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Coggins v. Buonora

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

January 13, 2015

DARRYL T. COGGINS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
POLICE OFFICER CRAIG BUONORA, in his individual and official capacity, Defendant-Cross-Claimant-Appellant, COUNTY OF NASSAU, NASSAU COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants-Cross-Defendants, POLICE OFFICER JAMES VARA, in his individual and official capacity, JOHN DOES 1-10, in their individual and official capacity, Defendants

Argued: December 11, 2014.

LAURENCE JEFFREY WEINGARD, Law Offices of Laurence Jeffrey Weingard, New York, NY, for Defendant-Appellant Police Officer Craig Buonora.

SCOTT A. KORENBAUM (Frederick K. Brewington, on the brief), Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington, Hempstead, NY, for Plaintiff-Appellee Darryl T. Coggins.

Before: CABRANES, WESLEY, AND HALL, Circuit Judges.


Page 109

Wesley, Circuit Judge :

Plaintiff-Appellee Darryl T. Coggins brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § § 1981, 1983, 1985, 1986, and related state causes of action, against two police officers and their employers. Coggins alleged that the officers knowingly falsified and omitted material facts from police reports, lied to the district attorney and the grand jury, and conspired to do the same, resulting in the malicious prosecution of Coggins. Defendant-Appellant Craig Buonora moved to dismiss, claiming that his testimony before the grand jury, while perjurious, nonetheless bestowed on him absolute immunity for any act associated with his perjury. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Joseph F. Bianco, Judge) granted in part and denied in part Buonora's motion, finding that the Supreme Court's decision in Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497, 182 L.Ed.2d 593 (2012), granted Buonora absolute immunity from any § 1983 claim based solely on his grand jury testimony only.

Page 110

For the reasons that follow, we AFFIRM the district court's Order of December 2, 2013 to the extent it denied Buonora absolute and qualified immunity from suit on certain of Coggins's § 1983 claims unrelated to his grand jury testimony. At this interlocutory stage, we decline to exercise pendent jurisdiction over Buonora's other claims of error and therefore DISMISS the balance of his appeal.


In the early morning on October 9, 2004, police officer James Vara, a defendant in the action below but not a party to this appeal, stopped Darryl T. Coggins, " because of his race and color," while Coggins drove his vehicle in Floral Park, New York. (Third Am. Compl. (" TAC" ) ¶ ¶ 5, 24.)[2] Vara proceeded to administer a breathalyzer test to Coggins, " which did not work the first time." ( Id. ¶ 26.) Vara made a second attempt at breathalyzing Coggins and conducted a field sobriety test. ( Id.) Coggins passed those tests and " continued to ask why he was pulled over . . . but . . . received no response." ( Id.)

Vara called for backup; Coggins became nervous. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 26-27.) When Vara placed his hand on his gun, Coggins, fearing for his life, ran. ( Id. ¶ 27.) As he fled, Coggins saw an officer he believes was Defendant-Appellant Buonora " arrive on the scene." ( Id. ¶ 28.) Coggins heard that officer yell " Shoot him in the back, shoot him in the back." ( Id.) Coggins escaped. ( Id.)

Vara and Buonora told the Nassau County district attorney that they heard a " metal noise" during their foot pursuit of Coggins and that Buonora found a gun at the scene. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 51, 60, 63.) Coggins surrendered to police later in the day and, based on the officers' statements to the district attorney, he was initially charged with criminal possession of a weapon. ( See id. ¶ 31.)

A grand jury indicted Coggins for criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest. ( Id. ¶ 38.) The TAC in this case alleges, and defendants do not contest, that Vara and Buonora perjured themselves when they testified before the grand jury. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 38, 114.) The officers' perjury was revealed when an unnamed Floral Park Police Officer informed Coggins's counsel that " the story [Vara and Buonora] were telling was inaccurate." ( Id. ¶ 40.) The unnamed officer advised that, contrary to the statements and testimony of Vara and Buonora, " he [ i.e., the unnamed officer] was the [o]fficer who initially found a gun" and " that radio transmission[s] of October 9, 2004 would substantiate his claim." ( Id.) Thereafter, Coggins's case was referred to the Special Investigations Divisions of the Nassau County Police Department and the District Attorney's Office. ( Id. ...

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