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Deats v. Monroe County

United States District Court, W.D. New York

December 1, 2014

DARLENE DEATS, Plaintiff,
v.
MONROE COUNTY, MONROE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY MICHAEL GREEN, ASSISTANT MONROE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEYS TIMOTHY L. PROSPERI and JENNIFER A. WHITMAN, Individually and in their official capacities, Defendants

For Darlene Deats, Plaintiff: Joseph Daniel Waldorf, LEAD ATTORNEY, Rochester, NY.

For Monroe County, Michael Green, Monroe County District Attorney, Timothy L. Prosperi, Assistant Monroe County District Attorneys, Jennifer A. Whitman, Assistant Monroe County District Attorneys, Individually and in their Official Capacities, Defendants: Matthew D. Brown, Michele Romance Crain, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Robert P. Yawman, III, Monroe County Department of Law, Rochester, NY.

DECISION AND ORDER

HON. FRANK P. GERACI, JR., United States District Judge.

After being acquitted of multiple charges in a state court trial, Plaintiff Darlene Deats brings this action against former Monroe County District Attorney Michael Green, Assistant District Attorney Timothy Prosperi and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Whitman who conducted or oversaw her prosecution, along with their employer, the County of Monroe. The Complaint alleges that the Defendants maliciously prosecuted her in the absence of probable cause, and that the County of Monroe had a policy of conducting unwarranted prosecutions. The Defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings, primarily arguing that the prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity. Because the prosecutors are immune from suit regarding the majority of Plaintiff's claims, and because the remaining allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, the Defendant's' motion is granted, and this case is dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Darlene Deats worked for Biomedical Tissue Services (" BTS") from October 2004 through September 2009. In September 2009, Plaintiff received certification from the American Association of Tissue Banks as a tissue recovery specialist, which, in practical terms, involves recovering tissue from cadavers. As part of her employment with BTS, the Plaintiff would be notified when tissue or bone donors became available and would proceed to Rochester area funeral homes to collect the tissue or bones. The recovered tissue or bones were frozen and forwarded to a location in New Jersey. The Plaintiff did not have contact with the donor's family, nor did she know any information regarding the individual donors.

In approximately 2005, the Kings County District Attorney's Office, the New York City Police Department, and the United States Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations began investigating BTS.

Based upon this investigation, in February 2006 the Kings County District Attorney's Office prosecuted four individuals associated with BTS for participating in a scheme to steal tissue from bodies of individuals who had never provided consent to be tissue donors, and afterwards, they sold the harvested tissue to transplant companies. The Plaintiff was not named in that prosecution.

In March 2006, the Monroe County District Attorney's Office, relying upon the aforementioned investigation, proceeded to obtain an indictment charging the Plaintiff with 23 counts of body stealing in violation of Public Health Law § 4216; 23 counts of opening graves in violation of Public Health Law § 4218; 23 counts of unlawful dissection in violation of Public Health Law § 4210-a; 12 counts of forgery in the second degree; and 12 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree.

The indictment alleged that the Plaintiff knowingly recovered human tissue and bones from cadavers without the consent of the deceased or their next of kin. Following a bench trial before Monroe County Court Judge John Connell, the Plaintiff was found not guilty on all counts.

Following her acquittal, the Plaintiff commenced this action, alleging[1] causes of action under Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983 for malicious prosecution and false arrest in violation of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the Constitution; a cause of action under § 1983 for a violation of Plaintiff's due process rights under the Fourteenth amendment; a supervisory liability claim under § 1983 against District Attorney Michael Green; and a claim against Monroe County under § 1983 for maintaining an unconstitutional official custom, practice, or policy by prosecuting individuals when no basis in law or fact existed to do so.

Presently before the Court is the Defendants Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), which primarily argues that the individual prosecutors are absolutely immune from suit. Dkt. #33. The Plaintiff has responded in opposition to the motion, and the Defendants have filed their reply. Dkt. ## 35, 36.

DISCUSSION

I. Motions for Judgment on the ...


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