United States District Court, S.D. New York
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
GREGORY H. WOODS United States District Judge.
in the morning of February 7, 2015, Plaintiff Jonathan
Corbett was on the phone with his girlfriend when she jumped
out the window of her thirty-first-floor midtown Manhattan
apartment, taking her own life. He rushed to her apartment,
found her lying on an adjacent roof approximately
twenty-three stories below, and called 911. After speaking
voluntarily with officers who arrived on the scene, Corbett
ended up going to the police precinct in an NYPD vehicle,
waited there for approximately 90 minutes, and then answered
officers' questions for 20-30 minutes.
contend that Corbett went to the precinct and remained there
to answer questions voluntarily. Corbett, on the other hand,
asserts that it was an unlawful detention. Corbett filed this
action, asserting claims against three NYPD officers and the
City of New York (“Defendants, ” and as to the
officer-defendants, the “Individual Defendants”)
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest or
imprisonment in violation of the Fourth Amendment and for
municipal liability pursuant to Monell v. Department of
Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), as well as various
state-law claims. In a previous opinion and order, the Court
dismissed Corbett's Monell claims. Defendants
now ask the Court to grant summary judgment in their favor on
Plaintiff's false arrest claim, as well as his claim
under the New York Freedom of Information Law, and to decline
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remainder of
his state-law claims. Because triable issues of material of
fact exist, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is
morning of February 7, 2015, Plaintiff Jonathan Corbett was
on the phone with his girlfriend of three years, Andrea
Brannon. Decl. of Jonathan Corbett in Opp'n to Mot. for
Summ. J. (ECF No. 95-1) (“Corbett Decl.”) ¶
1. Brannon had a history of depression and was regularly
treated by a psychiatrist. Id. ¶ 5. She had
once intentionally overdosed on prescription medication
during her relationship with Corbett, and on at least two
other occasions, Corbett had been concerned she might attempt
suicide by jumping out her large apartment windows.
Id. During the call that morning, Brannon made
several statements implying that she would take her own life.
Id. ¶ 6. Corbett did not think she would act on
those statements, but, at some point during the call, he
heard her scream, followed by a loud noise and “nothing
further on the phone line.” Id. ¶¶
7, 9. After attempting unsuccessfully to call her back, he
took a taxi to Brannon's apartment, arriving
approximately fifteen minutes later. Id.
¶¶ 9-10. He looked out her bedroom window, which
was wide open, and saw a body lying motionless on an adjacent
roof approximately 250 feet below. Id. ¶¶
thereafter, at approximately 4:19 a.m., Corbett called 911
and reported what had occurred. Defs.' Local Rule 56.1
Statement (ECF No 92) and Pl.'s Local Rule 56.1 Response
and Counterstatement (ECF No. 95-5) (collectively,
“56.1”) ¶ 1. The first to arrive at the scene
were two non-party officers from the New York City Police
Department's Midtown South Precinct.56.1 ¶ 3.
Shortly thereafter, Defendant Sergeant Roberto More and at
least one additional NYPD officer, as well as members of
Emergency Medical Services and the New York City Fire
Department arrived on the scene. 56.1 ¶¶ 3-4; Decl.
of Eviana Englert in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 93)
(“Englert Decl.”), Ex. B; Englert Decl., Ex. K,
Dep. of Roberto More (“More Dep.”) 12:7-11, (Oct.
3, 2016). Brannon was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where she
was pronounced dead at 4:57 a.m. 56.1 ¶¶ 8, 18.
Defendants Detective Michael Ahearne and Sergeant Bryan Gillis,
as well as a non-party detective also responded to the scene
and conducted preliminary interviews and a search of the
apartment. Id. ¶¶ 17, 19.
after calling 911, Corbett took the elevator to the lobby of
Brannon's building to meet the responders. Corbett Decl.
