United States District Court, N.D. New York
JEFFREY WILLIAMS, pro se Ulster Correctional Facility Napanoch, NY.
ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, Attorney General for the State of New York, TIFFINAY M. RUTNIK, ESQ., Ass't Attorney General, Albany, NY, Attorneys for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER
DAVID N. HURD, District Judge.
On April 5, 2013, plaintiff Jeffrey Williams ("plaintiff" or "Williams") commenced this action against Investigator Robert Carter ("defendant" or "Inv. Carter") of the New York State Police ("NYSP"). Liberally construing the complaint, Williams asserts Fourth Amendment claims for false arrest and malicious prosecution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The parties have completed discovery, and defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The motion is fully briefed and was considered on submit without oral argument.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
The following pertinent facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. In April 2011 Inv. Carter was assigned to a team of law enforcement officers investigating the burglary of two convenience stores, one in Schenectady County and one in Schoharie County, in New York state. Both occurred in the early morning hours of April 27, 2011.
First, at approximately 2:36 a.m. on that date, someone broke into the Gulf Brothers Convenient Mart in Princetown, Schenectady County, by throwing a brick through the front glass door ("the Schenectady Burglary"). Surveillance video shows a suspect dressed in a dark hooded sweatshirt, gloves, and white sneakers. The suspect put cartons of cigarettes into a large cardboard box before fleeing the store. See Rutnik Decl., Ex. H.
Shortly thereafter, at about 2:58 a.m., a similar burglary occurred sixteen miles away at the Apple Food convenience store in the Town and County of Schoharie ("the Schoharie Burglary"). Surveillance video from the store shows a clear depiction of the suspect's face as he emerges from a four-door Buick LeSabre in the parking lot. The suspect-clad in a dark hooded sweatshirt, gloves, and white sneakers-then throws a block through the front glass door, enters the store, and puts cartons of cigarettes into a large cardboard box before fleeing in the Buick. See Rutnik Decl., Ex. I.
During the course of his investigation, Inv. Carter learned of several similar unsolved burglaries in the general area. For example, the Global Gas convenience store in Sullivan County, New York, had been burglarized in the early morning hours of February 12, 2011. Surveillance video reportedly shows the perpetrator arriving in a four-door Buick LeSabre bearing a partial license plate number of "7415." The suspect gained entry to the store by throwing a concrete block through the front glass window and, once inside, stole cartons of cigarettes. The Buick reportedly sustained damage to the driver's side when the suspect backed into a pillar near the station's gas tanks. On April 16, 2011, someone burglarized the Countryside Grocery in Schoharie County. Like the other crimes, the perpetrator smashed through the glass front door and stole cigarettes.
A search of Department of Motor Vehicle records revealed a blue Buick LeSabre, license plate number "EVW 7415, " registered to Barbara B. Coles of Menands, New York. Police also discovered that a Miles Bailey of Albany filed an insurance claim alleging that the same Buick LeSabre had been damaged at a gas station in Albany on February 14, 2011. The Albany Police Department did not receive a report of the incident described in Bailey's insurance claim. Subsequent investigation indicated that Barbara Coles was Miles Bailey's girlfriend, and Bailey was plaintiff's landlord at the time of the burglaries.
Police soon located the Buick LeSabre in the City of Albany and placed it under surveillance. Williams was observed and photographed removing property from the vehicle. Inv. Carter compared these pictures with the video footage of the Schoharie Burglary suspect and concluded they were the same person. Williams denies that he is the person in the surveillance video from the Schoharie Burglary, even though he later pleaded guilty to that crime. After obtaining plaintiff's name and date of birth, police learned he had a criminal history that included an arrest in July 2003 for breaking into a convenience store in Colonie, Albany County. In that burglary, the perpetrator threw a concrete block through a glass front door and stole cigarettes. Plaintiff was arrested close to the scene with evidence of the crime on his person.
On May 11, 2011, armed with the above information, Inv. Carter secured a warrant to install a global positioning system ("GPS") tracking device on the Buick LeSabre. In the early morning hours of May 15, 2011, the GPS device indicated that the vehicle had left the City of Albany and stopped in the area of 106 Maple Avenue, Voorheesville, Albany County. A uniformed NYSP Trooper was dispatched to that location. Inv. Carter began driving toward the area as well but soon passed the Buick LeSabre driving in the opposite direction. He turned around to ...