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Debrosse v. City of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

August 2, 2017



          Ann M. Donnelly United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Donald Debrosse, brings this civil action for damages against seven detectives-Michael Gaynor, David Arvelo, Lorraine Winters, Pablo DeJesus, Andrew Mennella, Robert Aiello, and Claude Jean-Pierre. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants prosecuted him maliciously, abused the criminal process, and denied him a right to a fair trial, in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiff also alleges municipal liability against the City of New York. The defendants move for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the defendants' motion is granted.


         On September 3, 2009, at approximately 8:20 p.m., Peter Daleus was shot in the head while sitting outside in the backyard of People's Delight Express Jerk Chicken in Brooklyn, New York.[1](Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 1; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 1.) Chryl Williams, a 16-year-old girl, was sitting next to Daleus at the time he was shot. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 2; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 2; Williams Dep. at 18.) New York City Police Detectives Michael Gaynor and Lorraine Winters responded to the shooting. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 4; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 4.) At approximately 10:00 p.m., Detective Winters interviewed Williams about what she saw. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 7; Defs.' Ex. G at 12.) According to the defendants, Williams told Detective Winters that an unknown man approached Daleus and fired three shots at him. (Defs.' Ex. G at 12.) Police reports show that Williams described the shooter as a black, dark-skinned male, about five feet six inches tall, with a close haircut, wearing a black baseball hat with a green design on the front, and a dark tee-shirt. (Id.) Detective Winters recalled that Williams also said that the shooter had a "mean, mean face." (Winters Dep. at 17, 38.) Later that evening, at the precinct, Williams looked at photographs on a computer program called Photo Manager, but did not recognize anyone.[2] (Id. at 43, 86; Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 8; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 8.)

         Two days later, on September 5, 2009, Detective Gaynor learned from Detective Padro of the 67th Precinct that there had been a previous shooting at Daleus' home, but that there were no suspects in that shooting. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 15.) Detective Gaynor was not able to interview Daleus until September 12, 2009, because of Daleus' injuries. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 9; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 9.) When he did interview him, Daleus said that he was a member of the Haitian Mafia Crips gang. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 11-12.) Daleus did not see who shot him on September 3rd, but was involved in an ongoing dispute with someone named "Dutch, " a fellow gang member.[3] (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 11-12.) According to Daleus, Dutch "shot up" Daleus' home to retaliate against him for stabbing his brother. (Id.) Daleus also said that he saw Dutch's friend, whom he knew as "Fruit Punch, " staring at him from the yard behind the restaurant just before the shooting. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 10.) Citing Daleus' deposition testimony from May 12, 2014-five years after the shooting-the plaintiff denies that Daleus mentioned him to Detective Gaynor, and claims that Daleus neither told Officer Gaynor that he had any problems with "Dutch" or mentioned the plaintiff or Fruit Punch to the police. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶¶ 11-13; Defs.' Ex. E, Daleus Dep. at 40.)

         On September 28, 2009, Detective Gaynor spoke to Officer Paul Blanc of the 70th Precinct Anti-Crime Unit, who was knowledgeable about Hattian gang members. Officer Blanc told Detective Gaynor that the plaintiff was the person known as "Dutch." (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 16.) On September 28, 2009, Detective Gaynor obtained the plaintiffs photograph and showed it to Officer Blanc, who confirmed that the plaintiff was Dutch. (Defs.' Ex. G at 53.) On that same date, Detective Gaynor showed the plaintiffs photograph to Daleus, who also confirmed that the plaintiff was Dutch. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, Detective Gaynor prepared a photographic array that included the plaintiffs photograph and showed the array to Williams at her apartment; Williams identified the plaintiff as the person she saw shoot Daleus.[4] (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 21.)

         Detective Gay nor made repeated attempts to locate the plaintiff; he visited the plaintiffs home, spoke with the plaintiffs father and sister, prepared an "ICard" for naming the plaintiff as a suspect, posted "wanted posters, " conducted an "E Justice check, " and contacted the plaintiffs attorney, Patrick Megaro, to arrange a time for the plaintiff to turn himself in. (Defs.' Ex. G at 55-68, Defs.' Ex. M at 16.) Although the detective and the lawyer agreed on a date for the plaintiff to surrender, the plaintiff did not appear at the precinct. The plaintiff was finally arrested five months after the shooting on February 8, 2010 at the Brooklyn Family Court, and transported to the 70th Precinct Detective Squad for questioning. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 24; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 24.)