¶ 18. He approached the two first-responding NYPD
officers and voluntarily provided them with information about
what had happened and where to find Brannon's body. 56.1
¶¶ 5-6. One of the officers then asked Corbett for
his identification and requested that he step into the
building's mailroom to further discuss what had occurred.
Corbett Decl. ¶¶ 21. He gave the officer his
Florida driver's license, stepped into the mailroom, and
told the officer about his call with Brannon and about her
mental health history. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. The
officer did not return Corbett's license to him at that
time. Id. ¶¶ 22, 45.
point thereafter, Sergeant More approached and, within
Corbett's earshot, told another officer to take Corbett
to the precinct. Id. ¶ 24. Either More or
another nearby officer then told Corbett: “[H]old
tight, you're in for a long night.” Id.
¶ 25. More proceeded to walk away before Corbett could
respond in any way to the instruction to take him to the
precinct. Id. ¶ 26. Neither More nor any other
officer asked Corbett whether he was willing to go to the
precinct for further questioning, see Id.
¶¶ 26, 40, and Corbett neither verbally consented
nor verbally objected, 56.1 ¶ 10. In light of More's
instruction to transport him to the precinct, the “in
for a long night” comment, the officers' tone and
body language, the continued retention of his driver's
license, and the general context of being questioned about
his girlfriend's death, Corbett subjectively believed at
this time that he was not free to leave. Corbett Decl. ¶
27. He chose not to verbally argue with the officers because
he was emotionally distraught and was afraid that protesting
would result in his being handcuffed. Id. ¶ 28.
feeling at liberty to refuse, Corbett was directed outside by
an officer to a marked police car. Id. ¶ 33; Dep.
of Bryan Gillis, Ex. C to Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. for
Summ. J. (ECF No. 95-3) (“Gillis Dep.”) 15:5-10
(Oct. 3, 2016). As stated in the NYPD's Unusual
Occurrence Report, which was prepared by More, Corbett was
“transported to the Midtown South Precinct for further
questioning by Nightwatch.” Englert Decl., Ex. B;
see also 56.1 ¶ 9.
arrival, Officer Doe led Corbett to the Juvenile Room at the
back of the precinct. Corbett Decl. ¶ 34; 56.1 ¶
16. Corbett was not checked in at the front desk, he did not
speak to a desk sergeant, and his name was not entered into
the precinct's command log. 56.1 ¶¶ 13-15. He
waited inside the Juvenile Room from the time he arrived at
the precinct slightly before 5:00 a.m. until 6:25 a.m., when
Ahearne and Sergeant Gillis arrived to speak with him. 56.1
¶¶ 16, 20; Corbett Dep: 63:16-17, 73:18-20; Englert
Decl., Ex. D. Officer Doe stayed with him the entire time.
Corbett Decl. ¶ 35. Corbett took one bathroom break,
during which Officer Doe accompanied him to the bathroom,
waited at the door for him to finish, and accompanied him
back to the Juvenile Room. Id. ¶ 37. Based largely
on that fact, Corbett believed that Officer Doe was there to
prevent him from leaving. Id. ¶ 36. However,
Corbett was not handcuffed at any point. 56.1 ¶ 11.
approximately 6:25 a.m., Ahearne and Gillis returned to the
precinct to speak with Corbett. 56.1 ¶ 20. Once they
arrived, Officer Doe left the Juvenile Room, not to be seen
by Corbett again. Corbett Decl. ¶ 39. Ahearne and Gillis
did not ask at that time whether Corbett had been transported
to, and had waited at, the precinct voluntarily; however,
they testified in depositions that they subjectively believed
he was there of his own freewill. Id. ¶ 40;
Gillis Dep. 16:6-14; Dep. of Michael Ahearne, Ex. L to
Englert Decl. (“Ahearne Dep.”) 19:19-25 (Oct. 3,
2016). According to their own deposition testimony, neither
More, nor Ahearne, nor Gillis made a determination that there
was probable cause or reasonable suspicion to support
detaining Corbett involuntarily. Ahearne Dep. 17:16-18:12;
Gillis Dep. 9:20-10:4; More Dep. 18:24-19:4.
and Gillis asked Corbett to recount what had happened that
morning, from the phone call with Brannon to his arrival at
her apartment. 56.1 ¶¶ 20-21; Corbett Dep.
