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Haskins v. City of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

August 24, 2017




         Plaintiff Terrel Haskins commenced the above-captioned action on April 10, 2015, against Defendants the City of New York, Captain Theodore Lauterborn, Sergeant Clifford Strong, Detectives Essence Jackson, Humberto Kibel and Christopher Ottomanelli and John and Jane Does 1-10, who are officers of the New York City Police Department ("NYPD"). (Compl., Docket Entry No. 1.) Plaintiff filed an Amended Compliant on August 18, 2017. (Am. Compl., Docket Entry No. 9.) Plaintiffs claims arise from his arrest on February 14, 2015, for his alleged involvement in the possession and distribution of narcotics. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12-27.) Plaintiff asserts claims for false arrest, fabrication of evidence, unlawful entry, malicious abuse of process, failure to intervene, and municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. ¶¶ 28-81.) Defendants move for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff s claims pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Defs. Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs. Mot."), Docket Entry No. 24; Defs. Mem. of Law in Supp. of Defs. Mot. ("Defs. Mem"), Docket Entry No. 27.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Defendants' motion as to Plaintiffs false arrest and fabrication of evidence claims and grants the motion as to Plaintiffs unlawful entry, malicious abuse of process, failure to intervene and municipal liability claims.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs claims arise from the execution of a search warrant for possible narcotics located in Apartment 7G at 2940 West 31st Street in Brooklyn, New York (the "Apartment"), which resulted in the discovery of narcotics in a closet and Plaintiffs arrest for his alleged involvement with the possession and distribution of the narcotics. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12-81.)

         a. The Apartment's residents and layout

         In 2015, non-party Carolyn Copeland was leasing the Apartment. (Pl. Dep. Submission A 42:4-9, 48:19-21, 134:9-14, Docket Entry No. 25-1.)[1] Copeland resided at the Apartment with her boyfriend, Dale Anderson, her four adult children, her two adult step-children and her three minor grandchildren. (Pl. Dep. Submission A 42:2-43:12; Pl. Dep. Submission B 54:4-55:11, 56:2-25, Docket Entry No. 33-1.) The one-story Apartment had four bedrooms and two bathrooms, (Pl. Dep. Submission B 55:12-14), and two closets on each side of the front door entrance ("the Entryway Closets"). (Apartment 7G Floor Plan ("Floor Plan"), Docket Entry No. 25-4.) Immediately past the Entryway Closets was the living room area. (Floor Plan.) Connected to the living room area and opposite the entrance, was a hallway that contained a closet and the entrances to the four bedrooms and two bathrooms. (Floor Plan.) Proceeding towards the hallway from the living room area, on the right side of the hallway there was a closet (the "Living Room Closet") and the two bathrooms, on the left side of the hallway there were doors to two of the bedrooms, and at the back of the hallway there were doors to the other two bedrooms. (Floor Plan.)

         b. Plaintiff's relationship with the Apartment and its residents

         Plaintiff and Copeland's adult children were longtime friends, and Plaintiff often spent the night at Copeland's home when he lacked stable or permanent housing. (Pl. Dep. Submission A 43:11-12, 68:3-16; Pl. Dep. Submission B 78:8-88:13.) Because Plaintiff did not have a permanent address, Plaintiff listed the Apartment as his address on his employment identification card. (Pl. Statement of Material Facts Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 ("Pl. 56.1") ¶ 75, Docket Entry No. 32; Pl. Employment Identification Card, Docket Entry No. 25-10.)

         c. Investigation into the criminal activity occurring at the Apartment

         In January of 2015, Detectives Jackson and Kibel began investigating possible sales of narcotics occurring at 2940 West 31st Street in Brooklyn, New York. (Investigative Reports, Docket Entry No. 25-3.) The investigation revealed that an individual named "Dale" sold cocaine in the building and resided in Apartment 7G. (Id.) Based on the investigation, on February 10, 2015, Detective Jackson sought and obtained a search warrant to procure possible narcotics located at the Apartment and to arrest "Dale" if the search of the premises led to the discovery of narcotics. (Search Warrant, Docket Entry No. 25-2.)

