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Bey v. Iaquinto

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 26, 2015



JAMES C. FRANCIS, IV, Magistrate Judge.

The plaintiff, Dr. Shamsuddin A. Abdul-Hakim Bey, brings this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1970), against the defendants, Chief Anthony Iaquinto, Senior Inspector Andrew Przedpelski, Special Deputy U.S. Marshal Lou Pena, and Jonathan Reid, based on an encounter in the lobby of his apartment building on March 14, 2012. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants unlawfully stopped and searched him at gunpoint in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The defendants now move for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on the grounds that they had reasonable suspicion to search the plaintiff, or in the alternative, that they are entitled to qualified immunity. For the reasons that follow, the defendants' motion is denied.


A. Incident on March 14, 2012[1]

On March 14, 2012, the defendants were participating in an operation conducted by the U.S. Marshals Service's New York Regional Task Force (the "Task Force") to apprehend an individual located at 1600 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. (Defendants' Statement of Material Undisputed Facts ("Def. 56.1"), ¶ 1). Chief Iaquinto and Senior Inspector Przedpelski are employees of the U.S. Marshals Service; and Mr. Reid, an employee of the New York County District Attorney's Office, was serving as a member of the Task Force, as was Special Deputy Pena, an employee of the New York City Police Department. (Def. 56.1, ¶¶ 2-6). After the operation had concluded, Chief Iaquinto and Senior Inspector Przedpelski entered an elevator on an upper floor of the building to return to the lobby. (Def. 56.1, ¶ 7). They contend that after they had descended one or two floors, the plaintiff got onto the elevator with them, giving them the opportunity to observe him at close range. (Def. 56.1, ¶ 9). Chief Iaquinto and Senior Inspector Przedpelski assert that they noticed Dr. Bey turn his body away from them, put his hands in the pockets of his sweatpants and move them around, and repeatedly adjust his pants, which appeared to be sliding down. (Def. 56.1, ¶¶ 10-15). Chief Iaquinto also asserts that he observed "a bulge" and "something brown" in the plaintiff's pocket. (Def. 56.1, ¶ 17). Based on these observations, these defendants state that they formed the impression that Dr. Bey was attempting to conceal something (Def. 56.1, ¶¶ 13-14), and suspected that he might have a gun in his pocket (Def. 56.1, ¶ 17).

Dr. Bey acknowledges that there were two men in the elevator he took to the lobby that day. (Excerpts of Deposition of Dr. Shamsuddin A. Abdul-Hakim Bey dated Oct. 30, 2014 ("Bey Dep. 1"), attached as Exh. A to Declaration of Andrew E. Krause dated Dec. 30, 2014 ("Krause Decl."), at 92). However, he denies that he turned his body away from the other occupants of the elevator (Bey Dep. 1 at 97) or that he adjusted his pants (Excerpts of Deposition of Dr. Shamsuddin A. Abdul-Hakim Bey dated Oct. 30, 2014 ("Bey Dep. 2"), attached as Exh. A to Supplemental Declaration of Andrew E. Krause dated March 27, 2015 ("Krause Supp. Decl."), at 98-99).

Upon reaching the ground floor, Chief Iaquinto and Senior Inspector Przedpelski assert that they exited the elevator, as did the plaintiff, and went outside to meet Special Deputy Pena and Mr. Reid. (Def. 56.1, ¶¶ 19-20). The defendants state that they continued to observe Dr. Bey through the glass doors of the lobby, that he was facing outside and looking at the defendants, and that he continued to adjust something in his pants. (Def. 56.1, ¶¶ 21, 23-24). During this interaction, the defendants contend that Chief Iaquinto communicated to the others his belief that the plaintiff had a gun in his pants. (Def. 56.1, ¶ 22). They state that they then re-entered the building, approached Dr. Bey in a "nonaggressive manner, " informed him that they were police officers, and instructed him to get on the ground. (Def. 56.1, ¶¶ 25-26). The plaintiff complied, following which the defendants conducted a search of his pockets, which yielded only a large number of papers and business cards and a wallet. (Def. 56.1, ¶¶ 26-28).

