United States District Court, S.D. New York
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
G. Koeltl United States District Judge.
plaintiff, Lazarus Bennett, brought this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 against Police Officer
Henry Vidal (“Officer Vidal”) alleging false
arrest, malicious prosecution, and denial of the right to a
fair trial. Officer Vidal moves for summary judgment
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 dismissing all
of the claims against him.
following facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated. On
September 23, 2014, around 1:00 p.m., Officer Vidal was at a
fixed post at 113th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan
when he observed four or five men chasing another individual.
(56.1 Stmts. ¶ 1.) One member of the group was waving a
kitchen knife at the victim, while the others were yelling,
“Get him! Get him!” (56.1 Stmts. ¶¶ 2,
Vidal began to chase the group, and they ran through a
housing project toward 3rd Avenue. (56.1 Stmts. ¶¶
5-6.) One of the suspects then broke off and ran to the right
while the rest continued straight toward 3rd Avenue. (56.1
Stmts. ¶ 7.) Officer Vidal testified that he observed
the plaintiff to be the individual who ran to the right and
that he observed him run into a building near the corner of
113th Street and 3rd Avenue, which was later identified as
2065 3rd Avenue. (56.1 Stmts. ¶¶ 8-9; Bennett Decl.
¶ 2.) The plaintiff maintains that he was never a member
of the group and could not have entered the building at 2065
3rd Avenue because he did not have key access to that
particular building. (Pl.'s 56. 1 Stmt. ¶¶
1-10; Bennett Decl. ¶¶ 7-8.) Officer Vidal followed
the rest of the group toward 3rd Avenue, where he eventually
apprehended “L.J., ” who was later identified as
the knife wielder. (56.1 Stmts. ¶¶ 10, 13-14, 27.)
point during the chase, Officer Vidal called for backup and
put out a description over the radio. (56.1 Stmts. ¶
11.) The description read “looking for 5MBS 1 has
knife, all wrng hoodie---n 4 wrng blu jeans 1 wrng green
jeans.” (56.1 Stmts. ¶ 12.) On that day, the
plaintiff, a black male, was wearing a black hoodie and blue
sweatpants. (56.1 Stmts. ¶ 17.) When backup arrived,
Officer Vidal turned L.J. over to another police officer and
continued searching for the other suspects. (56.1 Stmts.
plaintiff testified that he left his home, which was located
at the corner of 3rd Avenue and East 115th Street, at 1:08
p.m., only minutes after Officer Vidal witnessed the group of
men chasing the victim. (56.1 Stmts. ¶¶ 1, 16.) The
plaintiff further stated that after he left his apartment, he
cut through the housing projects located from 112th to 115th
Streets on 3rd Avenue. (56.1 Stmts. ¶18; Pl.'s Dep.
27:13-31:15 and Exs. A and B.) Officer Vidal maintains that
the plaintiff “cut through the exact building [he]
believed he had seen plaintiff run into earlier, ”
(Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 19), but the plaintiff disputes
ever entering or leaving that building. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶ 19; Bennett Decl. ¶¶ 6-10.)
cutting through the projects, the plaintiff stopped to speak
with his aunt, who had come out of her apartment after
hearing the commotion of the chase. (56.1 Stmts. ¶ 29;
Serrano Dep. 13:4-11, 20:2-13, 23:5-7.) Officer Vidal saw the
plaintiff standing nearby and placed him under arrest at 1:29
p.m. (56.1 Stmts. ¶ 24.) According to Officer Vidal, he
recognized the plaintiff to be one of the individuals chasing
the victim earlier, and arrested the plaintiff after seeing
him come from the building at 2065 3rd Avenue. (Defs.'
56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 22-24.)
plaintiff was charged with Attempted Gang Assault and
Criminal Possession of a Weapon. (56.1 Stmts. ¶ 38.)
Shortly after the plaintiff's arrest, his mother, Shanen
Dora James, went to the police precinct where she inquired
about her son. (56.1 Stmts. ¶ 34.) The plaintiff's
mother did not tell any police officer that she had been with
the plaintiff moments before Officer Vidal witnessed the
knife chase. (56.1 Stmts. ¶ 36.) She eventually notified
the plaintiff's attorney of this fact at the
plaintiff's arraignment, and the plaintiff's attorney
then told the assistant district attorney. (56.1 Stmts.
¶ 37.) At his arraignment, the plaintiff's bail was
set at $5, 700, an amount beyond his means, and the plaintiff
was remanded to custody. (Meehan Decl. Ex. D.)
days later, the district attorney's office moved to
dismiss all charges against the plaintiff, and he was
released. (Meehan Decl. Ex. E.) Overall, the plaintiff spent
approximately three days in jail.
standard for granting summary judgment is well established.
“The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[T]he trial
court's task at the summary judgment motion stage of the
litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there
are any genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to
deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point
to issue-finding; it does not extend to
issue-resolution.” Gallo v. Prudential Residential
Servs., L.P., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994). The
moving party bears the initial burden of “informing the
district court of the basis for its motion” and
identifying the matter that “it believes demonstrate[s]
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The substantive law
governing the case will identify the material facts and
“[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the
Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable
inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369
U.S. 654, 655 (1962)); see also Gallo, 22 F.3d at
1223. Summary judgment is improper if there is any evidence
in the record from any source from which a reasonable
inference could be drawn in favor of the non-moving party.
See Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37
(2d Cir. 1994); see also McKay v. City of N.Y., 32
F.Supp.3d 499, 502-03 (S.D.N.Y. 2014).
Vidal moves for summary judgment on the plaintiff's false
arrest claim based on qualified immunity.
1983 claims for false arrest are “substantially the
same” as false arrest claims under New York law.
Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d Cir. 1996). In
New York, false arrest claims require a showing that
“(1) the defendant intended to confine the plaintiff,
(2) the plaintiff was conscious of the confinement, (3) the
plaintiff did not consent to the confinement, and (4) the
confinement was not otherwise ...