         d. The February 14, 2015 search of the Apartment and Plaintiffs arrest

         On February 14, 2015, at approximately 12:30 AM, Plaintiff contacted Copeland and asked if he could spend the night at her apartment. (Pl. Dep. Submission A 69:12-18.) Copeland told Plaintiff that he could. (Id. at 69:19-20.) Plaintiff arrived at the Apartment a few minutes after he spoke to Copeland. (Id. at 70:16-18.) Anderson opened the door for Plaintiff. (Id. at 70:19-20.) After Plaintiff entered the Apartment, Plaintiff hung his jacket on the back of one of the Entryway Closets and sat on a couch in the living room. (Pl. Dep. Submission B 71:4-15, 72:3-74:12.) Anderson was in the living room on a second couch and one of Copeland's adult children was in the living room on a third couch. (Id. at 73:18-74:3.) The three of them watched television until they fell asleep. (Id. at 74:4-10.)

         Later that morning, at approximately 6:40 AM, Detectives Jackson and Kibel executed the Search Warrant with Sergeant Strong and Captain Lauterborn serving as the supervising officers. (Detective Jackson Dep. 5:22-7:17, Docket Entry No. 25-5; Decl. of Captain Lauterborn ("Captain Lauterborn Decl") ¶¶ 1-8, Docket Entry No. 25-14; Decl. of Sergeant Strong ("Sergeant Strong Decl.") ¶ 4, Docket Entry No. 26; Criminal Compl. 3, Docket Entry No. 25-12.) When the officers arrived at the Apartment, they forced the door open with a "hydraulic tool" and entered the Apartment. (Detective Jackson Dep. 7:14-11:5.) Plaintiff was asleep prior to the officers' forced entry into the Apartment, but the noise of the forced entry woke Plaintiff. (Pl. Dep. Submission B. 101:3-14.) After the officers entered the Apartment, they secured all of the individuals in the Apartment by handcuffing them and having them sit on the couches in the living room. (Detective Jackson Dep. 10:23-11:5.)

         According to Plaintiff, after the officers placed the Apartment's occupants on the couches, Anderson was seated next to Plaintiff and told the officers that "[w]hatever you're all looking for, it is mine. I got it. I know where it is. Nobody [else] know[s] [any]thing." (Pl. Dep. SubmissionB 101:15-24, 104:14-20, 110:19-24.) Plaintiff did not know what the officers were searching for, nor did he know that Anderson was involved with drugs. (Id. at 104:7-8, 109:13-18, 110:7-16.) The officers then took Anderson into the hallway and he directed them to the drugs. (Id. at 108:7-14, 111:4-24.) Plaintiff did not witness the officers recover the drugs, but saw an officer return from the closet with a shoe box. (Id. at 108:19-20, 140:16-17; Pl. Dep. Submission A 112:25-113:5; Pl. Dep. Submission C 157:13-158:3, Docket Entry No. 37-1.) Plaintiff asserts that prior to the officers' arrival in the Apartment, the door to the Living Room Closet was closed. (Pl. Dep. Submission C 159:14-160:24, 225:15-21.)

         According to Detective Kibel, after the Apartment's occupants were handcuffed and placed on the couches, Detective Jackson took Anderson to one of the bedrooms in the Apartment and asked him if there were any drugs in the Apartment. (Detective Kibel Dep. 11:20-12:11, Docket Entry No. 33-2.) Anderson told Detective Jackson that there were "drugs in the [L]iving [R]oom [C]loset." (Detective Kibel Dep. 12:12-14.) Anderson walked with Detectives Jackson and Kibel to the Living Room Closet and directed the detectives to the location of the drugs. (Detective Kibel Dep. 12:23-13:7, 15:18-16:11.) Detective Jackson removed a "cardboard" box that contained drugs from the Living Room Closet. (Detective Kibel Dep. 16:12-17:8.) Detective Kibel did not recall Anderson making any statements taking responsibility for the drugs. (Detective Kibel Dep. 12:18-22.)

