United States District Court, N.D. New York
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Lawrence E. Kahn U.S. District Judge
April 14, 2015, Alonzo and Stephanie Grant commenced this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and
1986, and New York law, against the City of Syracuse, the
Syracuse Police Department (the “SPD”), and
various named and unnamed Police Department officers. Dkt.
No. 1 (“Complaint”). The four named officers are
Officer Damon Lockett, Officer Paul Montalto, Sergeant Brian
Novitsky (collectively, “Arresting Officers”),
and Chief of Police Frank Fowler. Id. at 1. On May
19, 2015, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint. Dkt. No.
Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert claims arising out of an
incident at their house on the evening of June 28, 2014,
which led to Alonzo's arrest. Alonzo asserts claims for
false arrest, excessive force, malicious prosecution, and
conspiracy to interfere with civil rights in violation of the
United States Constitution. Amended Compl. at 48-69. He also
asserts claims for assault and battery, false imprisonment,
and defamation in violation of New York law. Id. at
61, 65, 71. Additionally, Stephanie asserts claims for false
imprisonment in violation of the Constitution, id.
at 64, and negligent infliction of emotional distress and
loss of consortium in violation of New York law, id.
at 67, 71. Finally, Alonzo and Stephanie together assert
claims under the Constitution for unlawful entry against
Lockett and for failure to train, supervise, or discipline
police officers against the City and the Police Department,
id. at 57, 66, and under New York law for trespass,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent
training, hiring, retention, and supervision of police
officers, id. at 65-66, 68, 70.
before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary
judgment, filed on March 21, 2017. Dkt. No. 63
(“Motion”); see also Dkt. Nos. 63-2
(“Defendants' Statement of Material Facts”),
63-3 (“Memorandum”). On May 2, 2017, and May 8,
2017, Plaintiffs filed papers in opposition. Dkt. Nos. 68
(“Opposition”), 73-1 (“Plaintiffs'
Statement of Material Facts”). Defendants filed an
Amended Reply on May 18, 2017. Dkt. No. 78 (“Amended
Reply”). Pursuant to the Court's request, Dkt.
No. 80, the parties submitted supplemental briefings
regarding Alonzo's malicious prosecution and defamation
claims. Dkt. Nos. 81 (“Defendants'
Supplement”), 83 (“Plaintiffs'
Supplement”), 84 (“Defendants' Reply
Supplement.”) For the reasons stated below,
Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.
relevant times, Plaintiffs resided at 105 Hudson Street in
the City (“Grant Home”), where they lived with
their youngest child, Alonzo Grant, Jr. Defs.' SMF
¶¶ 1-2. On Saturday, June 28, 2014, Alonzo left the
Grant Home at approximately 7:15 AM in order to perform work
at his friend's farm. Dkt. No. 63-38, Ex. JJ
(“Alonzo Deposition”) at 23. He returned at
approximately 3:00 PM, and he consumed two beers while
sitting outside. Defs.' SMF ¶ 3; Alonzo Dep. at
24-25. After grilling dinner, Alonzo entered the Grant Home
in order to shower at approximately 6:30 PM. Defs.' SMF
¶ 4; Alonzo Dep. at 28. Upon noticing items on the floor
and dirty dishes in the kitchen, Alonzo became upset because
he “expected things to be a little neater.”
Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 4-5. “In a loud voice,
” he told Stephanie and Alyssa, Plaintiffs' adult
daughter, that “you guys need to get off your asses and
make sure the house get [sic] take care of.”
Id. ¶ 6. Alonzo's comment precipitated an
argument between Alonzo, Stephanie, and Alyssa. Id.
¶ 8. Alonzo asked Alyssa to leave the Grant Home three
times. Id. ¶¶ 10-11.
Alyssa left the Grant Home and began to argue with
Plaintiffs' neighbor. Id. ¶ 12. Alonzo
called 911 in response to this argument. Id. ¶
13. He “yelled” at the 911 dispatcher to
“send the cops over here right now, ” because
Alyssa was “acting like a fucking asshole and is just
fucking with my house, okay.” Id. at 14.
Alonzo hung up the phone within thirty seconds, and the
Police Department distributed the following bulletin:
“M911 OPEN LINE W/ ARGUMENT - MALE REQUESTING OFFICERS
BE SENT TO ADDRESS RE: DAUGHTER ALYSSA GRAHAM - COMPL[AINANT]
UNCOOPERATIVE - DISC.” Id. at 16-17. SPD
Officers Lockett and Montalto arrived at the Grant Home less
than five minutes later. Defs.' SMF ¶ 18. Upon their
arrival, Plaintiffs told them that their assistance was not
needed. Defs.' SMF ¶ 19.
