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Young v. City of Wildwood

March 27, 2008

MICKEY YOUNG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF WILDWOOD, JOSEPH FISHER, DANIEL SPIEGEL, PAUL A. ZIELINSKI AND JOHN DOES(S) : DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

Before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. For reasons explained below, defendants' motion is granted.

I. JURISDICTION

We exercise subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal civil rights claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(a)(3). We exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's related state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. BACKGROUND

The following facts were either alleged by plaintiff in his complaint or testified to at his criminal trial held on February 4, 2004, or in deposition taken on May 2, 2006:

On September 26, 2003, around 10:00 p.m., plaintiff traveled to Wildwood, New Jersey and had one or two alcoholic drinks at the Sportsmen Bar. After about an hour or two he left the Sportsmen Bar and proceeded to at least three other bars where he consumed additional alcoholic drinks. Plaintiff states that he had a total of four or five drinks and was not intoxicated. He also testified that he was wearing a white shirt that night but did not recall if he was wearing a white bandanna or headband around his head, although he does wear such items.

Plaintiff testified that around 3:15 a.m. on September 27, 2003, he had left the bar and was walking through a parking lot behind Alfe's Restaurant when he was approached by a man, later identified as Frank Alfe,*fn1 who asked him if he "had any shit" which plaintiff interpreted as street slang for whether he had any drugs. Plaintiff responded "no, I got nothing" and continued walking to return to the Sportsmen Bar to retrieve his vehicle.

Plaintiff then alleges that Officer Spiegel approached him in a police vehicle at the corner of New Jersey and Schellenger Avenues, which is near Alfe's Restaurant, and got out of the vehicle and asked plaintiff his name. Plaintiff testified that he did not respond. Spiegel asked him his name again and again plaintiff did not respond. Spiegel then told plaintiff that there had been a burglary in the parking lot to which plaintiff did not provide any comment. Shortly thereafter, Officer Zielinski arrived. He also asked plaintiff his name twice and plaintiff did not respond. Plaintiff testified that he responded after the officers asked him about three of four times for his name, and told them his name was Mickey Young. One of the officers informed him again about an attempted burglary in the parking lot at Alfe's Restaurant. He could not specifically recall if the officers gave him the description of the suspect.

Plaintiff testified that the officers then put handcuffs on him and "[f]rom what [he] understood [the handcuffs were] for their safety or something like that." He also stated that they kept telling him about the burglary in the parking lot. When asked if he responded, plaintiff said, "I don't know what I actually said to them. Alls I know is at the time that I didn't break into any cars. So more than likely, I probably said, I didn't do it, I didn't break into any car." Plaintiff testified in deposition that he was then taken to the Wildwood Police Station, but testified earlier during his trial on February 4, 2004, that they did go back to the restaurant parking lot before driving to the police station.

After arriving at the police station, the officers took a set of fingerprints from the defendant. Plaintiff denies that he kept pulling his finger away so that the officer could not get a clear picture of his finger prints and that the officer had to use four print cards before he got a clear set. He testified that he could not recall pulling his finger away so that the officer could not get a good fingerprint. In response to whether Officer Zielinski told him that his refusal to sign the fingerprint card would result in an additional charge of obstruction of justice, plaintiff responded "maybe he did, maybe he didn't." Plaintiff was then taken to the Cape May County Jail and released after he posted bail.

Subsequently, the charge of attempted burglary was downgraded by the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office to a charge of disorderly conduct. Following a trial held on February 4, 2004, in the Wildwood Municipal Court, the judge found plaintiff not guilty of the disorderly conduct charge and guilty of the obstruction of justice charge. Plaintiff filed an appeal of the guilty verdict and was acquitted, without opinion, of the obstruction charge by the Superior Court of New Jersey.

According to testimony from Officer Zielinski, after he received the call from the dispatcher about an attempted burglary, he drove to Alfe's Restaurant. Frank Alfe told him that a black male wearing a white shirt and white bandanna or nylon skull cap was trying to break into his mother's car that was parked in the lot behind the restaurant. Officer Zielinski also stated that Alfe told him that he just drove past the suspect. Officer Zielinski got back into his car and radioed this information to Officer Spiegel. Officer Spiegel testified that he saw plaintiff at the corner of New Jersey and Schellenger Avenues and that plaintiff fit the description of the suspect. Officer Spiegel states that he stopped plaintiff and asked him his name and told him about the attempted burglary to which plaintiff did not respond. Officer Zielinski states that he then approached plaintiff who was standing with Officer Spiegel and asked him his name several times but that he refused to answer. Defendants, however, state that plaintiff finally responded that his name was "Mickey Mouse."

Defendants state that after plaintiff was placed in handcuffs he was put in a police car and driven approximately 500 feet from the corner of New Jersey and Schellenger Avenues to the parking lot behind Alfe's Restaurant. They further state that Frank Alfe positively identified plaintiff ...


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