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Towner v. County of Tioga

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 2, 2018

COUNTY OF TIOGA et al., Defendants.

          FOR THE PLAINTIFF: Office of Ronald R. Benjamin

          FOR THE DEFENDANTS: The Law Firm of Frank W. Miller



          Gary L. Sharpe Senior District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Russell Towner brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Tioga County, Kirk Martin, Patrick Hogan, Wayne Moulton, and C.J. Alexander. (2d Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 122.) He claims that his due process rights were violated and he was falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted after serving as a cooperating informant at defendants' behest. (Id. ¶¶ 42-58.) Pending is defendants' 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Towner's second amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 124.) For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. Background

         A. Facts[1]

         In March 2014, Towner was incarcerated in the Tioga County Jail with another inmate, David Nugent. (2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9-10.) Nugent informed Towner that he intended to kill an assistant district attorney, Cheryl Mancini, (id. ¶¶ 10-11), and solicited inmates including Towner to assist in his devious plan, (id. ¶ 12).

         Towner wrote Mancini and cautioned that Nugent intended to kill her. (Id. ¶ 13; Dkt. No. 72, Attach. 1 at 18-19.) After learning of this correspondence, Tioga County District Attorney Martin arranged for a meeting between Towner and investigators Hogan and Moulton. (2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15, 29.) Martin did not attend the meeting, which was held in early April 2014, [2] but it was recorded. (Id. ¶¶16-18.)

         During the meeting, “there was discussion” about having Towner lure Nugent into the jail library to discuss his plans while investigators secretly monitored the conversation.[3] (Id. ¶ 20.) Hogan assured Towner that he would be “‘acting as an agent of the police'” and that nothing he said or did could be used against him--a statement that Martin allegedly learned of. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 26.) Hogan directed Towner to “‘show [the investigators] [he] care[d] about this woman's life.'” (Id. ¶ 19.) And Moulton told Towner that they arranged for a correctional officer at the jail to serve as the middle man during the operation. (Id. ¶ 21.)

         Shortly thereafter, Towner successfully lured Nugent into the jail library and engaged him in a discussion about his threats against Mancini. (Id. ¶ 22.) About a week after the library encounter, Towner wrote Moulton and stated that he had no intention of being involved with Nugent's plans; he just wanted to get out of jail and move it on a little farther down the line. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) In an undated letter provided by defendants, Towner also asked Moulton to put him “in play” by letting him “pretend” to go along with Nugent's plans and allowing him to wear a “wire.” (Dkt. No. 72, Attach. 1 at 21.) Towner had no further communication with defendants until Nugent's wife bailed him out of jail on May 8, 2014. (2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 25, 27; Dkt. No. 133 at 3.)

         Upon Towner's release, Hogan asked him to participate in an interview with the sheriff's department. (Id. ¶ 28.) At some point, “Martin, Hogan, and Moulton made a joint decision or otherwise acquiesced in [Towner] being arrested for [conspiracy in the second degree].” (Id. ¶ 30.) Investigator Alexander, who previously met with “Hogan and/or others involved in the investigation, ” arrested Towner that same day. (Id. ¶¶ 33-36, 46.) When “Hogan was asked what facts he had to support a reasonable belief that [Towner] engaged in conduct [constituting conspiracy in the second degree, ] [he] admitted he had no facts other than his own belief [that] [Towner] was a disreputable person.” (Id. ¶ 32.) On November 5, 2015, the charges against Towner were dismissed. (Id. ¶ 37.)

         B. Procedural History

         Towner commenced this action in Tioga County Supreme Court alleging various claims under state law, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 18 U.S.C. § 242.[4] (Compl., Dkt. No. 2.) Thereafter, defendants removed the lawsuit to this court. (Dkt. No. 1.) Towner eventually retained counsel, (Dkt. No. 38), and filed an amended complaint, (Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 67). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Towner's amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 72.) In response, Towner filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint again to add a claim that he “inadvertently omitted.” (Dkt. No. 99.) After carefully considering the parties' arguments, the court dismissed Towner's negligence claims and his state law claims against all defendants in their official capacities. (Dkt. No. 111 at 1 n.1.) The court denied the remainder of defendants' motion to dismiss with leave to renew and gave Towner “one last opportunity to amend his complaint.” (Id. at 2.) Subsequently, Towner filed a second amended complaint, [5] (Dkt. No. 122), and defendants' pending motion to dismiss soon followed, (Dkt. No. 124).

         III. Standard of Review

         The standard of review under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is well settled and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its prior decision in Ellis v. Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP, 701 F.Supp.2d 215, 218 (N.D.N.Y. 2010).

         IV. Discussion

         A. Papers Considered

         In determining a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court may consider the complaint, any exhibit attached to the complaint, materials incorporated by reference, and documents that are integral to the complaint. See Sira v. Morton, 380 F.3d 57, 67 (2d Cir. 2004). A document is integral to the complaint if the complaint “relies heavily upon its terms and effect.” Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Towner's response relies on materials outside the four corners of the complaint, which he fails to sufficiently demonstrate were integral to the complaint or relied upon in drafting it.[6] As such, and for the reasons stated in defendants' reply, (Dkt. No. 137 at 2-4), these materials are excluded from the court's analysis at this stage. Defendants also attempt to draw the court's attention to documents outside the complaint. (Dkt. No. 124, Attach. 1 at 3-4.) However, because defendants have ...

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