Cir. 2003). When reviewing the record, the Court must assess the evidence in "the light most favorable to the [non-moving party]" and resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in its favor. Tufariello v. Long Island R. Co. , 458 F.3d 80, 85 (2d Cir. 2006). However, the party opposing summary judgment must put forth more than a "scintilla of evidence, " Anderson , 477 U.S. at 252, and "cannot defeat the motion by relying on the allegations in [its] pleading, or on conclusory ...


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