Defendants allege that Plaintiffs were arguing loudly inside
their home, and Alonzo appeared to be extremely upset.
Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 20-21. In turn, Lockett entered
the Grant Home and saw Alonzo “flailing his arms
violently.” Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 22-23. Lockett
asked Alonzo to exit his house and speak with Montalto.
Id. ¶ 24. While exiting, Alonzo
“shoved” the front door, causing it to
“slam” against the iron rail of the house's
front porch. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. Lockett then
attempted to place Grant under arrest, but Alonzo resisted.
Id. ¶¶ 28-29. In order to subdue Alonzo,
Lockett and Montalto punched and kicked him, and Lockett
placed him in a “hold” to immobilize his head.
Id. ¶¶ 30-32. Eventually, the officers
handcuffed Alonzo. Id. ¶ 35.
contrast, Plaintiffs allege that their argument had ceased by
the time Lockett and Montalto arrived. Pls.' SMF
¶¶ 79-80. Plaintiffs were inside their home, and
the officers arrived in separate cars approximately thirty
seconds apart. Id. ¶¶ 81-85. Lockett
approached the Grant Home first, and both Plaintiffs told
Lockett that “his services were no longer necessary as
[Alyssa] had left the premises.” Id.
¶¶ 86-87. Stephanie spoke to Lockett through an
open window, Dkt. No. 63-39, Ex. KK (“Stephanie
Deposition”) at 23, while Alonzo opened the house's
front door to speak to him, Pls.' SMF ¶ 87. Lockett
did not respond, and Alonzo closed the door and ascended the
house's interior staircase. Pls.' SMF ¶¶
then spoke to Stephanie about his desire for the house to be
clean and that he was tired from work. Id. ¶
90. He gesticulated while he spoke, but he did not yell or
pace wildly. Id. ¶ 92. At some point during
this conversation Lockett entered the Grant Home
“without invitation and without announcing
himself.” Id. ¶ 95. Lockett asked,
“What's going on here?” Id. ¶
97. Alonzo explained that his daughter had been arguing with
his neighbor, which is why he called 911, but now Alyssa was
gone. Id. ¶ 98. Lockett ordered Alonzo to go
outside and speak with Montalto, and Alonzo immediately
complied. Id. ¶¶ 102-03. To exit the Grant
Home, Alonzo pushed open the house's storm door, which
lacked a spring and therefore struck the front porch's
iron railing and made a noise. Id. ¶ 108.
Alonzo descended three steps from the top of the porch,
Lockett locked Alonzo's hands behind his back.
Id. ¶ 110. Lockett did not tell Alonzo that he
was under arrest. Id. ¶ 111. Montalto, who was
standing at the bottom of the house's outdoor staircase,
then ascended the steps and grabbed Alonzo's ankles.
Id. ¶¶ 112-13. The officers threw Alonzo
over the staircase's railing, and Alonzo landed on his
back. Id. ¶ 113. The officers punched and
kicked Alonzo repeatedly, and Lockett placed him in a
chokehold. Id. ¶¶ 116, 123-24. After
Stephanie questioned the officers' actions, she was told
to “take [her] ass back in the house” or she
would be “taze[d].” Id. ¶ 119.
Eventually the officers handcuffed Alonzo, who by then was
bleeding from his nose. Id. 131, 137.
the incident, Alonzo received medical attention from
paramedics and was transported to the hospital. Defs.'
SMF ¶¶ 37, 39. Plaintiffs allege that Alonzo
suffered a concussion, broken nose, and a laceration above
his left eye that required stitches. Pls.' SMF ¶
142. The officers charged Alonzo with violating New York
Penal Law § 240.26(1) (“Harassment in the Second
Degree”), Penal Law § 240.20(1) and Criminal
Procedure Law § 530.11 (“Domestic Disorderly
Conduct”), and Penal Law § 205.30
(“Resisting Arrest”). Defs.' SMF ¶ 41.
On September 10, 2014, the Syracuse Criminal Court dismissed
these charges in the interest of justice pursuant to Penal
Law § 170.30. Id. ¶ 42; Dkt. No. 63-9, Ex.
G (“City Court File”) at 23.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instructs courts to
grant summary judgment if “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).
