United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER
EDGARDO RAMOS, U.S.D.J.
Sarah Ramos, Angel Suarez, and William Suarez bring this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New York State
law against the City of New York, Detectives Abdiel Anderson,
Jose Marrero, and David J. Roberts, Sergeant Angel Bones, and
Police Officer Jonathan Wally (together,
“Defendants”). Plaintiffs assert claims for,
among other things, unreasonable search and seizure, false
arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution in
violation of their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
this Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is
GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
August 2, 2012, Plaintiffs Sarah Ramos and her husband, Angel
Suarez, went to a lot located between 2315 and 2317 Morris
Avenue in the Bronx, New York. Defs. 56.1 ¶ 3. The lot
is situated between two buildings and includes a front area,
shed, and back area accessible only through the shed. Pls.
56.1 ¶ 45. Plaintiffs claim that the area, which they
describe as a community garden, had plants and pigeon coops,
and that a dog was kept on the lot. Id. at
¶¶ 45, 48.
day, dressed in plainclothes, Detective Jose Marrero and
non-party Detective Lopez of Bronx Narcotics were conducting
observations for suspicious drug activity in the area of
183rdStreet and Morris Avenue. Defs. 56.1 ¶
2. At approximately noon, Detective Marrero communicated via
radio to a field team that included Sergeant Angel Bones and
Detectives David Roberts and Abdiel Anderson (together, the
“Officer Defendants”), that he had observed a
drug transaction take place at the lot,  that the alleged
buyer was female, Hispanic, and light- skinned, and that she
had left the lot and was headed northbound on Morris Avenue
towards 184th Street. Id. at ¶¶
3, 7. Specifically, Defendants rely on Detective
Marrero's deposition in which he stated that he saw Ramos
direct a woman to Angel and Angel give the woman small
objects in exchange for U.S. currency. October 26, 2016
Deposition of Jose Marrero (“Marrero Dep.”) (Doc.
66, Ex. O) 15:22-17:21.
dispute that Detective Marrero actually observed a drug
transaction and claim that that he only saw a woman enter the
shed with a man and then exit the shed and look at an object
in her hands. Pls. 56.1 ¶ 3. Plaintiffs rely on the
testimony Detective Marrero gave at a General Order 15
hearing (“GO-15”) held on the same day as the
arrests at approximately 6:00 pm. At the hearing Detective
There was a female white that arrived at the location, she
entered, she said hello to a female Hispanic that was
standing in front of the clubhouse. And then she met up with
a male Hispanic, with a . . . white tank top, which she then
entered the location with. Thereafter, a second male
Hispanic, with a white t-shirt followed in. Moments later,
the female white, came out of the location. I noticed that
she looked at something in her hands . . . She then continued
outside . . . the clubhouse and said . . . goodbye to the
Hispanic that she had initially said hello to. She left the
location. We put that description over the point-to-point
radio, to members of the field team . . . later they stopped
[her] in the vehicle and found her in possession of some
quantity of crack-cocaine.
Id. at 62. Notably, Defendant Marrero made no
mention at the GO-15 hearing of actually witnessing the
hand-to-hand exchange between Angel and the woman.
receiving the radio communication from Detective Marrero,
Detective Roberts arrested the woman and upon searching her,
found two bags of crack cocaine in her purse.Defs. 56.1
¶¶ 8-9. Sergeant Bones and Detective Anderson were
present for the woman's arrest but did not arrest her
themselves. Id. at ¶ 10. Sergeant Bones
informed Detective Marrero- who was not present for the
arrest-that the woman had been arrested and that drugs were
recovered from her purse. Id. at ¶ 12.
the woman's arrest, Detectives Roberts and his non-party
partner Detective Gines, along with Detective Anderson, and
Sergeant Bones proceeded to the lot area. Id. at
¶¶ 13-14. While en route, Detective Marrero radioed
that he saw a man with a white tank top, who he had
previously seen interacting with the woman, leaving the lot
and walking northbound on Morris Avenue. Id. at
¶ 15. Detectives Roberts and Gines found a man matching
the description, who was later identified as Angel, and
stopped him. Id. at ¶ 19. Defendants claim that
Detective Gines arrested Angel Suarez. Following Angel's
arrest, Detective Roberts proceeded to the lot area where he
saw Sergeant Bones standing with a woman later identified as
Sarah Ramos, and a non-party male, David George. Id.
at ¶¶ 22, 25. Both Ramos and George were
subsequently arrested inside of the lot. Id. at
point after arriving at the lot, the Officer Defendants were
made aware that a man, later identified as William Suarez,
was inside the shed. Id. at ¶ 26. The
parties' allegations diverge significantly with respect
to the events leading up to William's arrest.
Officer Defendants claim that Detective Marrero saw William
run towards the back of the lot and throw an object over the
fence. Id. at ¶¶ 27-29. They further claim
that Detective Anderson, found three bags containing crack
cocaine by William's feet where he was seized, and upon a
search of the area on the other side of the fence, found an
additional thirty-five bags of crack-cocaine. Id. at
¶ 33. Plaintiffs claim, however, that William was
already in the back area of the lot when the Officer
Defendants arrived, that he did not have drugs in his
possession, and that he did not throw anything over the
fence. Pls. 56.1 ¶ 28. William was arrested behind the
shed. Defs. 56.1 ¶ 31; Pls. 56.1 ¶ 69. Defendants
claim that William was searched incident to the arrest and
that $3, 786 in cash was found on his person. Id. at
¶ 34. Defendants also claim that upon searching Angel,
they retrieved $365 in cash. Id. at ¶ 35. After
the arrests, Plaintiffs were gathered at the front of the lot
and eventually taken to the 48th Precinct where
they were processed. Pls. 56.1 ¶ 77.
