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Jean-Laurent v. Cornelius

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 8, 2017

LATECHAR CORNELIUS, et al., Defendants.



         Pro se plaintiff Phillip Jean-Laurent filed a complaint dated March 15, 2015, alleging various causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arising out of a March 29, 2013 arrest and a subsequent conviction for harassment. Jean-Laurent alleges that Latechar Cornelius, Shanice Cornelius, and John Kinard (“Cornelius Defendants”); Police Officer Jerry Zender, Police Officer Luis Alicea, Sergeant Christian Jara, Detective Lawrence Chainese, Assistant District Attorney Brendan McArdle, Police Officer John Doe #1, and Detective Jane Doe #1 (“City Defendants”); and Senior Parole Officer Tesera Tucker, Parole Officer Sharon Henry, and Parole Officer Dennis Void (“State Defendants”) (collectively, “defendants”) conspired to deprive Jean-Laurent of his constitutional rights by falsely arresting and imprisoning him and maliciously prosecuting him. The plaintiff also alleges that the defendants committed a variety of state law torts against him.

         On March 11, 2016, the City and State Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint. ECF Nos. 39, 42. The plaintiff eventually filed an opposition to the motions on September 19, 2016, long after the extended deadline set by the Court.

         Although the City Defendants argue that the motion to dismiss should be granted based on the untimeliness of the response, in light of the plaintiff's pro se status and the lack of any articulable prejudice caused by the delay, the Court will consider the plaintiff's opposition and the City and State Defendants' replies.


         In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the plaintiff's favor. McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007). The Court's function on a motion to dismiss is “not to weigh the evidence that might be presented at a trial but merely to determine whether the complaint itself is legally sufficient.” Goldman v. Belden, 754 F.2d 1059, 1067 (2d Cir. 1985). The Court should not dismiss the complaint if the plaintiff has stated “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While the Court should construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Id.; see also Villar v. Ramos, No. 13-cv-8422 (JGK), 2015 WL 3473413, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. June 2, 2015).

         When faced with a pro se complaint, the Court must “construe [the] complaint liberally and interpret it to raise the strongest arguments that it suggests.” Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Even in a pro se case, however, . . . threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, although the Court is “obligated to draw the most favorable inferences” that the complaint supports, it “cannot invent factual allegations that [the plaintiff] has not pled.” Id.; see also Villar, 2015 WL 3473413, at *1.[1]


         For the purposes of the motions to dismiss, the Court accepts as true the factual allegations in the Complaint.

         In December 2012, the plaintiff began to date Latechar Cornelius. Compl. ¶ 23. On April 1, 2013, the police responded to a dispute between Jean-Laurent and Cornelius over living arrangements and money. Id. ¶¶ 26-28. The responding police officers, Police Officer (“P.O.”) Zender and P.O. Alicea, took a statement from Cornelius in which she stated that Jean-Laurent had bitten her on the face. Id. ¶¶ 29-31. The officers then separately interviewed John Kinard, Cornelius' son, who claimed to have witnessed the plaintiff bite Cornelius. Id. ¶¶ 32-35. Shortly thereafter, Sergeant Jara and another officer, P.O. John Doe #1, arrived on the scene and the plaintiff was arrested for assaulting Cornelius (“Arrest 1” or “the first arrest”). Id. ¶¶ 34-35. The plaintiff was detained pending his arraignment. Id. ¶ 36. Immediately following his arraignment, Jean-Laurent was again arrested on a separate criminal contempt charge by Detectives Chainese and Jane Doe #1 (“Arrest 2” or “the second arrest”). Id. ¶ 36. Once released from custody, Jean-Laurent unsuccessfully attempted to contact his parole officer, Officer Void, to report his arrest and incarceration. Id. ¶ 38.

         On April 8, 2013, Jean-Laurent appeared for a scheduled parole reporting date and was promptly arrested for parole violations stemming from the April 1 incident and for failure to report his arrests to his parole officer (“Arrest 3” or “the third arrest”). Id. ¶ 42. Jean-Laurent alleges that, during this time period, Assistant District Attorney (“A.D.A”) McArdle shared information about the plaintiff's court dates from the April 1 incident with Senior Parole Officer Tucker and Parole Officer Henry. Id. ¶ 40.

         Jean-Laurent was tried in Bronx County Criminal Court beginning on August 13, 2013.[2] The Complaint alleges that A.D.A McArdle, who tried the case, allowed Latechar Cornelius, Shanice Cornelius, and John Kinard to give false testimony. Id. ¶ 44. Jean-Laurent was found not guilty of all of the charges except that he was found guilty of Harassment in the Second Degree, a violation, and received a fifteen day sentence. Id. ¶ 45. Following the conviction, Jean-Laurent remained imprisoned until an October 30, 2013 hearing on his parole violations.[3] Id. ¶ 46. The parole authority found two violations and revoked Jean-Laurent's parole. Fu Decl. in Supp. of Mot., Ex. A. However, in light of his history of compliance, parole was then immediately restored. Id.

         The Complaint includes claims for false arrest, (Counts One and Two); assault (Counts Three and Four); malicious prosecution (Counts Five and Six); false imprisonment (Counts Seven and Eight); fabrication of evidence (Counts Nine and Ten); conspiracy to violate Jean-Laurent's constitutional rights (Counts Eleven and Twelve); abuse of process (Counts Thirteen and Fourteen); and conspiracy to falsely arrest and imprison, and to maliciously prosecute Jean-Laurent (Counts Twenty-One and Twenty-Two), all in violation of the federal and New York state constitutions. See Compl. ¶¶ 48-61, 67-68. The federal claims allege violation of the plaintiff's rights under the United States Constitution which are actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the violations are committed under color of state law. The Complaint also includes state law claims for conversion (Counts Fifteen and Sixteen); injurious falsehood (Counts Seventeen and Eighteen); and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Counts Nineteen and Twenty). See id. ¶¶ 62-66. Although summonses were issued for the Cornelius Defendants, the record does not reflect that service was effected or that the Cornelius Defendants have appeared.


         The City and State Defendants now move to dismiss all claims against them. The City Defendants argue, among other reasons, that the Complaint must be dismissed because several of the federal claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994); because there was probable cause for the plaintiff's arrest and prosecution; and because the claims are otherwise inadequately pleaded. The State Defendants argue that the claims against them must be dismissed because there was probable cause for the plaintiff's arrest and parole revocation; because the State Defendants are entitled to immunity; and because the Complaint otherwise fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.


         Counts One and Two allege that the defendants violated Jean-Laurent's constitutional rights by falsely arresting him.[4] An allegation of false arrest under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 “is substantially the same as a claim for false arrest under New York law.” Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d Cir. 1996); see also Bullard v. City of New York, 240 F.Supp.2d 292, 297 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). “Under New York state law, to prevail on a claim of false arrest a plaintiff must show that (1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the plaintiff was conscious of the confinement, (3) the plaintiff did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged.” Jocks v. Tavernier, 316 F.3d 128, 134-35 (2d Cir. 2003) (quotation marks omitted). Because an arrest made with probable cause is privileged, ...

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