Although “[f]actual disputes that are irrelevant or
unnecessary” will not preclude summary judgment,
“summary judgment will not lie if . . . the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Taggart v.
Time, Inc., 924 F.2d 43, 46 (2d Cir. 1991) (“Only
when no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the
nonmoving party should summary judgment be granted.”).
party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing
the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those
portions of the record that the moving party claims will
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Similarly, a party is entitled to summary judgment when the
nonmoving party carries the ultimate burden of proof and has
failed “to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Id.
attempting to repel a motion for summary judgment after the
moving party has met its initial burden, the nonmoving party
“must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). At the same time, a court must
resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in
favor of the nonmoving party. Reeves v. Sanderson
Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000);
Nora Beverages, Inc. v. Perrier Grp. of Am., Inc.,
164 F.3d 736, 742 (2d Cir. 1998). Thus, a court's duty in
reviewing a motion for summary judgment is “carefully
limited” to finding genuine disputes of fact,
“not to deciding them.” Gallo v. Prudential
Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224
(2d Cir. 1994).
Alonzo's Claims Against Individual Officers
Section 1983 Claims
have brought this action pursuant to § 1983, which
provides a cause of action for anyone subjected “to the
deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured
by the Constitution and laws” by a person acting under
the color of state law. “Section 1983 itself creates no
substantive rights; it provides only a procedure for redress
for the deprivation of rights established elsewhere.”
Thomas v. Roach, 165 F.3d 137, 142 (2d Cir. 1999).
False Arrest and False Imprisonment
Fourth Amendment provides that “[t]he right of the
people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall
not be violated . . . .” U.S. Const. amend. IV;
accord Garenani v. County of Clinton, 552 F.Supp.2d
328, 333 (N.D.N.Y. 2008). “The unreasonable seizure of
a person in the form of a false arrest and imprisonment is
violative of the Fourth Amendment and actionable under §
1983.” Garenani, 552 F.Supp.2d at 333.
section 1983 claim for false arrest is substantially the same
as a claim for false arrest under New York law.”
Jenkins v. City of New York, 478 F.3d 76, 84 (2d
Cir. 2007) (citing Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852
(2d Cir. 1996)). Moreover, “[u]nder New York law, the
torts of false arrest and false imprisonment are
synonymous.” Fincher v. County of Westchester,
979 F.Supp. 989, 998 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing Posr v.
Doherty, 944 F.2d 91, 96 (2d Cir. 1991)). To prove the
elements of false arrest under New York law, a plaintiff must
show that “(1) the defendant intended to confine
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
privileged.” Garenani, 552 F.Supp.2d at 333
(quoting Bernard v. United States, 25 F.3d 98, 102
(2d Cir. 1994)).
existence of probable cause to arrest is a complete defense
to a claim of false arrest and imprisonment; in other words,
it renders the confinement privileged.” Id.
(citing Bernard, 25 F.3d at 102 and Weyant,
101 F.3d at 852). “In general, probable cause to arrest
exists when the officers have knowledge or reasonably
trustworthy information of facts and circumstances that are
sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the
belief that the person to be arrested has committed or is
committing a crime.” Weyant, 101 F.3d at 852.
“A district court must look to the ‘totality of
the circumstances' in deciding whether probable cause
exists to effect an arrest.” Caldarola v.
Calabrese, 298 F.3d 156, 162 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting
Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 233 (1983)).
there was not probable cause to arrest the plaintiff, the
defense of qualified immunity entitles public officials to
freedom from suit, as a result of the consequences of the
performance of their discretionary duties, when “(1)
their conduct does not violate clearly established
constitutional rights, or (2) it was objectively reasonable
for them to believe their acts did not violate those
rights.” Martinez v. Simonetti, 202 F.3d 625,
633-34 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Weyant, 101 F.3d at
857). Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense, and, as
such, defendants bear the burden of proving that the
privilege of qualified immunity applies. Coolick v.
Hughes, 699 F.3d 211, 219 (2d Cir. 2012). In considering
a qualified immunity defense, courts should not be
“concerned with the correctness of the defendants'
conduct, but rather the ‘objective reasonableness'
of their chosen course of action given the circumstances
confronting them at the scene.” Martinez, 202
F.3d at 634 (quoting Lennon v. Miller, 66 F.3d 416,
421 (2d Cir. 1995)).
the context of a qualified immunity defense to an allegation
of false arrest, the defending officer need only show
‘arguable' probable cause.”
