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Harewood v. Braithwaite

United States District Court, E.D. New York

December 5, 2014

DERYCK HAREWOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
DETECTIVE MICHAEL BRAITHWAITE, Defendant

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For Deryck Harewood, Plaintiff: Vincent I. Eke-Nweke, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Vincent I Eke-Nweke, P.C., Brooklyn, NY.

For The City of New York, Defendant: Philip S. Frank, LEAD ATTORNEY, The City of N.Y. Law Department, New York, NY; Brian Paul Ceballo, New York City Law Department, Brooklyn, NY.

For Detective Michael Braithwaite, Shield No:347, Defendant: Michael F. Buchanan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Henry Joseph Ricardo, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, New York, NY; Philip S. Frank, LEAD ATTORNEY, The City of N.Y. Law Department, New York, NY; Brian Paul Ceballo, New York City Law Department, Brooklyn, NY; Noah Stein, Regina Yuyeon Won, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, New York, NY.

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MEMORANDUM & ORDER

PAMELA K. CHEN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Deryck Harewood brought this action against the City of New York (the " City" ), New York City Police Department (" NYPD" ) Detective Michael Braithwaite and an unidentified NYPD officer (" John Doe" ), asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (" § 1983" ), the New York State Constitution, and New York common law. After Plaintiff's claims against the City and John Doe were dismissed, trial proceeded against Braithwaite on Plaintiff's claims of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and unreasonable detention. After a six-day trial, the jury determined that Braithwaite had falsely arrested and unreasonably detained Harewood, and awarded Harewood $25,000 in compensatory damages. In addition, the jury awarded punitive damages against Braithwaite in the amount of $20,000 on Harewood's false arrest claim and an additional $20,000 on his unreasonable detention claim. Braithwaite now moves, with respect to each claim, (1) for judgment as a matter of law on the issues of liability and qualified immunity pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (" FRCP" ) or, in the alternative, (2) for a new trial pursuant to FRCP Rule 59 or to vacate the punitive damages award. For the reasons

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set forth below, Braithwaite's motion for a judgment as a matter of law is denied with respect to the false arrest verdict, granted with respect to the unreasonable detention verdict, and denied with respect to the request for a new trial and to vacate the punitive damages award. The jury's award of $25,000 in compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages for Plaintiff's false arrest claim stands; the Court overturns the award of $20,000 in compensatory damages for Plaintiff's unreasonable detention claim.

BACKGROUND

The Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the procedural history of this case and the trial record, and discusses them only to the extent they are relevant to the resolution of the instant motions.

I. History of the Case

Plaintiff's claims arise out of his June 11, 2007 arrest by Braithwaite and the subsequent no true bill vote by the Grand Jury. ( See Dkt. 1 (" Compl." ).) On July 9, 2009, Plaintiff initiated this action under § 1983 and State law, asserting claims of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and unreasonable detention against the City, Braithwaite, and John Doe. ( Id.)

On July 12, 2011, defendants the City of New York, Braithwaite, and John Doe moved for summary judgment. (Dkt. 29.) In a Memorandum and Order dated February 10, 2012, the Honorable Frederic Block, then-presiding,[1] granted the City's and John Doe's motions for summary judgment with respect to both Harewood's federal and State law claims.[2] In addition, Judge Block granted Braithwaite's motion for summary judgment as to Harewood's State law claims, but denied it as to Harewood's § 1983 claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and unreasonable detention. For largely the same reasons that he denied Braithwaite's motion for summary judgment, Judge Block also held that there were genuine disputes of material fact that prevented him from determining whether Braithwaite was entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. (SJ. Op. at 10); see also Harewood v. City of New York, 508 F.App'x 60, 61 (2d Cir. 2013) (" The district court in essence held that there were genuine disputes of material fact that prevented it from determining that Braithwaite was entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law." ).

