The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDA WOLFSON, Magistrate Judge
This matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary
Judgment of Defendant Salem County Prosecutors Office ("SCPO"),
John Doe Investigators (1-5), and John Doe Prosecutors (1-5)
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.*fn1 Plaintiff Anthony
Massari asserts claims for violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as a common law claim of
"negligence." This Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1367. For the
reasons discussed herein, the Court grants the Defendants' Motion
in its entirety.
This case arises out of the May 2, 2001 Indictment of Plaintiff
by the Salem County Grand Jury on two counts of third degree
theft in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3. Exh. B to Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl. Exh."). The Indictment charged
Mr. Massari with unlawfully taking or exercising unlawful control
over the moveable property of T.E. Warren, Incorporated ("Warren
Inc."), with a value of more than $500.00, on or about February
2, 2001, and February 20, 2001. Id. at 4:5-23. Plaintiff filed
the instant Complaint on May 2, 2003, claiming that SCPO falsely
and maliciously prosecuted Plaintiff even though it knew or
should have known that there was no probable cause to indict him,
and that neither he nor his counsel were made aware of the grand
jury proceedings nor given the opportunity to testify.
Warren, Inc., a crane rental business, was owned by Mr.
Threaston E. Warren, Jr. Plaintiff entered into an Asset Purchase
Agreement ("Agreement") with Warren on April 7, 2000. Def. Exh.
A1. Pursuant to the Agreement, Plaintiff paid $500,000 for real
property in Pennsville Township owned by Mr. Warren, and some of
the equipment that was on the property. Id. at ¶ 1.2; ¶ 3.1.
Paragraph 13.1 of the Agreement provides that the Agreement and
the other instruments executed by the parties in connection with
the transaction "constitute the sole understanding of the parties
with respect to the subject matter hereof," and that "[n]o amendment, modification, or alteration of the terms or provisions
of this Agreement shall be binding unless the same shall be in
writing and duly executed by the parties hereto." Id. at ¶
13.1. Despite this provision, Warren claims that there was a
subsequent "Gentleman's Agreement" which stipulated that Warren
could leave some of his equipment on the property for up to a
year. Pl. Exh. B at 10:5-19. In addition, Warren claims that he
agreed to rent some of this non-purchased equipment remaining on
the property to Plaintiff at Plaintiff's request. Id. at
14:6-7. Warren retained possession of a parcel of land
immediately adjacent to the property that he sold to Plaintiff,
and therefore was able to observe activities taking place on
Plaintiff's land. Pl. Exh. E at 6:10-13; 14:20-22.
In the months following the Agreement, Warren began removing
some of his property. Id. at 11:18-19. Warren claimed, however,
that Plaintiff ceased to allow Warren access to the property to
remove the rest of his equipment beginning in November 2000.
Id. at 35:12-18. Warren believed that Plaintiff was stealing
the equipment that Warren was not allowed to remove, and was
selling it for scrap. Warren testified before the Grand Jury that
on February 2, 2001, approximately 20-25 aluminum vaporizers,
worth over $5,000.00, had been removed from Plaintiff's property,
and was "concerned" that they were sold for scrap. Id. at
Shortly thereafter, Warren observed a dumpster on Massari's
property which allegedly contained crane parts owned by Warren.
Id. at 21:3-10. On Februrary 20, 2001, Warren observed the
dumpster being hauled off the property. He immediately contacted
Charles Miller, Chief of Detectives at the Salem County
Prosecutor's Office, to report that employees of Plaintiff were
loading his property into a dumpster, and that he wanted to sign
complaints for these activities. Pl. Exh. D at 10:3-19. Miller
testified that he advised Warren to contact the Pennsville Police Department, but did not recall contacting the
Police Department himself. Id. 10:22-11:2; 13:1; 14:11-12.
After calling Miller, Warren called the Pennsville Police
Department and reported that he had flagged down a truck hauling
a dumpster that contained property that he believed had been
stolen from him, and Officer Greg Acton was sent to investigate.
Pl. Exh. B at 22:21-23; Pl. Exh. C at 19:3-15. Acton testified
that Miller also had called the Pennsville Police Department to
respond to the scene. Id. at 23:5-11. Acton testified that soon
after he arrived, Detective Cummings from the Pennsville Police
Department also came to the scene, as well as Chief Miller. Id.
at 22:17-21. Miller testified at his deposition that he went to
the location where the truck was stopped, approximately a mile
and a half from the properties owned by Warren and Massari. Id.
at 30:24-31:6. Miller did not recall whether he stopped by out of
curiosity, or whether he "stumble[d]" upon it, but did not come
to the Massari property to conduct an investigation, and took no
official action at the scene. Id. at 11:5-17; 12:12-13:1. The
investigation was under the control of the Pennsville Police
Department at all times, and Miller was on the scene "for two
minutes at the most." Id. at 21:20-21; Pl. Exh. H at 72:17-18.
Acton testified that although he believed that the dispute
constituted a civil matter, and would therefore not sign a
criminal complaint himself, Warren was "adamant" about signing a
complaint. Id. at 32:8-16; 34:8-21. Acton therefore escorted
Warren to the clerk's office, where Warren signed complaints
relating to the equipment in the dumpster and the February 2,
2001 incident. Id. at 34:20-21; Pl. Exh. B at 23:6-7. Acton
served the Complaint on Massari that day. Pl. Exh. C at 38:20.
Mr. Massari came to the police station, where he was
fingerprinted and photographed because the charges were
indictable. Id. at 40:5-6. At that time, he told Massari that the complaint would be forwarded to the SCPO for
presentation to the Grand Jury, and that he should contact his
attorney. Id. at 40:8-20. Miller became aware of the complaints
being filed when Massari was arrested. Id. at 22:23-23:3.
Jon Reilly, an assistant prosecutor, presented the case against
Massari to a Grand Jury on May 2, 2001. Pl. Exh A; Pl. Exh. F at
9:9-10. Reilly was given the file on the morning that he
presented the case to the Grand Jury. Pl. Exh. F at 10:4-5. The
case had been screened by the First Assistant Prosecutor, William
Brennan, before being handed to Mr. Reilly. Brennan testified
that in a case in which the alleged victim, rather than a police
officer, is the one who files the complaint, it would still be
sufficient to present a case to the Grand Jury based only upon
the police report and the testimony of the police officer and the
alleged victim. Pl. Exh. H. at 29:19-20. However, it is SCPO
protocol that if an attorney indicates that his or her client
wants to testify in front of the Grand Jury, a note is made in
the file to have the defendant come in and testify. Pl. Exh. H at
11:3-7. Plaintiff testified that Christine Campbell, his attorney
at the time of the indictment, told him on the day of the
indictment that she had tried earlier that day to get Plaintiff
to testify in front of the Grand Jury that afternoon, but had not
been allowed to do so. Pl. Exh. E at 84:20-23.
Plaintiff also alleges that although his Counsel sent
correspondence to SCPO dated July 23, 2001, as well as filing two
Motions to Dismiss dated October 9, 2001 and November 9, 2001,
respectively, which allegedly contained proof that the alleged
stolen property did not belong to Mr. Warren, the SCPO did not
immediately dismiss the indictment. The Indictment was dismissed
by The Hon. William L. Forester, J.S.C., on December 17, 2001. II. DISCUSSION
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue
as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A genuine issue of
material fact is one that will permit a reasonable jury to return
a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To show that a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the nonmoving party may not rest upon mere
allegations, but must present actual evidence in support thereof.
Id. at 249 (citing First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Svc.
Co., 391 U.S. 253, 290 (1968)). In evaluating the evidence, the
Court must "view the inferences to be drawn from the ...