Martinez, 202 F.3d at 634 (citing Lee v.
Sandberg, 136 F.3d 94, 103 (2d Cir. 1987)). “An
officer's determination is objectively
reasonable”-and thus, arguable probable cause is
demonstrated-when “officers of reasonable competence
could disagree on whether the probable cause test was
met.” Jenkins, 478 F.3d at 87 (quoting
Lennon, 66 F.3d at 423-24). As the Second Circuit
explained in Jenkins, “‘[a]rguable'
probable cause should not be misunderstood to mean
‘almost' probable cause . . . . If officers of
reasonable competence would have to agree that the
information possessed by the officer at the time of the
arrest did not add up to probable cause, the fact that it
came close does not immunize the officer.” Id.
brings claims for false arrest and false imprisonment
stemming from his arrest on June 28, 2014. Defendants
contend that the Arresting Officers had probable cause to
arrest Alonzo, and that therefore his false arrest claim must
be dismissed. Mem. 19-22. Defendants also contend that the
Arresting Officers' actions in arresting Alonzo are
shielded by qualified immunity. Id. at 23-24.
undisputed that the Arresting Officers: (1) intended to
confine Alonzo by arresting him; (2) Alonzo was conscious of
that confinement; and (3) Alonzo did not consent to his
confinement. Thus, the only issue in dispute is whether
Alonzo's confinement was privileged-in other words,
whether the officers had sufficient probable cause to arrest
Alonzo, or at least arguable probable cause such that the
their actions are shielded by qualified immunity.
outlined above, Plaintiffs and Defendants sharply dispute
what happened at the Grant Home on the evening of June 28,
2014. The Court concludes that summary judgment is
inappropriate on this claim, as there are material issues of
fact as to the circumstances surrounding Alonzo's arrest.
See Murphy v. Lynn, 118 F.3d 938, 947 (2d Cir. 1997)
(“Where the question of whether an arresting officer
had probable cause is predominantly factual in nature, as
where there is a dispute as to the pertinent events, the
existence vel non of probable cause is to be decided
by the jury.”); Yorzinski v. City of New York,
175 F.Supp.3d 69, 80 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) (denying defendants'
motion for summary judgment on false arrest claim since
“it is not clear from the record that [plaintiff] was,
in fact, ‘disorderly'”); Milfort v.
Prevete, 922 F.Supp.2d 398, 406 (S.D.N.Y. 2013)
(“If a jury were to credit Plaintiff's version of
events, it could conclude that the police lacked probable
cause to arrest Plaintiff.”).
to Plaintiffs, Alonzo and Stephanie had ceased arguing by the
time Lockett and Montalto arrived. Pls.' SMF ¶¶
79-80. Although Alonzo gesticulated while he spoke to
Stephanie about his desire for the house to be clean, he did
not yell or pace wildly. Id. ¶ 92. He also
pushed his storm door open against an iron railing, making a
noise, when he exited his home. Id. ¶ 108.
Viewing these facts in the light most favorable to Alonzo,
his conduct does not necessarily evidence the mens rea that
is required to violate Penal Law § 240.20 or Criminal
Procedure Law (“CPL”) §
disorderly conduct statute requires that the defendant act
with ‘intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance
or alarm' or with recklessness ‘creating a risk
thereof.'” Provost v. City of Newburgh,
262 F.3d 146, 158 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting § 240.20));
see also People v. Baker, 984 N.E.2d 902, 905 (N.Y.
2013) (“As is clear from precedent, critical to a
charge of disorderly conduct is a finding that
defendant's disruptive statements and behavior were of a
public rather than an individual dimension. This requirement
stems from the mens rea component . . . .”). Even under
Defendants' version of the events, in which Alonzo
violently flailed his arms at Stephanie and slammed open his
front door, Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 22-26, the officers
did not make any accusations “establishing the
proximity of that altercation to neighbors or other members
of the public such that [Alonzo's] actions could support
a logical inference that [he] acted with intent or
recklessness in regard to members of the public, ”
Sharon D. v. Dara K., 13 N.Y.S.3d 656, 659 (App.
Div. 2015) (finding that altercation between mother and
grandmother in the confines of great-aunt's home did not
illustrate requisite mens rea).
a reasonable jury could find that the Arresting Officers did
not have sufficient probable cause to arrest Alonzo for
disorderly conduct. See, e.g., Provost, 262
F.3d at 158 (holding that mens rea did not necessarily exist
when plaintiff “banged on the glass, ”
“hollered, ” and “yelled through the
window” inside a police station, since plaintiff wanted
to communicate with an officer); People v.
