United States District Court, N.D. New York
JAMES P. MHINA, Plaintiff,
ANTHONY COLAVITA et al., Defendants.
THE PLAINTIFF: James P. Mhina Pro se
THE DEFENDANTS: City of Syracuse Corporation Counsel
CHRISTINA F. DeJOSEPH, ESQ.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
L. SHARPE SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.
pro se James P. Mhina brings claims under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1981, 1983, and New York State common law
against defendants Anthony Colavita and David Buske, City of
Syracuse Police Officers. (2d Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 24.)
Before the court are Mhina's motion for summary judgment,
(Dkt. No. 201), and defendants' cross motion for summary
judgment, (Dkt. No. 202). For the reasons that follow,
Mhina's motion is denied and defendants' motion is
2007-2008, Officer Buske was assigned to the financial crimes
section within the Criminal Investigations Division of the
Syracuse Police Department (SPD). (Defs.' Statement of
Material Facts (SMF) ¶ 2, Dkt. No. 202, Attach. 2.)
During this time, Officer Buske filed two separate felony
criminal complaints against Mhina. (Id. ¶ 3.)
Buske filed the first felony criminal complaint in December
2007, because Mhina attempted to cash a fraudulent check at a
Citizens Bank in Syracuse, New York. (Id. ¶ 4.)
This complaint was based on the affidavit of John Cruise, a
corporate security employee at Citizens Bank. (Id.
¶ 5.) Specifically, Mhina deposited a check for $494,
620.00, which was returned to Citizens Bank several days
later. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 13.) Mhina then went to
a different Citizens Bank branch and deposited a check in the
amount of $494, 620.00, which was drawn from a J.P. Morgan
Chase Bank. (Id. ¶ 14.) Thereafter, J.P. Morgan
Chase informed Cruise that the check was never issued by the
Bank and should be considered counterfeit. (Id.
¶ 15.) Cruise's documentation of Mhina's
attempts to cash these fraudulent checks was received by the
SPD, which led to Officer Buske's filing of the December
2007 complaint against Mhina. (Id. ¶¶ 10,
Buske filed the second felony criminal complaint in February
2008 because Mhina attempted to cash a fraudulent check for
$113, 260.50 at a Bank of America in Syracuse, New York.
(Id. ¶ 6.) This complaint was based on the
affidavit of Henry Heisey, Director of Special Investigations
Unit at Life of the South Insurance Corporation (LOTS), and
the affidavit of Amy Bidwell, a manager at the Bank of
America in Syracuse. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.)
According to Heisey, Bidwell had provided information to LOTS
regarding Mhina's production and deposit of a LOTS check
for $113, 260.50, noting that the check was counterfeit and
that the account from which the check was to be drawn from
was closed. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 20.) The Financial
Crimes Unit received this information from Heisey, which,
along with Bidwell's affidavit, led to Officer
Buske's filing of the February 2008 complaint against
Mhina. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 22.)
December 14, 2007, Officer Buske went to Mhina's
workplace and asked Mhina to answer questions about the
allegations relating to the counterfeit checks. (Id.
¶ 23.) Mhina signed a “Statement Cover
Sheet” that informed Mhina of his Miranda
rights and he voluntarily answered questions. (Id.
¶¶ 24, 25.) In doing so, Mhina admitted to
depositing the counterfeit checks because he thought
“it was an easy way to get some money.”
(Id. ¶ 25.) Mhina also admitted that he was
giving “his statement knowing that [he was] going to
be criminally charged.” (Id. ¶ 26.)
Colavita and Buske arrested Mhina on February 4, 2008, during
which time Mhina alleges that Officers Colavita and Buske
used a racial slur. (Id. ¶¶ 27, 35.) A
grand jury indicted Mhina on nine counts relating to the
forged checks. (Id. ¶ 28.) Following a jury
trial in Onondaga County Criminal Court in Syracuse, Mhina
was found guilty of six counts charged, including falsifying
business records in the first degree and criminal possession
of a forged instrument in the second degree. (Id.
¶ 29.) On appeal, the Fourth Department, Appellate
Division reversed Mhina's conviction and granted a new
trial based on a violation of Molinuex.
(Id. ¶ 31); People v. Mhina, 110
A.D.3d 1445, 1446-47 (4th Dep't 2017).
filed this action on March 20, 2015. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.)
After various dismissals, (Dkt. Nos. 11, 22, 115, 175), the
only defendants remaining are Officers Colavita and Buske,
and Mhina's only remaining claims are a false arrest
claim under New York State law, malicious prosecution claims