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Burgess v. Dejoseph

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 21, 2017

FRED BURGESS, II, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER DEJOSEPH, individually and in his official capacity, ROBERT TEATER, individually and in his official capacity, FRED LAMBERTON, individually and in his official capacity, Syracuse Police Chief FRANK L. FOWLER, individually and in his official capacity, and the CITY OF SYRACUSE, Defendants.

          LAW OFFICE OF ZACHARY C. OREN ZACHARY C. OREN, ESQ., Attorneys for Plaintiff

          CITY OF SYRACUSE CORPORATION TODD M. LONG, ESQ. COUNSEL, Attorneys for Defendants

          OF COUNSEL: ZACHARY C. OREN, ESQ., TODD M. LONG, ESQ.

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          MAE A. D'AGOATING U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that several individuals and the City of Syracuse violated his constitutional rights in connection with his January 1, 2013 arrest and subsequent prosecution. See Dkt. No. 1. Defendants filed an answer to the complaint on January 23, 2015. See Dkt. No. 9.

         Currently before the Court are Defendants' motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's cross-motion for leave to file an amended complaint. See Dkt. No. 28-36; Dkt. No. 38 at 19 n.18. On October 5, 2016, Plaintiff filed a memorandum of law in opposition to Defendants' motion and cross-moved for leave to file an amended complaint. See Dkt. No. 38. On November 21, 2016, Defendants filed a reply memorandum of law in further support of their motion. See Dkt. No. 51-4.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On December 31, 2012, at 11:23 p.m., multiple officers of the Syracuse Police Department ("SPD") responded to the fatal shooting of David A. Jones, II at 744 West Onondaga Street in Syracuse, New York. See Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶¶ 1-2. When SPD officers arrived at the scene, they observed many dozens of people standing around the area. See Id. at ¶ 3. SPD officers at the scene interviewed several potential witnesses who gave descriptions of the suspect. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 24, 38. One such officer, Officer John Nye, identified a male at the scene named Jaquan Pridgen. See Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 5. Pridgen informed Officer Nye that he was an eyewitness to the murder, see Id. at ¶ 6, and that the perpetrator was "a black male approximately 6'2" weighing 200lbs with facial hair" who "was wearing an orange champion hooded sweatshirt." Dkt. No. 28-2 at 2; see also Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 34. Similarly, Pridgen informed Officer Joseph Taylor that he observed a "20's black male approx. 6'02" tall, 200 lbs, wearing a [sic] orange 'Champion' hooded sweatshirt." Dkt. No. 41-1 at 7. SPD Detective Tara Galanaugh arrived at the scene at 11:45 p.m. and located Pridgen as well as another eyewitness: Pridgen's sister, Reonnia Grady. See Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 7. Pridgen and Grady were then transported to SPD's Criminal Investigations Division where Detective Brian Williams interviewed Pridgen and Detective Matthew Arduini interviewed Grady. See Id. at ¶ 8.

         At the station, Pridgen described the perpetrator to Detective Williams as "approximately 25-30 years old, 5'07" - 6'00" tall, wearing a dark orange/mustard orange sweatshirt with a large 'C' on the front, and possibly wearing a half facemask or having some type of facial hair." Id. at ¶ 33. According to a narrative supplement prepared by Detective Williams, Pridgen "said that he does not believe that he would be able to identify the black male suspect if he saw pictures" but "was willing to try." Dkt. No. 28-2 at 7-8. During her interview with Detective Arduini, Grady described the suspect as "a dark skinned black male wearing a mask over the lower portion of his face" and a "'goldish/yellow' hooded sweatshirt with a big 'C' on the front side of the shirt" who was approximately 5'07" and "chunky" but not "fat." Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 41. According to a narrative supplement prepared by Detective Arduini, Grady "was unsure if she would be able to identify the suspect, but added that she was will trying to try and would further cooperate with the investigation." Dkt. No. 28-2 at 19. After their interviews, Pridgen and Grady were transported home by the police. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 34.