Anderson, as the assigned arresting officer, was responsible
for completing the arrest paperwork. Defs. 56.1 ¶ 36.
Plaintiffs were charged with criminal possession of a
controlled substance in the third degree with intent to sell,
criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree,
and criminal sale of a controlled substance in the seventh
degree. Pls. 56.1 ¶ 106. The Officer Defendants claim
that the information Detective Anderson included in the
arrest reports was based on the information he had received
from Detective Marrero who observed the drug transaction.
Defs. 56.1 ¶ 38. Detective Anderson also signed the
Criminal Complaint against Plaintiffs. Id. at ¶
September 21, 2012, a grand jury returned a true bill against
Plaintiffs. Pls. 56.1 ¶ 107. Both Angel and William
filed a motion to inspect the grand jury minutes and dismiss
the indictment. On March 22, 2013, the criminal court denied
Angel's motion to release the grand jury minutes and
found that although the evidence before the grand jury was
“quite thin, ” it was legally sufficient to
support the charges against Angel. Pierre Decl. Ex. K.
Without caveat, the court also denied William's motion to
release the grand jury minutes and found that the evidence
before the grand jury was sufficient to support the charges
against him. Id. Ex. L. On June 10, 2015, after
“numerous” court appearances, all of the charges
against Plaintiffs were dismissed on speedy trial grounds,
pursuant to N.Y.C.P.L. § 30.30. Pls. 56.1 ¶ 115,
Defs. 56.1 ¶ 43.
filed the Complaint on August 3, 2015 asserting five causes
of action: (1) Section 1983 claim for violations of their
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights; (2) Monell
liability; (3) violation of the New York State Constitution;
(4) malicious prosecution; and (5) respondeat
superior. Doc. 1. Defendants City of New York,
Detectives Marrero, Anderson, and Roberts filed an Answer on
November 9, 2015. Doc. 16. On December 21, 2015, Plaintiffs
filed an Amended Complaint, adding Sergeant Angel Bones and
Police Officer Jonathan Wally as defendants. Doc. 18.
Approximately one year later, on December 16, 2016,
Defendants filed a letter requesting a pre-motion conference
to seek leave to file a motion for summary judgment. Doc. 58.
On February 6, 2017, Plaintiffs informed the Court that they
were withdrawing their excessive force claims, including the
only claim against Police Officer Wally, and also clarified
that they were not asserting a Monell claim. Doc.
63. Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment
on February 24, 2017. Doc. 64.
judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “An issue of fact is
‘genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.”
Senno v. Elmsford Union Free Sch. Dist., 812
F.Supp.2d 454, 467 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (citing SCR Joint
Venture L.P. v. Warshawsky, 559 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir.
2009)). A fact is “material” if it might
“affect the outcome of the litigation under the
governing law.” Id. (quoting Miner v.
Clinton Cty. N.Y., 541 F.3d 464, 471 (2d Cir. 2008)).
The party moving for summary judgment is first responsible
for demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986). If the moving party meets its burden,
“the nonmoving party must come forward with admissible
evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of fact for
trial in order to avoid summary judgment.” Saenger
v. Montefiore Med. Ctr., 706 F.Supp.2d 494, 504
(S.D.N.Y. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting
Jaramillo v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 536 F.3d 140, 145 (2d
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must
“construe the facts in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw
all reasonable inferences against the movant.” Brod
v. Omya, Inc., 653 F.3d 156, 164 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting
Williams v. R.H. Donnelley, Corp., 368 F.3d 123, 126
(2d Cir. 2004)). However, in opposing a motion for summary
judgment, the non-moving party may not rely on unsupported
assertions, conjecture, or surmise. Goenaga v. March of
Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir.
1995). The non-moving party must do more than show that there
is “some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” McClellan v. Smith, 439 F.3d 137, 144
(2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). To defeat a motion
for summary judgment, “the non-moving party must set
forth significant, probative evidence on which a reasonable
fact-finder could decide in its favor.” Senno,
812 F.Supp.2d at 467-68 (citing Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 256-57 (1986)).
“summary judgment may not be granted simply because the
court believes that the plaintiff will be unable to meet his
or her burden of persuasion at trial. There must either be a
lack of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position
or the evidence must be so overwhelmingly tilted in one
direction that any contrary finding would constitute clear
error.” Danzer v. Norden Sys., Inc., 151 F.3d
50, 54 (2d Cir. 1998) (citations omitted).
1983 grants a right of action to any “citizen of the
United States or other person within the jurisdiction
thereof” who has been deprived of “any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws” by a person acting under color of state law. 42
U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under Section 1983, a
plaintiff must allege that: (1) a right secured by the
Constitution or federal law was violated by defendants, and
(2) the alleged violation was committed by a person acting
under color of state law. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v.
Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999). Here, Plaintiffs
allege, among other things, that they were falsely arrested,
subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure, and
maliciously prosecuted in violation of their Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendment rights.