Dr. Bey concedes that he had hundreds of business cards and a wallet in his pockets, and that he complied with the officers' directive to get on the ground. (Bey Dep. 1 at 88-89; Bey Aff. at 7, 12). However, he disputes the other facts asserted by the defendants. The plaintiff contends that when he reached the lobby, he saw three U.S. Marhsals with their guns drawn, who rushed towards him within two to three seconds of his exiting the elevator. (Bey Dep. 1 at 100-01). He describes one of them as Special Deputy Pena, whose name he came to know later, one as being Caucasian, and the third as having a dark complexion. (Bey Dep. 1 at 101-02). The plaintiff clearly states that the stop and subsequent search occurred "immediately, " a mere "instant" after he reached the lobby. (Bey Aff. at 5, 10, 12, 14; Pl. Opp. Memo. at 4, 5, 10, 13, 14).[2] Dr. Bey also maintains that the defendants had their guns pointed at him for the duration of the search and seizure. (Bey Dep. 1 at 101; Bey Aff. at 7, 12, 16). In contrast, Jose Suarez, a former security officer for 1600 Sedgwick Avenue who was also in the lobby during the encounter, testified that none of the officers had their guns drawn during their interaction with the plaintiff. (Memorandum of Law of Defendants Anthony Iaquinto, Andrew Przedpelski, Lou Pena, and Jonathan Reid in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def. Memo.") at 5; Excerpts of Deposition of Jose O. Suarez dated Nov. 13, 2014 ("Suarez Dep. 1"), attached as Exh. B to Krause Decl., at 36).

Mr. Suarez testified that, prior to the investigatory stop at issue, he observed Dr. Bey standing in the lobby, facing the elevators with his back to the door leading outside. (Suarez Dep. 1 at 33-34; Incident Report dated March 14, 2012 ("Incident Report"), attached as Exh. C to Krause Decl., at 1). He had no knowledge as to how the plaintiff arrived in the lobby, or whether there were other people riding in the elevator with Dr. Bey prior to the incident. (Excerpts of Deposition of Jose O. Suarez dated Nov. 13, 2014 ("Suarez Dep. 2"), attached as Exh. B to Krause Supp. Decl., at 75; Suarez Dep. 1 at 33). The incident report written by Mr. Suarez on the day of the encounter recounted that Dr. Bey "was awaiting the elevator in lobby area when U.S. Marshals scram [sic] out for [the plaintiff] to drop to the ground." (Incident Report at 1). However, Mr. Suarez testified that when he first noticed Dr. Bey, "he was already with" the law enforcement officers; additionally, he also stated that he in fact observed four officers walking up to Dr. Bey. (Suarez Dep. 1 at 34-35). Approximately fifteen minutes before the incident occurred, Mr. Suarez saw all four of the involved officers "waiting around" in the lobby of the building. (Suarez Dep. 1 at 40). Although Mr. Suarez recalled being only a "few feet" from the parties during their encounter and being able to see clearly (Suarez Dep. 1 at 39), he also explained that his location prevented him from hearing the conversation between the parties (Suarez Dep. 1 at 41-42).

Following the search, the defendants told the plaintiff that they had perceived the wallet in his pocket to be a gun. (Def 56.1, ¶ 30; Bey Aff. at 7). Dr. Bey asked them for their names and badge numbers; only Special Deputy Pena responded by providing his last name. (Def. 56.1, ¶31; Bey Aff at 8-9; Incident Report at 2).

B. Procedural History

Dr. Bey commenced the instant action on July 30, 2012, naming as defendants Stacia Hylton, Director of the U.S. Marshals Service, former U.S. Marshal Joseph R. Guccione, former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the City of New York, and three John Doe U.S. Marshals. In September 2012, the Honorable Paul A. Engelmayer, U.S.D.J., dismissed Commissioner Kelly, Mayor Bloomberg, and the City of New York as defendants due to the plaintiff's failure to allege that they had direct or indirect involvement in the underlying incident. (Order dated Sept. 4, 2012 at 3). The plaintiff filed an amended complaint, and with leave filed a second amended complaint on February 27, 2013, adding Grenadier Realty Corporation as a defendant. (Second Amended Complaint). Judge Engelmayer then granted the defendants' motion to dismiss as to Grenadier Realty, Marshal Guccione, and Director Hylton, and ordered the government to ascertain the identities of the three remaining John Doe defendants and communicate this information to the plaintiff. (Opinion & Order dated Dec. 16, 2013 at 15). On February 6, 2014, Judge Engelmayer ordered that the operative complaint be amended to replace the John Does with the four individuals identified by the government, namely Chief Iaquinto, Senior Inspector Przedpelski, Special Deputy Pena, and Mr. Reid. (Order dated Feb. 6, 2014 at 2). Subsequently, both parties consented to my jurisdiction for all purposes pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Consent to Jurisdiction dated July 31, 2014).


A. Summary ...

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