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Bey Wilson El v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 23, 2015

CALIPH AMILCAR BEY WILSON EL, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK; BILL DE BLASIO; WILLIAM JOSEPH BRATTON; DANIEL OMAHONEY; BRIAN K. GARCIA, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GREGORY H. WOODS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Caliph Amilcar Bey Wilson El brings this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that on June 21, 2013, police officers stopped his car on the pretext that he had not used his turn signal, searched his car in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, falsely arrested him, and then maliciously prosecuted him. He sues arresting officers Daniel Omahoney and Brian K. Garcia, New York City Police Commissioner William Joseph Bratton, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the City of New York. This matter comes before the Court on the motion of the City of New York[1] to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

For purposes of this motion only, the Court accepts the following facts as true. At midday on June 21, 2013, Plaintiff was driving on Greenwich Avenue, between 10th Street and Perry Street in Manhattan. Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 7. A police car behind him flashed its lights, and Plaintiff pulled over. Police Officers Daniel Omahoney and Brian Garcia approached Plaintiff "with their hands on their guns, " and Plaintiff "feared for his life." Id. at 8. Officer Omahoney "demanded" that Plaintiff lower his window and then asked for his driver's license, registration, and insurance card. Plaintiff asked Officer Omahoney why he was being stopped, and Officer Omahoney responded that Plaintiff "had failed to indicate a turn before changing lanes and turning." Id. Plaintiff countered that he had used his "blinker before switching lanes and turning." Id.

Officer Omahoney then turned to Officer Garcia and asked, "Do you smell that?" Id. Officer Garcia responded that he did not smell anything. Officer Omahoney told Plaintiff, "If you have some weed[, ] it's OK[, ] you can show me[.] I'll just give you a summons[. T]hat's better than having me trash your whole car." Id. Plaintiff responded that he "did not have any weed[.]" Id. Officer Garcia then said, "Just give us what you have so we don't have to search your whole car." Id. at 8-9. Plaintiff did not consent to a search of his car. Id. Officer Omahoney reached through the window and took the car keys. He then opened the door and "forced Plaintiff... to get out of his vehicle." Id. Plaintiff was handcuffed and made to stand at the rear of the car while the officers searched it. Id. The officers then "falsely arrested [him]." Id. Officer Omahoney "gave false statements and charges against Plaintiff... in the Supreme court of the State of New York, New York [County]... case No. 2013-NY-048728 in criminal court." Id. at 10.

Plaintiff filed this action on November 13, 2014, seeking injunctive relief and damages. On December 10, 2013, Plaintiff pled guilty in the New York Supreme Court, Criminal Term, to the felony charge against him for criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree, N.Y. Penal Law § 220.09.06. See Decl. of Joseph Martullo (ECF No. 14) at Ex. A (Certificate of Disposition of Indictment). On February 18, 2015, Plaintiff was sentenced in that action to probation for five years. See People v. Wilson, No. 2013-NY-048728.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Freidus v. Barclays Bank PLC, 734 F.3d 132, 137 (2d Cir. 2013). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation marks omitted). Mere "labels and conclusions" or "formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action will not do"; rather, the complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pro se litigants are not exempt from these pleading standards, but courts are "obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally." Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009). Pro se complaints are read with a "special solitude" to raise the "strongest [claims] that they suggest." Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474-75 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

In applying these principles, the Court may consider facts alleged in the complaint and documents attached to it or incorporated by reference. Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152-53 (2d Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Even where a document is not incorporated by reference, the court may nevertheless consider it where the complaint relies heavily upon its terms and effect, ' which renders the document integral' to the complaint." Id. (internal citation omitted).

DISCUSSION

The Court liberally construes Plaintiff's complaint as asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for malicious prosecution, false arrest, and violations of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, as well as assorted state law claims. Defendant City of New York moves to dismiss the federal claims on three grounds.[2] First, Defendant contends that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the favorable termination rule set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Second, Defendant asserts that collateral estoppel bars Plaintiff from litigating issues already determined in his state criminal conviction. Finally, Defendant moves to dismiss under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978), arguing that Plaintiff fails to plead any facts showing that the City of New York caused any violation of Plaintiff's rights.

A. Malicious Prosecution

A malicious prosecution claim under § 1983 borrows the elements of a malicious prosecution claim under state law. Hygh v. Jacobs, 961 F.2d 359, 366 (2d Cir. 1992). New York law requires a plaintiff asserting a malicious prosecution claim to prove "(1) the initiation or continuation of a criminal proceeding against plaintiff; (2) termination of the proceeding in plaintiff's favor; (3) lack of probable cause for commencing the proceeding; and (4) actual malice as a motivation for defendant's actions." Jocks v. Tavernier, 316 F.3d 128, 136 (2d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, "[m]alicious prosecution suits require, as an element of the offense, the termination of the proceeding in favor of the accused.'" Poventud v. City of New York, 750 F.3d 121, 130 (2d Cir. 2014) (citation omitted); see also Heck, 512 U.S. at 484 ("One element that must be alleged and proved in a malicious prosecution action is termination of the prior criminal proceeding in favor of the accused.").

In deciding a motion to dismiss, a district court may consider "matters of which judicial notice may be taken." Chambers, 282 F.3d at 153; Wims v. N.Y.C. Police Dep't, No. 10-CV-6128, 2011 WL 2946369, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 20, 2011) (taking judicial notice of an individual's guilty plea). Here, it is undisputed that after Plaintiff filed this action, he pled guilty to the felony charge against him for criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree, N.Y. Penal Law § 220.09.06. See Decl. of Joseph Martullo (ECF No. 14) at Ex. A. The Court takes judicial notice of Plaintiff's conviction by guilty plea. Because he cannot ...


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