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Matthews v. County of Cayuga

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 18, 2018

TYRONE MATTHEWS, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF CAYUGA, et al., Defendants.

          OFFICE OF JARROD W. SMITH Counsel for Plaintiff

          JARROD W. SMITH, ESQ.

          ORDER AND REPORT-RECOMMENDATION I.INTRODUCTION

          THÉRÈSE WILEY DANCKS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         On September 8, 2017, Plaintiff Tyrone Matthews filed a counseled civil rights complaint, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants County of Cayuga, Cayuga County Sheriff's Department, Cayuga County District Attorney's Office, Cayuga County District Attorney Jon E. Budelmann, Cayuga County Senior Assistant District Attorney Christopher Valdina, City of Auburn, and Auburn City Police Department, along with an application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP Application”). (Dkt. Nos. 1, 2.) On September 28, 2017, Plaintiff's IFP application was denied without prejudice. (Dkt. No. 4.) Plaintiff filed a second IFP Application on October 5, 2017. (Dkt. No. 5.)

         By Order and Report-Recommendation filed November 27, 2017, the undersigned granted Plaintiff's second IFP Application but upon initial review of the complaint recommended that (1) Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against Cayuga County District Attorney's Office, District Attorney Budelmann, Senior Assistant District Attorney Valdina, Cayuga County Sheriff's Department, and Auburn City Police Department be dismissed with prejudice; (2) Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the County of Cayuga and City of Auburn be dismissed without prejudice; and (3) the District Court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims. (Dkt. No. 6.) As to the claims against Budelmann and Valdina, this Court determined they were entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity. Id. at 12-13.

         After being granted two extensions of time in which to submit his objections to the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10), Plaintiff's counsel indicated he would not be filing objections and instead, by letter motion January 24, 2018, requested permission to file an amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 11.) Plaintiff's letter motion was granted as a matter of right. (Dkt. No. 12.)

         On February 3, 2018, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint (Dkt. No. 13), which rendered moot the findings and recommendations made by this Court regarding Plaintiff's original complaint. (Dkt. No. 15.) Accordingly, on February 13, 2018, the Hon. Mae A. D'Agostino, United States District Judge, rejected the Report-Recommendation as moot and referred the amended complaint for initial review. Id. Also before the Court is Plaintiff's February 5, 2018, letter motion to appoint the United States Marshal to serve the summons and amended complaint upon all Defendants. (Dkt. No. 14.)

         II. INITIAL REVIEW

         Having found that Plaintiff meets the financial criteria for commencing this case in forma pauperis, the Court must consider the sufficiency of the allegations set forth in the amended complaint in light of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). Section 1915(e) directs that when a plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).

         In determining whether an action is frivolous, the court must look to see whether the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “An action is frivolous when either: (1) the factual contentions are clearly baseless such as when the claims are the product of delusion or fantasy; or (2) the claim is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Livingston v. Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434, 437 (2d Cir. 1998) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must plead enough facts to state a claim that is “plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). While Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which sets forth the general rules of pleading, “does not require detailed factual allegations, . . . it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In determining whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted, “the court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true and construe all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.” Hernandez v. Coughlin, 18 F.3d 133, 136 (2d Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). “[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.

         III. AMENDED COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff's amended complaint seeks unspecified money damages for conspiracy, false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Dkt. No. 13.) Generally, Plaintiff claims he was “accused of being a drug dealer when he was not. Plaintiff was a drug addict and was nothing more than an agent of a drug dealer.” Id. at ¶ 31. In addition to original Defendants County of Cayuga and City of Auburn, new Defendants are City of Auburn police officers Jeffrey Catalfano, Matthew Androsko, David Edmonds, Andrew Penczek, Andrew Skardinski, and Timothy Spingler (together, “law enforcement officers”), along with Shawn I. Butler, Chief of the Auburn Police Department. Id. at ¶¶ 9, 10, 15-22. Unfortunately, as explained by Judge D'Agostino, despite this Court's previous Report-Recommendation, Plaintiff's counsel has again included claims against Defendants Budelmann and Valdina, including that they failed to instruct the grand jury on a potential affirmative defense. Id. at ¶¶ 13, 14, 62; Dkt. No. 15.

         On September 23, 2015, non-party former Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Domachowski presented the charges of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree Penal Law § 220.339(1) (two counts), Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree Penal Law § 220.16(1) (two counts), and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree Penal Law § 220.03 (two counts) to a Cayuga County Grand Jury. Id. at ¶ 28. Plaintiff alleges Budelmann and Valdina ordered Domachowski to present the case to grand jury without presenting the agency doctrine. Id. at ¶¶ 41, 46.

         On September 30, 2015, Plaintiff entered the Cayuga County Jail. Id. at ¶ 29. He was arraigned on Sealed Indictment Number 2015-144 for the above-referenced crimes. Id. On July 7, 2016, Plaintiff was also indicted and arraigned on Sealed Indictment Number 2016-096 for the alleged crime of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree Penal Law § 220.03. Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiff claims the felony charges were made maliciously and without probable cause. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges the law enforcement officers “did not have probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for the felony charges knowing that he was an agent not a dealer.” Id. at ¶ 31. Plaintiff claims Butler trained and supervised the law enforcement officers and “exercised and delegated his municipal ...


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