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Mateo v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 26, 2018

THE CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.


          LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Allyson Mateo initiated this action against the City of New York and Detectives Michael Carinha, “John” Bello, and “John” Rosario (collectively, “Defendants”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in 2014, asserting false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, denial of a fair trial, and related state law claims. On March 31, 2015, the parties stipulated to a voluntary dismissal of Plaintiff's federal false arrest and false imprisonment claims against all Defendants, and all of Plaintiff's state law claims against the City of New York. The stipulation recites that “[t]he parties . . . agree that the only remaining claims are for malicious prosecution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against THE CITY OF NEW YORK AND Detectives CARINHA, BELLOW, AND ROSARIO, and for false arrest and false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, common law negligence, and malicious prosecution arising under New York State law, against Defendants CARINHA, BELLO AND ROSARIO.” (Docket entry no. 5.) Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on October 13, 2015, asserting only a claim for “Deprivation of Federal Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983” against all of the Defendants, a malicious prosecution claim against the Defendant City, and a claim for “Denial of Constitutional Right to Fair Trial Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983” against all of the Defendants. (Docket entry no. 18, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 29-45.)

         On March 3, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's remaining claims. (Docket entry no. 40, the “Motion.”) In response to the Motion, Plaintiff voluntarily discontinued his malicious prosecution claim against Defendant Bello and his Monell[1] municipal liability claim against the Defendant City. The Court has jurisdiction of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions carefully and, for the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         The following facts are material to this motion practice and are undisputed unless otherwise indicated. On July 26, 2011, Plaintiff Allyson Mateo, the owner of a 2004 Lincoln LS, entered his car to drive to the Butler-Webster housing projects in the Bronx with three friends, including an individual named Kendall Thompson. (Docket entry no. 41, Defs. Local R. 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Facts (“Defs. 56.1 Stmt.”) ¶¶ 1, 5.[2]) Mateo's friends had bags with them, so Mateo opened the trunk of his vehicle and his friends placed their bags inside the trunk. (Id. ¶ 6.) Mateo and his friends drove to the Bronx and Mateo parked his vehicle on the street in the vicinity of 171st Street and Webster Avenue. (Id. ¶ 8.) Mateo opened the trunk, and his friends walked to the rear of the vehicle to retrieve their bags. (Id. ¶ 9.) Mateo did not observe his friends retrieving their bags, and subsequently locked the car. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 11.) Mateo and his friends then walked to the Butler-Webster houses and met with an individual named Daquan Palmer, whom Mateo had never met before that day. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 13.) Shortly thereafter, Thompson informed Mateo that he needed to retrieve something from Mateo's car, which was parked approximately one street away. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 15.) Mateo walked back towards his car with Thompson, Palmer, and another individual. (Id. ¶ 17.) Mateo unlocked the car for Thompson with a remote, and then left Thompson and Palmer with his unlocked car while he walked back to the Butler-Webster houses with the unnamed individual. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 21.) Mateo did not observe Thompson or Palmer retrieve any items from his car. (Id. ¶ 20.)

         Detective Michael Carinha was on duty and sitting alone in the driver's seat of a grey Mazda 6 parked on Webster Avenue, two cars behind Mateo's car. (Id. ¶ 16.) Carinha observed Thompson walk to the back of Mateo's car, look around numerous times, and then open the trunk. (Id. ¶ 22.) Carinha observed Thompson remove a bag from the trunk of Mateo's car, look around again, close the trunk, and walk to Palmer, who was standing on the sidewalk next to the mid-section of Mateo's car. (Id. ¶ 23.) Carinha observed Palmer hand Thompson a sum of money. (Id. ¶ 24.) Carinha then saw Thompson enter the front passenger seat of Mateo's car with the bag, while Palmer entered the rear passenger side. (Id. ¶ 25.) At that point, Carinha radioed Defendants Bello and Rosario to come to the scene. (Id. ¶ 26.) As Thompson and Palmer exited Mateo's vehicle, Carinha, Bello, and Rosario approached and stopped Thompson and Palmer. (Id. ¶ 27.) Carinha observed the bag Thompson had removed from the trunk on the rear floor of Mateo's car. (Id. ¶ 29.) Carinha recovered the bag and found a loaded gun inside. (Id. ¶ 30.) Thompson and Palmer were arrested and searched, and a quantity of drugs was found on them. (Id. ¶ 31.) Carinha attempted to access the trunk of Mateo's car, but could not because it was locked. (Id. ¶ 33.) Carinha vouchered the gun as arrest evidence. (Id. ¶ 34.)

         Mateo then returned to the area where his car was parked. (Id. ¶ 35.) Mateo informed Carinha that he owned the car, that it was registered in his name, and that he had the keys. (Id. ¶¶ 37, 38.) Mateo gave Carinha his license and the keys to the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 39.) Carinha then arrested Mateo. (Id. ¶ 40.) Carinha searched Mateo's car and reported that he found a quantity of marijuana and cocaine in the glove compartment. (Id. ¶ 41; see also docket entry no. 60-7, DA Data Sheet.) Carinha vouchered the drugs as arrest evidence and property of Mateo. (Docket entry no. 42-3, NYPD Property Clerk Voucher, Invoice No. 2000010444.) Mateo, who acknowledges that others had been in his car in his absence, nonetheless denies that there was marijuana and cocaine in the glove compartment of his car. (Docket entry no. 62, Pls. Resp. to Defs. 56.1 Stmt. (“Pls. Resp.”) ¶¶ 25, 41; docket entry no. 60-1, Mateo Dep. at 104:13-24.)

