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Wheeler v. Town of Wallkill

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 13, 2017


          Damon Wheeler Valhalla, NY Pro Se Plaintiff

          James A. Randazzo, Esq. Gaines, Novick, Ponzini, Cossu & Venditti, LLP White Plains, NY Counsel for Defendant Town of Wallkill.

          Mary Kim, Esq. New York State Office of the Attorney General New York, NY Counsel for Defendant Joseph C. Kolek.

          OPINION & ORDER


         Plaintiff Damon Wheeler (“Plaintiff”), currently an inmate at Westchester County Jail, brings this pro se Action against the Town of Wallkill (the “Town”) and Investigator Joseph C. Kolek (“Kolek, ” and together with the Town, “Defendants”), alleging violations of his constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (See Am. Compl. (Dkt. No. 14).)[1] Before the Court is the Town's Motion To Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (the “Motion”). (See Dkt. No. 22.) For the reasons to follow, the Motion is granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and are assumed true for the purpose of resolving the instant Motion.

         On September 6, 2014, at approximately 4:15 p.m., Plaintiff “was arrested at [his] home without an arrest warrant and charged with a felony . . . by Inv[estigator] Joseph Kolek of the New York State Police.” (Am. Compl. 4.) At the time of the arrest, Plaintiff was “home alone with [his] infant son.” (Id.) Plaintiff avers that Kolek and three state troopers “rang the doorbell” and when Plaintiff identified himself, “they said they had a warrant for [his] arrest.” (Id.)[2] When Plaintiff inquired what the warrant was for, Kolek stated that he would “tell [Plaintiff] when [they] g[o]t to the station.” (Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).) Plaintiff asked to see the warrant and was again told he could do so at the station. (See id.) Plaintiff explained that he “was home alone with [his] infant son and . . . [Kolek] insisted that [Plaintiff] allow [the troopers] to wait inside [his] house until someone c[ame] to care for [his] son.” (Id.) Kolek and the three troopers “entered . . . without [his] permission and stood guard in [Plaintiff's] livingroom as [he] sat on the couch with [his] infant son, terrified and shaking like a leaf.” (Id.) Plaintiff contends that his “son senses [Plaintiff's] anxiety which makes [his son] uncomfortable.” (Id.) Plaintiff then called his wife, who “rushe[d] home.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that during the time the troopers were in his home, he was “restricted to the couch” and “afraid to move from [it].” (Id.) After approximately 30 minutes, Plaintiff's wife arrived. (See id.) When Plaintiff “explain[ed] the situation to her, ” she also asked to see the arrest warrant. (Id. at 4-5.) Kolek replied that the warrant was “at the station.” (Id. at 5 (internal quotation marks omitted).) Plaintiff then requested permission from Kolek to change his clothes so that he could be “properly dressed for court, ” and Kolek “followed [Plaintiff] into the bedroom and watched [him] the entire time.” (Id.) Plaintiff was then handcuffed and taken into custody “right in front of [his] family, without an arrest warrant.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff was taken to “the State Trooper Barracks on Crystal Run R[oad], ” and “taken to a room and questioned by Investigator Kolek about a crime that he said took place in Middletown, N[ew] Y[ork].” (Id.) When Plaintiff “requested to see a lawyer, ” “[t]he conversation was over.” (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that Kolek “never produced the warrant for [Plaintiff's] arrest, ” but Plaintiff was told he was being charged with [criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree], a felony.” (Id.) Plaintiff was subsequently “taken to the Town of Wallkill [c]ourt and seen by a Judge who ordered that [he] be remanded pending a [g]rand [j]ury [h]earing.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff was held in Orange County Jail for six days before he was “produced at the Town of Wallkill [c]ourt for the [g]rand [j]ury [h]earing.” (Id.) Plaintiff appeared before Judge Patrick Owen “without legal representation.” (Id.) At the hearing, the Assistant District Attorney (the “ADA”) “requested a 2nd call so she could go back to the [District Attorney's] office and ask him to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor so she could request . . . bail.” (Id.) Plaintiff objected “because [he] was prepared to testify” before the grand jury, but Judge Owen granted the ADA's request. (Id.) The ADA reduced the charges against Plaintiff to criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor, and “requested bail be set at $50, 000.” (Id.) Plaintiff objected unsuccessfully and “was taken back to Orange County Jail in l[ieu] of $50, 000 . . . .” (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that “time passed” and “to [his] surprise, the [s]upervisor at the Legal Aid Society submitted a motion for . . . bail reduction on [Plaintiff's] behalf.” (Id.) Plaintiff's bail was reduced to $5, 000 and his family was able to post the amount. (See id.) “When [Plaintiff] came to court a few months later, [he] was told that [his] case was dismissed.” (Id.)

         B. Procedural History

         On September 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed the initial Complaint in this Action naming the Town of Wallkill Police Department and a John Doe Defendant. (See Dkt. No. 2.)[3] In an Order issued October 17, 2016, the Court directed the Clerk of Court to substitute the Town of Wallkill for the Town of Wallkill Police Department. (See Am. Order & Valentin Order (Dkt. No. 7).)[4]The same Order directed the Town Attorney for the Town of Wallkill to ascertain the identity of the John Doe Defendant and the address where Defendant could be served. (See Id. at 3.)

         On October 21, 2016, Plaintiff submitted an application for the Court to appoint pro bono counsel, (see Dkt. No. 8), which the Court denied without ...

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