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Maddox v. City of Syracuse

United States District Court, N.D. New York

February 21, 2017

FRED MADDOX, Plaintiff,

          OFFICE OF STEWART L. WEISMAN STEWART L. WEISMAN, ESQ. Attorneys for Plaintiff



          Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge


         Plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that several individuals and municipal entities violated his constitutional rights in connection with an arrest that occurred on or about June 3, 2011. See Dkt. No. 1. On January 7, 2015, the City of Syracuse, Frank L. Fowler and the Syracuse Police Department ("City Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. See Dkt. No. 9. On January 14, 2015, Onondaga County, the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department and Kevin Walsh ("County Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. See Dkt. No. 10. Plaintiff opposed Defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint, filed a cross-motion to amend his complaint, and submitted a proposed amended complaint in support of his motion. See Dkt. No. 11. In a July 16, 2015 Memorandum-Decision and Order, the Court granted in part and denied in part the motions to dismiss and the cross motion to amend. See Dkt. No. 15 at 20. On July 25, 2015, Plaintiff filed his amended complaint alleging that the City of Syracuse maliciously prosecuted him and that it failed to properly train and/or supervise its employees, has a policy or custom to effectuate arrests without probable cause, and acted with deliberate indifference towards Plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Dkt. No. 16.

         Currently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment.


         On May 9, 2011, Syracuse Police Officer Michael Shannon ("Officer Shannon") responded to 320 N. Midler Avenue in Syracuse, New York in regards to a menacing investigation. See Dkt. No. 33-16 at ¶ 1. According to Defendant, Officer Shannon spoke with the alleged victim, Jerry Muldrow ("Muldrow"), who stated that Plaintiff had threatened him with a knife. See Id. at ¶ 2. According to Muldrow's signed statement, Plaintiff approached him at a Wilson Farms store and withdrew a small black pocket knife from his front pocket. See Id. at ¶ 3.[1] In his statement, Plaintiff further claimed that Plaintiff waved the knife in Muldrow's direction and stated "'I'm going to get you, I'm going to get you.'" Id.; see also Dkt. No. 33-11 at 1; Dkt. No. 33-10 at 5. Muldrow advised Officer Shannon that he had a similar experience with Plaintiff in the past wherein Plaintiff threatened to hurt him. See Id. at ¶ 5; Dkt. No. 33-10 at 5. Muldrow informed Officer Shannon that he felt threatened for his safety and signed a statement desiring prosecution against Plaintiff. See Id. at ¶¶ 6-7; Dkt. No. 33-10 at 5; Dkt. No. 33-11 at 1.

         Based on Muldrow's statement, Officer Shannon applied for an arrest warrant. See Dkt. No. 33-16 at ¶ 11. On May 20, 2011, Syracuse City Court Judge Vanessa Bogan signed an arrest warrant charging Plaintiff with Menacing in the Second Degree. See Id. at ¶ 12. On June 3, 2011, Syracuse Police Officer Charles Broddus arrested Plaintiff pursuant to the arrest warrant. See Id. at ¶ 13; Dkt. No. 33-10; Dkt. No. 33-12. On August 30, 2011, Muldrow failed to appear at Plaintiff's criminal trial despite being served with a subpoena. See Dkt. No. 34-2 at ¶ 18. That same day, Syracuse City Court Judge James H. Cecile dismissed the charges against Plaintiff pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law § 170.30(1)(f) based on Muldrow's failure to appear in court. See Dkt. No. 33-16 at ¶ 14.[2] According to Plaintiff, the prosecutor "did not fight the motion to dismiss the case, did not seek an adjournment or postponement of the trial, did not reinstitute the charges, and did not take any further action against [Plaintiff] who was accused of wielding a knife in public and threatening to assault another person." Dkt. No. 34-2 at ¶ 19 (citing Dkt. No. 33-13).

         During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he does not know either Officer Shannon or Officer Broddus and does not recall ever having dealt with them in the past. See Dkt. No. 33-16 at ¶ 15; Dkt. No. 34-2 at ¶ 15. In an affidavit dated February 4, 2016, Muldrow claims that the statement he Dated: May 9, 2011 with Officer Shannon was coerced and that officers told him to lie because "they wanted Fred Maddox off the street." Dkt. No. 33-14 at 1-2. Further, in this February 4, 2016 affidavit, Muldrow claims that the unnamed police officers told him that if he provided the false statement against Plaintiff, they would drop the assault charge pending against him. See id.

         Thereafter, in a declaration dated April 21, 2016, Muldrow claims that the statement he provided to Officer Shannon was truthful and that neither Officer Shannon nor any other Syracuse Police Officer coerced him into signing the statement. See Dkt. No. 33-15 at 1. As to the February 4, 2016 handwritten affidavit, Muldrow admits that he signed it but did not read it before signing it. See Id. at 1-2. According to Muldrow, he "signed the affidavit based on my belief that Mr. Maddox needed my signature on it in order to pursue future employment opportunities." Id. at 2. Further, Muldrow claims that "the contents of the [February 4] affidavit are not true. No member of the Syracuse Police Department forced me to write or sign the statement; no member of the Syracuse Police Department told me to lie about the May 9, 2011 incident involving Fred Maddox; and no member of the Syracuse Police Department promised to drop any charges against me if I signed the statement." Id.


          A. Standard of review

         A court may grant a motion for summary judgment only if it determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact to be tried and that the facts as to which there is no such issue warrant judgment for the movant as a matter of law. See Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 36 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). When analyzing a summary judgment motion, the court "'cannot try issues of fact; it can only determine whether there are issues to be tried.'" Id. at 36-37 (quotation and other citation omitted). Moreover, it is well-settled that a party opposing a motion for summary ...

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