         Detective Gaynor told the plaintiff that he would be placed in a line-up. The plaintiff responded that he wanted to speak to his lawyer, Mr. Megaro. (Defs.' Ex. M at 20-21.) The plaintiff called Mr. Megaro, who then spoke to the detective. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 26; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 26.) When Detective Gaynor told Mr. Megaro that he was going to conduct a line-up, Mr. Megaro said that he wanted to be at the line-up, but that it would take him at least two hours to get to the precinct. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 28; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 28.) Detective Gaynor said that he would not wait that long, to which Mr. Megaro replied, "you do what you have to do." (Defs.' Ex. M at 86.) Detective Gaynor went ahead with the line-up and Williams identified the plaintiff as the person who shot Daleus.[5] (Defs.' Ex. M at 72; Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 29-30.)

         The plaintiff was arrested and, on February 11, 2010, Williams and Detective Gaynor testified before the grand jury, which charged the plaintiff with attempted murder in the second degree, assault in first, second, and third degrees, attempted assault in the first and second degrees, and criminal possession of a weapon in the second and fourth degrees.[6] (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 33; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 33; Defs.' Ex. L at 3.)

         Subsequently, the plaintiff moved to suppress Williams' photographic and line-up identifications. The Honorable Raymond Guzman of the Kings County Supreme Court held a Wade hearing at which Detective Gaynor described the photographic array and the line-up. Both he and Mr. Megaro testified about the circumstances leading up to the line-up. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 36; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 36.) Justice Guzman credited the testimony of both witnesses, and "found no suggestiveness in either the photos or [] the conduct of the police prior to the witness viewing it... and absolutely found no suggestiveness in the procedures used by the police department to secure the line-up." (Defs.' Ex. N at 13, 18.) Nevertheless, Justice Guzman granted the motion to suppress the line-up because "as a matter of law, the police department did not give defense counsel under these circumstances a reasonable time to appear."[7] (Id. at 17.)

         On February 7, 2012-two and a half years after the shooting-Justice Gustin Reichbach held an independent source hearing at which Chryl Williams testified, to determine there was an independent basis for Williams' identification of the plaintiff as the shooter. (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 40; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ¶ 40.) Williams remembered describing the shooter to the police on the night of the shooting, but, at the time of the hearing, could not give a detailed description of the shooter. (Defs.' Ex. P at 10-12.) Because Williams only gave a "generic description" at the hearing and was "unable to identify any distinctive features, " Justice Reichbach ruled that there was no independent source for her identification. (Id. at 22.)

         The rulings left prosecutors with no admissible evidence on the issue of identification. Accordingly, the prosecutor moved to dismiss the indictment on February 10, 2012, stating that "the People are left at this time with a case that we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt." (Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 42.) Subsequently, the plaintiff brought this action for malicious prosecution, abuse of the criminal process, and denial of a right to a fair trial.


         Summary judgment is appropriate if the parties' submissions, taken together, show that there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) & (c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A court considering a motion for summary judgment does not evaluate witness credibility, and must draw reasonable inferences and resolve all ambiguities in favor of the plaintiff. Kaytor v. Elec. Boat Corp., 609 F.3d 537, 545 (2d Cir. 2010); see also Manganiello v. City of N.Y., 612 F.3d 149, 161 (2d Cir. 2010) ("Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge ... Thus, although the court should review the record as a whole, it must disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe.").

         However, the plaintiff may not "rely on mere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts to overcome a motion for summary judgment." Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 12 (2d Cir. 1986). A "scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-movant's] position" is insufficient. Hayut v. State Univ. of New York, 352 F.3d 733, 743 (2d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). While a plaintiff is entitled "to the assumption that a jury would believe his testimony, " a plaintiff is only entitled to the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from this testimony. Richardson v. City of N.Y., No. 02-cv-3651, 2006 WL 2792768, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 27, 2006). If "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, " the court must deny the motion for summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         The plaintiff concedes that he cannot not sustain the malicious abuse of process claim or the Monell claims of municipal liability against the City of New York. The plaintiff also concedes that he had no good faith basis to oppose summary judgment on the claims against Detectives Arvelo, DeJesus, Mennella, Aiello, and Jean-Pierre. Accordingly, I grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment on these claims and consider only the remaining claims against Detective Gaynor and Detective Winters.[8]See Darboe v. Staples, Inc., 243 F.Supp.2d ...

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