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Rogers v. Henry

December 23, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle


Pro Se Plaintiff, Frank Rogers, brought this cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 and New Jersey law, in connection with his arrest and prosecution for a drug related offense. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in the Atlantic County Jail, Mays Landing, New Jersey.

Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c), Fed. R. Civ. P., brought by Defendants Sr. Deon D. Henry, Sgt. Dennis McKelvey, Det. John Campo, Capt. Stephen G. Parris and the City of Ocean City. Plaintiff and Defendants have filed briefs and responses in opposition to and in support of the motion, respectfully. [Docket Items 120, 130 133, 136 and 139]. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion will be granted.

I. Background

In May of 2000, Defendant Deborah Moore came to the Ocean City Police Department to file an assault complaint against Plaintiff. (Def. Br. at Ex. F.) Moore testified that Plaintiff hit her in the face and kicked her in the ribs, breaking one of them. (Id.) Moore was then led to Defendant Detective Campo who, according to Moore, asked her to withhold the charges and work with the police to catch Plaintiff selling drugs. (Id.)

Over the next three months, Moore worked with the Ocean City Police to catch Plaintiff in a series of illegal drug sales. It appears from Moore's testimony that on some of these occasions, she actually purchased drugs from Plaintiff's brother. However, Moore testified that at no point did she tell Campo that she was obtaining drugs from anyone other than Plaintiff. (Def. Br. at Ex. F.) She also testified that the police did not force her to cooperate with them over this three month period. (Id.)

Plaintiff testified that on August 3, 2000 he went to Somers Point, New Jersey to purchase marijuana for Moore because she was HIV positive and needed the marijuana so she could eat. (Def. Br. at Ex. E.) He also intended to purchase cocaine for Moore's friend "Boyd," who Plaintiff discovered later was in fact Det. Henry. (Id.) The events of August 3, 2000 formed the basis of Plaintiff's guilty plea and prison sentence. (Id. at Ex. B.)

A few weeks later, on or about August 15, 2000, Plaintiff and Defendants Moore and Henry, who was still undercover, again traveled to Somers Point to purchase cocaine. Moore testified that, fearing that Plaintiff was actually buying baking soda rather than cocaine, she brought her own cocaine concealed within her bra. (Def. Br. at Ex. F.) She then switched the bag Plaintiff purchased with her own cocaine because, in case he purchased baking soda, she wanted the "charge to stick." (Id.) Moore testified that she never told the police officers about switching the bags or that she was lying. (Id.) The charges against Plaintiff regarding August 15, 2000 were dropped as part of his plea agreement. (Def. Br. at Ex. B.)

On April 30, 2002, New Jersey Municipal Court Judge Richard A. Russell held a probable cause hearing on the criminal Charges pursuant to the New Jersey Court Rules. Judge Russell determined that Plaintiff failed to produce sufficient proof to establish the existence of probable cause for the court to believe that Campo manufactured any false statements or false reports in regard to the charges against Plaintiff. (Def. Br. at Ex. C.) Judge Russell found that Campo might have been provided with some false information, but nothing demonstrated that Campo manufactured any evidence. (Id.)

Plaintiff has brought the instant action alleging, among other things, malicious prosecution and conspiracy to commit the same under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. The Honorable Joel B. Rosen, U.S. Magistrate Judge, granted Defendants' and Plaintiff's motions to compel discovery in January and April of 2004, respectfully. [Docket Items 88 and 93]. Plaintiff was granted, in part, a second motion to compel discovery in April of 2005. [Docket Item 134]. Plaintiff was granted an extension to file a supplemental submission in October of 2005. [Docket Item 153]. However, Plaintiff's most recent submission, received by the District Court on November 15, 2005, fails to raise any issue of material fact to support his claims, as now discussed.

II. Discussion

Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Fed. R. Civ. P. Under Rule 56(c), "summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. V. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)(citations omitted). It is true that in deciding whether there exists a disputed issue of material fact, the Court must view the facts asserted by the non-moving party in the light most favorable to that party. See Aman v. Cort Furniture Corp. 85 F.3d 1074, 1080-81 (3d Cir. 1996). However, a non-moving party may not rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or vague statements. Bixler v. Central Penn. Teamsters Health and Welfare Fund, 12 F.3d 1292, 1302 (3d Cir. 1993). To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party must produce more than a "mere scintilla" of evidence to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of North America, Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

For reasons to follow in this opinion, this Court has determined that no genuine issue of material fact exists as to any of Plaintiff's claims. Accordingly, Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

A. Plaintiff Does Not Have a Viable False Arrest or False Imprisonment Claim Against the City of Ocean City

Local governing bodies can be sued directly under Section 1983 for "monetary, declaratory, or injunctive relief where . . . the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officers." Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978).

"Congress did not intend municipalities to be held liable unless action pursuant to official municipal policy of some ...

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