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Cassata v. Leconey

United States District Court, W.D. New York

December 12, 2014

ANTHONY P. CASSATA, Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICIA LECONEY, BRIAN MCAULIFFE, JOHN DOE, PATRICIA RECOR, R. MESSINGER, WAYNE POTH, CHARLES WILLIAMS and WILLIAM M. DENNINGER, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

CHARLES J. SIRAGUSA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 brought by Anthony Cassata ("Plaintiff"), a former prison inmate, who maintains that the defendants, who were employed by either the New York State Court System or the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), caused him to serve a term of imprisonment that exceeded the term to which he was actually sentenced. Now before the Court is Defendants' motion (Docket No. [#5]) to dismiss the Complaint. The application is granted, but the Court will permit Plaintiff to file an amended complaint.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the Complaint in this action, including the attached exhibits, as well as public records and documents that Plaintiff possessed and relied upon in bringing this action.[1]

Prior to 2008, Plaintiff had at least two felony convictions in New York State, including a conviction in 2004, in Broome County, New York, for Grand Larceny, for which he received a sentence of two-to-four years.[2] According to DOCCS's website, as well as to submissions by the parties in this action, in August 2006 Plaintiff was released on parole.[3]

Shortly thereafter, while still on parole, on October 18, 2006, Plaintiff was charged with committing various new crimes in Livingston County, New York, including Forgery in the Second Degree and Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree.[4]

Apparently, though, Plaintiff remained out of custody, because in May 2008, he was charged with committing additional felonies in Steuben County, New York. Specifically, on May 23, 2008, Plaintiff was charged in Steuben County with Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (Auto) and Forgery in the Second Degree.[5]

Shortly thereafter, on May 28, 2008, Plaintiff was charged in Monroe County, New York, with crimes including Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (Auto).[6]

Consequently, it appears that as of May, 2008, Plaintiff had pending felony charges in Livingston County, Steuben County and Monroe County, as well as parole violations relating to his earlier Broome County sentence.

On June 20, 2008, an Administrative Law Judge for the New York State Division of Parole determined that Plaintiff had violated the terms of his parole, and ordered that he be returned to prison until August 26, 2008, which apparently was the maximum expiration of his Broome County sentence.[7] The copy of the parole revocation decision that was submitted to the Court is not entirely legible, but Plaintiff seems to suggest that the basis for his parole revocation was the crimes that he committed in Livingston County in October 2006. As will be discussed further below, this connection between Plaintiff's parole violation and his charges in Livingston County seems to have resulted in confusion at a later sentencing.

Plaintiff pled guilty to the Livingston County charges, and on January 27, 2009, the New York State Supreme Court, Livingston County, the Honorable Robert B. Wiggins, presiding, sentenced Plaintiff to a term of imprisonment of three-to-six years.[8]

Plaintiff also pled guilty in Monroe County, and on May 8, 2009, the New York State Supreme Court, Monroe County, the Honorable David D. Egan, presiding, sentenced Plaintiff principally to a term of imprisonment of two-to-four years, to run concurrently with the Livingston County sentence.[9]

Plaintiff also pled guilty in Steuben County, and it is that court proceeding from which this lawsuit arises. Specifically, on June 3, 2009, Plaintiff pled guilty, to Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (Auto) in Steuben County Court before the Honorable Joseph W. Latham ("Judge Latham"). At that time, defendant William Denninger ("Denninger") was the Clerk of the Court and defendant Charles Williams ("Williams") was Judge Latham's Court Assistant. Plaintiff pled guilty pursuant to a written plea agreement, which, in pertinent part, included this statement: "As a result of this plea, I will receive a sentence ( to run consecutive with any unexpired sentence relating to my existing parole ) of an indeterminate term of incarceration, the maximum being 3 years and the minimum being 1½ years." (emphasis added).

However, the transcript of the plea and sentence indicates that there was some confusion about the sentence as between Judge Latham, the prosecution and the defense.[10] Specifically, the prosecutor indicated that the sentence was "to be consecutive to Livingston County Indictment 2008-66, " which was the indictment on which Plaintiff had been sentenced in Livingston County on January 27, 2009, [11] but the defense disagreed. After further discussion off the record, Plaintiff represented that he was "off parole, " and that, therefore, the "consecutive" provision in the plea agreement was essentially meaningless.[12] Judge Latham and the prosecution agreed that the "consecutive" provision in the plea agreement would have no effect if Plaintiff in fact owed no additional "parole" time. Such was the discussion in court prior to Judge Latham actually imposing a sentence upon Plaintiff.

Significantly, though, when Judge Latham imposed his sentence later during that proceeding, he stated ...


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