         At approximately 9 a.m. on January 1, 2013, Pridgen and Grady were transported by SPD officers back to the station. See Id. at ¶ 35. There, Detective Christopher DeJoseph interviewed and secured a statement from Pridgen, and Detective Fred Lamberton interviewed and secured a statement from Grady. See Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 42. In his sworn statement, Pridgen claimed that he "clearly saw [the suspect's] face" and described the suspect as "dark skinned with a goatee or beard." Dkt. No. 28-7 at 1. Pridgen also noted that "[a]fter the whole thing happened some people were saying the guy had a mask on, but I don't remember that." Id. Defendant DeJoseph then showed Pridgen a photo array of six photographs. See Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 47. Pridgen positively identified Plaintiff as the individual who shot Jones. See Id. at ¶ 48. In his sworn statement, Pridgen stated that he "recognized" Plaintiff "right away" as the suspect after seeing the photos. Dkt. No. 28-7 at 2. In her sworn statement, Grady attested that she "did see [the suspect's] face" and described the shooter as "a black male, in his early thirties, 5'08" tall with a medium build . . . wearing a [sic] orange in color hooded zip up sweatshirt" which "had a large 'C' across the chest area." Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 53. According to Defendant Lamberton's narrative supplement, Grady "was certain that if given the opportunity she would be able to identify the suspect." Dkt. No. 28-4 at 4. Defendant Lamberton then showed Grady a photo array of six photographs. See Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 55. According to her sworn statement, Grady "immediately identified" Plaintiff as the person who shot Jones after seeing the photos. Dkt. No. 28-6 at 2.

         At 1:14 p.m. that same day, Officer Robert Teater and Sergeant John Savage brought Plaintiff in for questioning, see Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶¶ 60, 68, where he was interviewed by Defendants DeJoseph and Lamberton as well as Detectives Rory Gilhooley and Daniel Walsh, see Id. at ¶ 71. Plaintiff was then arrested and charged with Murder in the First Degree, Attempted Robbery in the First Degree, and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree. See Id. at ¶¶ 81-82. The arrest report identifies Defendant DeJoseph as the arresting officer and Defendant Lamberton as the assisting officer. See Dkt. No. 28-3 at 1. Also according to the arrest report, Plaintiff was 5'7", weighed 180 pounds, and was 34 years old as of January 1, 2013. See Id. Detective VanSlyke signed the felony complaint related to the murder and weapon possession charges, and Detective Von Knoblauch signed the felony complaint related to the robbery charge. See Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 84. The felony complaints were received on January 2, 2013, see id., and Plaintiff was arraigned in Syracuse City Court on that same day, at which time he plead not guilty to all charges, see Dkt. No. 28-22 at 16.

         On January 4, 2013, grand jury proceedings were held at the direction of Chief ADA Matthew J. Doran. See Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 93. The grand jury indicted Plaintiff on all counts. See Id. at ¶¶ 99-100. On April 25, 2013, the Honorable Thomas J. Miller presided over a Wade/Huntley hearing concerning Plaintiff's challenge to the admissibility of the eyewitness identifications of Pridgen and Grady. See Id. at ¶ 108. Judge Miller found "that the People have met their burden of showing the reasonableness of the police conduct and absence of suggestiveness of the identification procedures." Dkt. No. 28-22 at 12-13. By decision dated July 15, 2013, Judge Miller denied a request by Plaintiff to dismiss or reduce the indictment, finding that "the evidence presented to the Grand Jury was legally sufficient to support the offenses contained in the indictment, the proceedings were not defective and proper legal instructions were given to the Grand Jury." Id. at 6. On October 31, 2013, Plaintiff was acquitted by a jury on all counts related to the murder of Mr. Jones. See Dkt. No. 28-35 at ¶ 116.

         III. DISCUSSION

         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). 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 omitted). Moreover, it is well-settled that a party opposing a motion for summary judgment may ...


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