         Mateo was arraigned on July 27, 2011, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York on charges of criminal possession of a weapon in the second, third, and fourth degrees, possession of ammunition, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, and unlawful possession of marijuana. (Defs. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 42; docket entry no. 60-2, Criminal Compl. at 1.) In the criminal complaint, which was signed and sworn to by Carinha, Carinha alleged that Mateo had been standing near the hood of his car while Thompson removed the bag from the trunk of the car, got into the car, and exited the car without the bag. (Criminal Compl. at 2.) The unsigned, unattributed “DA Data Sheet” also includes an assertion that Mateo was at the hood of the car during Thompson's transaction. The criminal complaint also includes Carinha's assertions that he “observed” the gun in the bag and the drugs “in defendant['s] custody and control.” (Id.) A grand jury subsequently indicted Mateo on a single charge of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. (Defs. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 44.) On August 19, 2013, after a hearing, evidence of the gun found in Mateo's car was suppressed and the sole charge against Mateo was dismissed. (Id. ¶ 46.) Mateo, who had not been able to make bail, was held in custody for over two years until the charges against him were dismissed. (Id. ¶ 43; Opp. at 4.)


         Defendants have moved for summary judgment as to all of Mateo's claims. Summary judgment is warranted if “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). Material facts are those that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and a genuine dispute exists where “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Rojas v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, 660 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court must “construe all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all inferences and resolving all ambiguities in its favor.” Dickerson v. Napolitano, 604 F.3d 732, 740 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

         Mateo does not dispute that his malicious prosecution claim is only pled against the City of New York and that he has proffered no evidence to support municipal liability on that claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but argues that this Court should “deem the malicious prosecution claim to be against all defendants.” (Opp. at 18.) Mateo also argues that factual disputes preclude summary judgment on his malicious prosecution and fair trial claims. Mateo principally contends that two material facts are genuinely in dispute. First, Mateo disputes the veracity of certain statements in a “DA Data Sheet” and criminal complaint signed and sworn to by Carinha, which assert that Mateo was standing at the hood of the car when Thompson removed a bag from the trunk of Mateo's car. (See Criminal Compl. at 2; DA Data Sheet.) Mateo contends that Carinha lied to the District Attorney's office by making these statements, and points to contrary testimony suggesting he was not standing at the hood of his car. (See Opp. at 9; Mateo Dep. at 50:23-51:4, 51:21-23, 52:13-23; docket entry no. 60-5, Carinha Dep. 29:10-18; docket entry no. 60-6, Rosario Dep. 56:7-10.) On the basis of this record, Mateo asserts that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the prosecution was based on fabricated evidence regarding his connection with the firearm that was taken from the trunk of the car. Second, Mateo asserts that there were no narcotics in the glove compartment of his car, and argues that any statements made by Carinha to that effect are also fabrications. (Opp. at 9; Criminal Compl. at 2; DA Data Sheet.) Mateo does not contest, however, that in July of 2011, he was the only person who drove his car, and the only person who had keys to his car. (Pls. Resp. ¶¶ 3, 4.) Mateo also does not contest that the trunk of his car could not be opened from the exterior without the remote trunk release if the car was locked. (Id. ¶ 7.) Finally, Mateo does not dispute that he had left Thompson and Palmer with his unlocked car, that Carinha saw Thompson enter the front passenger seat of the car, or that the marijuana and cocaine found by Carinha were vouchered. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 25, 41; see also NYPD Property Clerk Voucher, Invoice No. 2000010444.)

         A. Malicious Prosecution

         Defendants argue that Mateo's malicious prosecution claim, which was pled only against Defendant City of New York, must be dismissed because Mateo has failed to adduce any evidence to establish a claim for municipal liability under Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). (Motion at 5.) In response to this argument, Plaintiff voluntarily dismisses his Monell claims against the City, but argues that the malicious prosecution claim should be treated as having been asserted against the individual Defendants. (Opp. at 18-20.) Defendants also argue that any amendment of Mateo's malicious prosecution claim to include the individual Defendants at this stage is both untimely and futile because Mateo cannot establish the elements of his malicious prosecution claim as to the individual Defendants. (Motion at 5-14; docket entry no. 67, Defs. Reply (the “Reply”) at 2-4.) Finally, the individual Defendants contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity with respect to Mateo's malicious prosecution claim.

         Because Mateo's malicious prosecution claim is only pled against the City of New York, the Court construes Mateo's request to “deem the malicious prosecution claim to be against all defendants, ” as a request for leave to amend that claim to assert it instead against individual Defendants Carinha and Rosario.[3] Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that leave to amend should be freely granted when justice so requires. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). While granting or denying such leave is within the discretion of the district court, Reisner v. General Motors Corp., 511 F.Supp. 1167, 1171 (S.D.N.Y. 1981), leave to amend will generally be granted unless: (1) there is evidence of undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, or repeated failures to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed; (2) allowing amendment would cause undue prejudice to the opposing party; or (3) the amendment would be futile. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). “Leave to amend may be denied on grounds of futility if the proposed amendment fails to state a legally cognizable claim or fails to raise triable issues of fact.” AEP Energy Servs. Gas ...

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