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Oka v. County of Suffolk

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 4, 2015

ALFRED OKA and FRANCES OKA, Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF SUFFOLK, SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT SUFFOLK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE OFFICER EDWARD RYBY, and SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DETECTIVE ADAM FRIEDLANDER, Defendants

For Alfred Oka, Frances Oka, Plaintiffs: Alicia M. Menechino, Law Offices of William T. LaVelle, P.C., Patchogue, NY; William Troy LaVelle, William T. LaVelle, P.C., Patchogue, NY.

For County of Suffolk, Edward Ryby, Suffolk County Police Officer, Friedlander, Suffolk County Police Detective, Defendants: Brian C. Mitchell, LEAD ATTORNEY, Suffolk County Dept. of Law-County Attorney, Hauppauge, NY.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Gary R. Brown, United States Magistrate Judge.

On August 25, 2012, plaintiffs Alfred Oka and Frances Oka (together, " plaintiffs") filed a Verified Amended Complaint (" amended complaint") against defendants County of Suffolk, Suffolk County Police Department, the Suffolk County District Attorney, Suffolk County Police Officer Edward Ryby (" Police Officer Ryby"), Suffolk County Police Detective Adam Friedlander (" Detective Friedlander"), and Kelly Kilanowski (" Kilanowski")[1] (collectively " defendants"), alleging violations of their constitutional rights in connection with the arrest and subsequent prosecution of plaintiff Alfred Oka. See Amended Compl., Docket Entry (" DE") [10]. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (" Section 1983") and New York state law, plaintiff Alfred Oka seeks to recover against defendants for claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and abuse of process. Id. In addition, pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) (" Section 1985"), plaintiff Frances Oka asserts a claim of conspiracy to violate her right to serve on a jury, and plaintiff Alfred Oka asserts a gross negligence and vicarious liability claim under state law. Id. Presently before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiffs' claims in their entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (" Rule") 56, which motion was referred to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation by the Honorable Sandra J. Feuerstein. See Order Referring Mot., dated July 28, 2014, DE [39]. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the motion be granted.

BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

The following facts, undisputed except where noted, are drawn from the Defendants' Statement Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 (hereinafter " Defs.' 56.1 Stmt."), DE [39-2], and other evidence of record in this action.[2] See Ayazi v. United Fed'n of Teachers Local 2, 487 F.App'x 680, 681 (2d Cir. 2012) (" when assessing a summary judgment motion, a District Court may consider other materials in the record") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

On October 21, 2009, at approximately 11:52 a.m., defendant Police Officer Ryby responded to a call that a female complainant was being followed by a male individual in a black Mercedes automobile in the Sunrise Highway area in Patchogue, New York. Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1, DE [39-2]. While responding to the call, Police Officer Ryby received further updates informing him that the complainant, Kilanowski, was still being followed, and that the male individual had pointed a black stick at her.[3] Id. ¶ 2. When Officer Ryby arrived at the location of the incident, he observed the described vehicle and initiated a traffic stop. Id. ¶ 3. Officer Ryby approached the driver of the vehicle, plaintiff Alfred Oka, and asked him for his identification. Id. While speaking to Alfred Oka, Officer Ryby observed a black metal stick-like object resting on the passenger seat of the vehicle. Id.

At the time of the stop, Alfred Oka informed Officer Ryby that he was carrying a loaded handgun in a holster on his belt and claimed he had a permit for the weapon. Id. ¶ 4. Officer Ryby asked Mr. Oka to step out of the vehicle and secured the handgun. Id. Officer Ryby examined the permit and discovered that Mr. Oka did not have a valid Suffolk County pistol permit permitting him to carry a loaded weapon on his person.[4] Id. ¶ 5.

While at the scene with Alfred Oka, Officer Ryby received a radio communication from Police Officer Ciara Beseler, advising him that she was with Kilanowski and that based on Kilanowski's statements, it was determined that Mr. Oka had followed Kilanowski about a public place with the intent to annoy and alarm her. Id. ¶ 7. Kilanowski advised the police that she wanted to pursue charges and wanted the subject arrested. Id. ¶ 8. Mr. Oka was placed under arrest and transported to the Suffolk County Fifth Police Precinct (the " Fifth Precinct"). Ryby Aff., ¶ 7, DE [39-5].