         According to Detective Jackson, after the Apartment's occupants were handcuffed and placed on the couches, Detective Jackson searched the Apartment. (Detective Jackson Dep. 11:9-13:21.) Detective Jackson discovered the drugs in the Living Room Closet without Anderson or anyone else directing him to the location of the drugs, and Anderson never expressed to Detective Jackson or another officer that he owned or was responsible for the drugs. (Detective Jackson Dep. 26:4-23, 27:4-11.) The drugs were "in plain sight" on a shelf in the Living Room Closet that was approximately five feet high. (Detective Jackson Dep. 27:12-18, 28:11-29:4.) The drugs were packaged in "Ziplocs" inside of a "Tupperware" container. (Detective Jackson Dep. 29:5-25.) When Detective Jackson was deposed on May 12, 2016, he did not recall whether the Living Room Closet door was open prior to the search. (Detective Jackson Dep. 1:24, 42:14-16, Docket Entry No. 33-3.) However, in the Criminal Complaint completed on February 14, 2015, the day of the arrest, Detective Jackson stated that the Living Room Closet door was open prior to the search. (Criminal Compl. 3.)

         The officers recovered "eight (8) plastic twists of. . . cocaine, " "ninety-seven (97) small [Z]iploc[] bags containing . . . marijuana, " and "[t]wo clear plastic bags containing [approximately] two hundred (200) smaller [Z]iploc[] bags . . . intended for use in the packaging and dispensing of cocaine." (Criminal Compl. 3-4; NYPD Laboratory Reports, Docket Entry No. 25-8.) The officers placed Anderson and Plaintiff under arrest for possession with the intent to distribute narcotics. (Pl. Dep. Submission A 113:7-23, 114:2-8; Arrest Report 1, Docket Entry No. 25-6.) Prior to arresting Plaintiff, the officers did not ask Plaintiff for his address. (Pl. Dep. Submission A 114:12-22.) The Arrest Report, however, listed the Apartment as Plaintiff s address. (Arrest Report 1.)

         Detective Jackson was the arresting officer. (Arrest Report 3.) As relevant here, Detective Jackson stated in the Criminal Complaint that:

On February 14, 2015, at approximately 6:40 AM, [Detective Jackson] executed a search warrant at [the Apartment]. When [Detective Jackson] entered [the] Apartment [], [Detective Jackson] observed [] Anderson and Terrel[] Haskins lying on separate couches in the living room, which is the first room past the [A]partment's front door. No other persons were in the living room. [Detective Jackson] also observed an open closet that opened onto the living room, just to the right after entering the [A]partment. [Detective Jackson] observed [] Anderson and Haskins [in] custody and control of the [recovered narcotics and packaging] . . . located in the open closet that opened onto the living room where [] Anderson and Haskins were located.

         (Criminal Compl. 3-4.)

         Shortly after Plaintiff was arrested, he was transported to central booking. (Pl. Dep. Submission A 112:17-21.) At Plaintiff s arraignment, the state court judge set abail amount and Plaintiff was remanded until someone could post bail for him. (Id. at 112:20-23.) On February 17, 2015, three days after Plaintiffs arrest, he was released on bond after one of his family members posted his bail. (Am. Compl. ¶25.) When Plaintiff reappeared before the state court on February 19, 2015, the District Attorney's Office dismissed the charges against Plaintiff.[2](Pl. 56.1 ¶ 58.)

         II. Discussion

         a. Standard of review

         Summary judgment is proper only when, construing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, "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); Davis v. Shah, 821 F.3d 231, 243 (2d Cir. 2016); see also Cortes v. MTA NYC Transit, 802 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 2015). The role of the court "is not to resolve disputed questions of fact but only to determine whether, as to any material issue, a genuine factual dispute exists." Rogoz v. City of Hartford, 796 F.3d 236, 245 (2d Cir. 2015) (first quoting Kaytor v. Elec. Boat Corp., 609 F.3d 537, 545 (2d Cir. 2010); and then citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., Ml U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). Agenuine issue of fact exists when there is sufficient "evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. The "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" is not sufficient to defeat summary judgment. Id. The court's function is to decide "whether, after resolving all ambiguities and drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, a rational juror could find in favor of that party." Pinto v. Allstate Ins. Co., 221 F.3d 394, 398 (2d Cir. 2000).

         b. Section 1983 claims

         Plaintiff asserts the following claims against Defendants under section 1983: (1) false arrest, (2) fabrication of evidence, (3) unlawful entry, (4) malicious abuse of process, (5) failure to intervene, ...

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