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Ozzborn v. State

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 22, 2018

THOMAS OZZBORN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE STATE OF NEW YORK; THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND COMMUNITY SUPERVISION; and MATTHEW CORNELL, Corrections Officer, Individually and in his Official Capacity, Defendants.

          RUBENSTEIN & RYNECKI ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF

          OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANTS

          SCOTT E. RYNECKI, ESQ. AIMEE M. COWAN, AAG

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On September 19, 2017, Plaintiff Thomas Ozzborn ("Plaintiff"), a former inmate housed at the Auburn Correctional Facility ("Auburn CF"), filed a complaint in the Northern District of New York, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1367, against Defendants Corrections Officer Matthew Cornell, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), and the State of New York (collectively, "Defendants"). See Dkt. No. 1. Currently before the Court are Defendants' motion to dismiss all claims against the State of New York and DOCCS (collectively, the "State Defendants"), see Dkt. No. 11, and Defendants' motion to dismiss all state law claims against Defendant Cornell, see Dkt. No. 17, both pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss all claims against the State Defendants is granted and Defendants' motion to dismiss all state law claims against Defendant Cornell is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On May 7, 2015, Plaintiff had a dispute with Defendant Cornell. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 10. After the dispute, Defendant Cornell threatened Plaintiff, stating "I'll see you later." Id. On May 9, 2015, Defendant Cornell singled out Plaintiff for a "random" pat frisk. See Id. at ¶ 12. Prior to conducting the frisk, Defendant Cornell claimed that Plaintiff said there was a weapon in his right shoe. See Id. at ¶ 13. Defendant Cornell then claimed that he found a 3 ½ inch sharpened tweezer prong in Plaintiff's right shoe and that Plaintiff admitted the weapon was his. See Id. at ¶¶ 13-14. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Cornell lied about the admission and placed the weapon in his shoe. See id.

         On account of the weapon, Plaintiff was sent to solitary confinement for thirty days. See Id. at ¶ 15. DOCCS held a disciplinary hearing on May 14, 2015, and May 28, 2015. See Id. at ¶ 16. Although Plaintiff maintained his innocence throughout the hearing, he was found guilty solely on the basis of Defendant Cornell's allegations and transferred to the Cayuga County Correctional Facility Special Housing Unit ("SHU") where he spent seven additional months in solitary confinement. See Id. at ¶¶ 16-17.

         On January 27, 2016, Plaintiff was released from solitary confinement and was set to be released on parole for his underlying conviction. See id. at ¶ 19. However, before he had the opportunity to exit the prison, he was arrested on a charge stemming from the May 9, 2015 incident and transferred to the Cayuga County Jail to await trial. See Id. at ¶¶ 19-20. Faced with a possible sentence of fifteen years to life, Plaintiff pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two-to-four years. See Id. at ¶¶ 21-23. On August 12, 2016, Plaintiff appealed his conviction. See Id. at ¶ 24.

         In December 2016, the Inspector General for DOCCS raided Auburn CF and uncovered multiple items of contraband in the possession of prison guards. See Id. at ¶ 26. Defendant Cornell allegedly admitted to the Cayuga County District Attorney that he had planted at least one weapon on an inmate. See Id. at ¶ 27. The District Attorney provided this information to Plaintiff's counsel and the judge presiding over Plaintiff's appeal, stating that he had "recently learned of an infirmity regarding the credibility" of Defendant Cornell and that "his office would not oppose any motion . . . to vacate the previously entered plea and sentence." Id. at ¶¶ 28-29.

         After receiving this letter, Plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss his conviction and indictment. See Id. at ¶ 30. On January 18, 2017, Justice Thomas G. Leone vacated Plaintiff's conviction. See Id. at ¶ 31. Plaintiff was released from DOCCS's custody on February 9, 2017. See id.

         On September 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed this complaint asserting seven causes of action for violations of state law and constitutional rights: (1) false arrest and false imprisonment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Cornell, see Id. at ¶¶ 33-48; (2) false arrest and false imprisonment under New York State law against all Defendants, see Id. at ¶¶ 48-54; (3) denial of the right to a fair trial pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Cornell, see Id. at ¶¶ 55-60; (4) common law assault against all Defendants, see Id. at ¶¶ 61-64; (5) common law battery against all Defendants, see Id. at ¶¶ 65-69; (6) municipal liability against the State Defendants, see Id. at ¶¶ 70-74; and (7) negligent hiring, retention, training, and supervision against the State Defendants, see Id. at ¶¶ 75-79. On November 6, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss all claims against the State Defendants for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) (the "State Defendants' Motion"). See Dkt. No. 11. On December 11, 2017, Defendant Cornell filed a second motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Dkt. No. 17. Defendant Cornell's motion argues that the Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims against him. See Id. at 5. On January 11, 2018, Plaintiff filed a response agreeing that the State Defendants must be dismissed, but arguing that the state law claims against Defendant Cornell should be permitted to proceed in part. See Dkt. No. 18 at 1.[1]

         III. ...


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