Kilanowski executed a sworn Violation Information (the " Information") stating that Alfred Oka had followed her in his vehicle from Sunrise Highway to Bohemia to Gateway Boulevard in Patchogue and continued to follow her in his vehicle as she drove up and down different lanes in the parking lot of Gateway Plaza. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 9, DE [39-2]. Kilanowski further stated in the Information that she thereafter parked her vehicle in a parking space and Mr. Oka then parked his vehicle next to hers and " point[ed] a black object at her that she believed to be some kind of stick placing her in fear for her safety." Id., Ex. D.

In addition to the Information, Kilanowski executed a Suffolk County Police Department Civilian Arrest Form (the " Civilian Arrest Form") stating that she was arresting Alfred Oka on the charge of Harassment in the Second Degree and demanding that Officer Ryby take Oka into custody. Id. ¶ 10. The Civilian Arrest Form contained a warning detailing Kilanowski's responsibilities and advising her that a failure to comply could result in the charge being dismissed and she could be liable to a civil law suit for false arrest. Id. ¶ 11. Prior to his arrival at the incident location, Officer Ryby had never met or had any contact with Kilanowski. Id. ¶ 12.

At the Fifth Precinct, Officer Ryby asked defendant Detective Friedlander to assist in the processing of Alfred Oka who he explained was in custody for a charge of Harassment in the Second Degree based upon a complaint of a civilian witness, Kilanowski. Friedlander Aff., ¶ 2, DE [39-6]. Detective Friedlander conducted an interview of Oka. Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 13, DE [39-2]. Mr. Oka was advised of his constitutional rights, and Oka waived his rights and agreed to speak to Detective Friedlander without an attorney present. Id. During the interview, Mr. Oka admitted to carrying a loaded handgun on his hip, and while Detective Friedlander concluded that there was probable cause to believe that Oka had committed the crime of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, Detective Friedlander exercised his discretion and declined to charge him with that offense. Id. ¶ ¶ 14-15. The Pistol License section of the Suffolk Police Department was notified, Oka's license[5] was suspended and he was required to surrender all his weapons. Id. ¶ 16.

Defendants contacted Alfred Oka's wife, plaintiff Frances Oka, to facilitate the surrender of the weapons. Id. ¶ 17. Mrs. Oka was advised to call the Fifth Precinct when she arrived home so that her husband's weapons could be recovered. Id. Although Frances Oka was serving as a juror on a trial in Riverhead, New York on the day of her husband's arrest, see Amended Compl. ¶ 38, DE [10], she did not leave jury duty and remained on the jury through verdict, id. ¶ 45; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 13, DE [39-2]. Later that evening, Mrs. Oka contacted the precinct and surrendered her husband's handguns. Id. ¶ 17.

B. Procedural Background

On May 27, 2011, plaintiffs commenced this action against defendants County of Suffolk, Suffolk County Police Department and the Suffolk County District Attorney (collectively the " County defendants"), alleging violations of their constitutional rights in violation of Section 1983. See Compl. DE [1]. On February 15, 2012, the County defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c), and plaintiffs moved for leave to file an amended complaint. DE [8]. By Order dated August 3, 2012, the district court dismissed the complaint and granted plaintiffs leave to file an amended complaint. DE [9]. On August 25, 2012, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, adding Police Officer Ryby, Detective Friedlander, and Kilanowski as defendants and asserting additional causes of action under federal and state law. See Amended Compl., DE [10]. On July 29, 2013, defendant Kilanowski moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). DE [23]. By Order dated January 13, 2014, the district court granted Kilanowski's motion and dismissed plaintiffs' claims against her. DE [32].

Defendants' now move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. DE [39]. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. Id.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

" Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Gonzalez v. City of Schenectady, 728 F.3d 149, 154 (2d Cir. 2013); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). " In ruling on a summary judgment motion, the district court must resolve all ambiguities, and credit all factual inferences that could rationally be drawn, in favor of the party opposing summary judgment and determine whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact, raising an issue for trial." McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 202 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Beyer v. County of Nassau, 524 F.3d 160, 163 (2d Cir. 2008). " A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law, and an issue of fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Ramos v. Baldor Specialty Foods, Inc., 687 F.3d 554, 558 (2d Cir. 2012) (internal quotation mark and citation omitted); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Moreover, " [w]here the undisputed facts reveal that there is an absence of sufficient proof as to one essential element of a claim, any factual disputes with respect to other elements become immaterial and cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment." Chandok v. Klessig, 632 F.3d 803, 812 (2d Cir. 2011); see Selevan v. N.Y. Thruway Auth., 711 F.3d 253, 256 (2d Cir. 2013) (finding summary judgment appropriate where the non-moving party fails to " come forth with evidence sufficient to permit a reasonable juror to return a verdict in his or her favor on an essential element of a claim"); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 ...


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