77:22-78:12. They also asked about his relationship with
Brannon, her mental health history, and how they could
contact her mother. 56.1 ¶¶ 21-22. Ahearne and
Gillis questioned Corbett inside the Juvenile Room for 20-30
minutes, while physically blocking the only exit to the room.
56.1 ¶ 20; Corbett Decl. ¶ 41. Corbett continued
to believe he was free to leave the room during that time.
Corbett Decl. ¶ 42.
appeared to Corbett that the officers had finished their
questions, he asked them if he was free to leave, and the
officers said he was. 56.1 ¶ 23. His driver's
license, which had been taken earlier that morning, was then
returned to him. Corbett Decl. ¶ 45. That was the first
time since being directed into the police car outside
Brannon's apartment that Corbett felt free to go.
Id. ¶ 46.
then interviewed Brannon's roommate and her
roommate's boyfriend about the incident in another part
of the precinct. 56.1 ¶¶ 24-25. At approximately
9:20 a.m., a non-party detective completed a report
indicating that no signs of criminality had been found
surrounding Brannon's death and that video surveillance
footage had corroborated witnesses' statements.
Id. ¶¶ 26-27.
initiated this lawsuit pro se on November 23, 2015
against the City and four “John Doe” officers.
ECF No. 1. On March 29, 2016, after a Valentin order
from the Court and a response from the City, he amended his
complaint to name Defendants More, Gillis, and Ahearne, as
well as to remove the “John Doe” officer whom the
City was unable to identify. ECF No. 22. Corbett amended his
complaint once again with leave of the Court on October 19,
2016. ECF No. 65. In his second amended complaint, he brought
claims under Section 1983 for false arrest in violation of
the Fourth Amendment, Monell claims against the
City, and various state-law claims. Id.
November 2, 2016, the City moved to dismiss the
Monell claims pleaded in the second amended
complaint. ECF Nos. 69-72. The Court granted that motion on
December 22, 2016. ECF No. 85. On January 10, 2017, Corbett
moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2) to
voluntarily dismiss his New York Freedom of Information Law
(“FOIL”) claim. ECF No. 87. Corbett stated that,
because “almost all of the records” he had sought
through his FOIL request had been produced through discovery,
his claim under FOIL had “largely been mooted, ”
but that he wished to reserve the right to recover costs
and/or fees at the conclusion of the case. Id. He
moved pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2) rather than submitting a
stipulation of dismissal because, while Defendants consented
to the dismissal of the FOIL claim, they “[took] no
position” on his reservation of rights. Id.
After a telephone conference on the motion, the Court denied
it on January 17, 2017. ECF Nos. 88-89.
filed the instant motion for summary judgment on January 23,
2017. ECF Nos. 90-94. Corbett filed an opposition on February
8, 2017, ECF No. 95, and Defendants filed a reply on February
14, 2017, ECF No. 97.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment is appropriate when “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) (“[S]ummary
judgment is proper ‘if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'”
(quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c))). A genuine dispute
exists where “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, ”
while a fact is material if it “might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). “Factual disputes that are irrelevant or
unnecessary will not be counted.” Id.
movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating “the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” and, if
satisfied, the burden then shifts to the non-movant to
present “evidence sufficient to satisfy every element
of the claim.” Holcomb v. Iona Coll., 521 F.3d
130, 137 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at
323-24). To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the
non-movant “must come forward with ‘specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting former
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “The mere existence of a scintilla
of evidence in support of the [non-movant's] position
will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the
jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Moreover, the non-movant
“must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the ...