Pritchard, 265 N.E.2d 532, 533 (N.Y. 1970) (holding that
defendant, who fought with another teenager on the dance
floor of a crowded nightclub, did not necessarily intend to
cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, because the
fight was prompted by a personal insult); Kirsten G. v.
Melvin G. Sr., 39 N.Y.S.3d 460, 462 (App. Div. 2016)
(holding that defendant's “ranting and
raging” outside of her apartment door did not
constitute disorderly conduct because no evidence was
presented regarding proximity of neighbors or other members
of the public, or that her conduct could have caused public
Court also concludes that these issues of fact preclude a
determination that the Arresting Officers possessed arguable
probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, and therefore the Court
cannot determine whether their actions are protected by
qualified immunity. See, e.g., Thomas, 165
F.3d at 143 (“Summary judgment on qualified immunity
grounds is not appropriate when there are facts in dispute
that are material to a determination of
reasonableness.”); Oliveira v. Mayer, 23 F.3d
642, 649 (2d Cir. 1994) (“Though ‘[i]mmunity
ordinarily should be decided by the court, ' that is true
only in those cases where the facts concerning the
availability of the defense are undisputed; otherwise, jury
consideration is normally required.” (quoting
Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 228 (1991)). As
described above, there are material issues of fact as to
whether Alonzo's conduct prior to his arrest was
disorderly, and thus whether the Arresting Officers'
decision to arrest him was objectively reasonable. See
Milfort, 922 F.Supp.2d at 407 (“Under
Plaintiff's version [of the facts], his arrest was
entirely unprovoked. Under those circumstances, no reasonably
competent officer would have acted in the same way.”).
Defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to
Alonzo's false arrest and false imprisonment claims are
Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of unreasonable and
therefore excessive force by a police officer in the course
of effecting an arrest.” Tracy v. Freshwater,
623 F.3d 90, 96 (2d. Cir. 2010); see also Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394-95 (1989). The Court does not
evaluate the record in hindsight, but, instead, from the
“perspective of a reasonable officer on the
scene.” Graham, 490 U.S. at 396. The court
must carefully review the totality of the circumstances of
each particular case, considering: “(1) the nature of
and severity of the crime leading to the arrest, (2) whether
the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the
officer or others, and (3) whether the suspect was actively
resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by
flight.” Tracy, 623 F.3d at 96 (citing
Graham, 490 U.S. at 396). “Application of
physical force is excessive when it is more than is necessary
under the circumstances.” Brown v. City of New
York, No. 11-CV-1068, 2013 WL 491926, at *10 (S.D.N.Y.
Feb. 8, 2013) (citing Curry v. City of Syracuse, 316
F.3d 324, 332 (2d Cir. 2003)).
the need for such a fact-intensive inquiry, ‘granting
summary judgment against a plaintiff on an excessive force
claim is not appropriate unless no reasonable factfinder
could conclude that the officers' conduct was objectively
reasonable.'” Hill v. City of New York,
No. 03-CV-1283, 2005 WL 3591719, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 30,
2005) (quoting Amnesty America v. Town of West
Hartford, 361 F.3d 113, 123 (2d Cir. 2004)); see
also Greenaway v. County of Nassau, 97 F.Supp.3d 225,
235 (E.D.N.Y. 2015) (“Because objective reasonableness
is extremely fact-specific, summary judgment on the issue is
as described above, a significant dispute exists between the
parties regarding Alonzo's conduct prior to and during
the arrest. Accordingly, the Court finds that the
determination as to the objective reasonableness of the force
used is one to made by a jury following a trial. See
Jackson v. City of New York, 939 F.Supp.2d 235, 254
(E.D.N.Y. 2013) (finding that summary judgment was
inappropriate on the issue of excessive force because of the
significant dispute between plaintiff's and officers'
descriptions of the arrest and force used). Therefore,
Lockett and Montalto are not entitled to summary judgment on
Plaintiffs' excessive force claim, nor are they entitled
to qualified immunity. See Curry, 316 F.3d at 334
(“In this case it is impossible to ‘determine
whether the officers reasonably believed that their force was
not excessive when several material facts [are] still in
dispute, [and therefore] summary judgement on the basis of
qualified immunity [is] precluded.'” (quoting
Thomas, 165 F.3d at 144)); Milfort, 922
F.Supp.2d at 409 ...