Braithwaite filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing that he was entitled to qualified immunity on all three § 1983 claims. Harewood, 508 F.App'x at 61. The Second Circuit rejected the appeal, finding that although the Circuit has jurisdiction to hear an interlocutory appeal to determine whether qualified immunity is established as a matter of law, id. at 62 (citing Bouche v. Oliveri, 506 F.App'x 29, 31 (2012)), it does not have such jurisdiction to resolve factual disputes or determine whether they are genuine, id. (citing Bolmer v. Oliveira, 594 F.3d 134, 140-41 (2d Cir. 2010)). Accordingly, on January 25, 2013, the Circuit declined to exercise interlocutory jurisdiction over the Court's denial of qualified immunity on Harewood's claims because material facts were in dispute. Id. at 63. By mandate dated February 21, 2013, the Court of Appeals remanded

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the case to this Court for further proceedings. (Dkt. 45.)

After a series of motions and extension requests, trial began on December 2, 2013.[3]

II. Evidence at Trial

A. Factual Overview

On May 17, 2007, at approximately 2:13 p.m., a 23-year old male named Raphael Maximin was stabbed in the vicinity of East 95th Street near Rutland Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. (JT[4] ¶ 1; DX-U[5] at NYC-B 002.) On June 11, 2007, Braithwaite arrested Harewood for committing the stabbing. (JT ¶ 2.) The next day, June 12, 2007, a criminal complaint charged Harewood with Assault in the First, Second and Third Degrees, Attempted Murder in the Second Degree, and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree. ( Id. ¶ 3.) On June 13, 2007, Harewood was arraigned in criminal court, and subsequently incarcerated at Riker's Island. ( Id. ¶ 4-5.) On June 15, 2007, the criminal charges were presented to a Grand Jury. ( Id. ¶ 6.) The Grand Jury voted to no true bill, and did not indict Harewood. ( Id.) On June 16, 2007, Harewood was released on his own recognizance. ( Id. ¶ 7.) On July 30, 2007, the criminal court dismissed and sealed the charges against Harewood. ( Id. ¶ 8.)

Plaintiff filed the instant action on July 9, 2009. (Compl.)

B. Plaintiff's Evidence

1. The Stabbing & Hans Holder's Witness Statement

On May 17, 2007, prior to the stabbing, Maximin was at the apartment of a Ms. Lawner, which was a second floor apartment located at 1028 Rutland Road, Brooklyn, New York. (PX-3.[6]) Hans Holder, a 24-year-old male who subsequently witnessed the stabbing, was present at Ms. Lawner's apartment with three of Holder's friends: the victim (Maximin), Ronald Mars, and Shawn Brathwaite.[7] Ms. Lawner's daughter, Shawana Hibbert, was also present. (PX-3; Tr.[8] 16.) Maximin and his friends were putting up shelving in Ms. Lawner's apartment. (PX-3.) At some point, Mars received a call on his cell phone from Christopher Rodriguez. ( Id.)

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Rodriguez stated he was waiting downstairs, and asked Mars to send someone downstairs to open the door. ( Id.) Maximin went downstairs to meet Rodriguez. ( Id.) About three minutes later, Mars received another call from Rodriguez, who stated that someone was " messing" with Maximin. ( Id.)

At that time, Holder ran downstairs to the corner of East 95th Street and Rutland Road. He looked south and saw that a short distance down East 95th Street, three males were engaged in a fight with Maximin. (PX-3; Tr. 40.) Two of the assailants were holding Maximin down and one was standing above him. (PX-3.) In his May 17, 2007 interview with Braithwaite, Holder described the males as follows:

○ Male # 1 (Holding victim down) Black, 5'6" , 120 lbs, mid 20's, yellow shirt, dark short pants, and was saying, " Who was it?"
○ Male # 2 (Holding victim down) Black, 6'0" , 250 lbs, late 20's, white shirt, blue jeans.
○ Male # 3 (Standing) Black, late 20's, no further description.

(PX-3; Tr. 39-40.)

2. Beverly Creary's Witness Statement

On May 17, 2004, at 3:40 p.m., Beverly Creary and her sister, Joset Dell, who worked near the intersection where the incident had taken place, were interviewed by NYPD Detective Dennis Murphy, a colleague of Braithwaite. Creary and Dell both provided recorded statements to Murphy. (PX-2; Tr. 41-43, 465.)[9]

According to Murphy's report, Creary, with some input from Dell, told Murphy that:

o she witnessed " the victim fighting with 3 other boys," i.e., the assailants;
o " the victim's best friend who is always with him was standing there at the time watching and doing nothing" ;
o she recognized the assailants, whom she referred to as " the boys" because " the boys [were] always hanging out smoking weed" in that ...

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