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Tanya Peteete v. Asbury Park Police Department

December 13, 2010

TANYA PETEETE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ASBURY PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The plaintiff brought this action alleging, inter alia, various civil rights violations under the New Jersey Constitution and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, N.J.S.A. § 10:6-2; 42 U.S.C. §§ ("Section") 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986; and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"). (Dkt. entry no. 30, Am. Compl.) The plaintiff further alleges causes of action for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. (Id.)

Defendants County of Monmouth (the "County"), Monmouth County Sheriff's Office ("MCSO"), Alex Torres ("Torres"), and Lorenzo Pettway ("Pettway") (collectively, "Moving Defendants") move for summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56. (Dkt. entry no. 54, Mot. for Summ. J.)*fn1

The plaintiff opposes the motion. (Docket entry no. 60, Pl. Br.) The Court, for the reasons stated herein, will grant the motion.

BACKGROUND

I. Plaintiff's Arrest

The plaintiff identifies herself as "an African-American resident of New Jersey." (Am. Compl. at 2.) The plaintiff and her immediate family arrived at their residence on September 19, 2007, where a drug raid of the residence by members of the Asbury Park Police Department ("APPD") and MCSO was in progress. (Id. at 4.) Members of the APPD, including Pettway, arrested the plaintiff and searched her pocketbook. (Id.)*fn2 Although no drugs were found on the plaintiff's person or in her bedroom, the Material Facts Not in Dispute filed in support of their previous motion for summary judgment (dkt. entry no. 37, Mot. for Summ. J. & Moving Defs.' Stmt. of Material Facts), which the Court denied without prejudice in light of Moving Defendants' failure to address the doctrine of qualified immunity. (Dkt. entry no. 50, 3-23-10 Order.) We note that Moving Defendants' reference to the previously filed document, without reference to a docket number or filing date, resulted in the plaintiff's inability to locate the same, and likely fails to comply with Local Civil Rule plaintiff was charged with possession and distribution of a controlled dangerous substance ("CDS") based on a constructive theory of possession. (Id.) When the plaintiff expressed concern about who would care for her children, an officer allegedly told her, "Hopefully you are never coming home. . . . Maybe they are better off." (Id. at 5.)

The plaintiff remained at the Monmouth County jail for approximately six months. (Id.) She was eventually released when she pleaded guilty to an unrelated aggravated assault charge and the CDS charges were dropped. (Id.)

II. Monmouth County Narcotic Strike Force/Gang Task Force

Pettway, a patrolman with the APPD, and Torres, a Sheriff's Officer employed by the MCSO, were both members of the Monmouth Country Narcotic Strike Force/Gang Task Force ("Task Force"), which was organized under the direction of the Monmouth Country Prosecutor's Office ("MCPO"). (Moving Defs.' Stmt. of Undisputed Facts at ¶¶ 1-5.)*fn3 Both Pettway and Torres are among the individuals referred to by the plaintiff as the "Police Defendants" in the Amended Complaint. (Am. Compl. at 2.)

Ebony Peteete, a relative of the plaintiff's husband, was the subject of a Task Force investigation. (Moving Defs.' Stmt. of Undisputed Facts at ¶ 6.) According to Moving Defendants, the investigation revealed that the plaintiff's residence was being used as a base of operations to transact street level narcotics sales. (Id.)*fn4 A raid of the residence following a controlled purchase of heroin from Ebony Peteete resulted in the discovery of glassine bags of heroin in the kitchen, living room, an upstairs bedroom, and on several persons in the house. (Moving Defs.' Stmt. of Undisputed Facts, Ex. E, Arrest Report at 2-3.) No CDS or other contraband were found in the first-floor bedroom the plaintiff shared with her husband. (Dkt. entry no. 60, Pl. Resp. to Moving Defs.' Stmt. of Undisputed Facts at 2.)

The plaintiff and her family arrived at the residence as the police were leaving the scene. (Arrest Report at 4.) The task force had an active arrest warrant for one of the passengers in the plaintiff's vehicle for narcotics distribution. (Id.) The plaintiff and her husband were placed under arrest by "Pettway and another officer" after verifying to the officers that they resided at the location where the raid had just occurred. (Dkt. entry no. 45, Pl. Resp. at ¶ 9; Arrest Report at 4.)

III. Claims Pending Against Moving Defendants

The Amended Complaint sets forth the following causes of action against Moving Defendants, either expressly, generically as "Defendants," or to the extent Pettway and Torres are among the "Police Defendants":

Count One: Violation of the plaintiff's civil rights under the New Jersey Constitution and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, N.J.S.A. § 10:6-2, by Defendants

Count Two: Violation of Section 1983 by the Police Defendants for violating the plaintiff's Fourth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights Count Three: Violation of Section 1981 by the Police

Defendants and the County, in that the "acts of the Defendants were motivated by racial animosity and the desire to injure, oppress, and intimidate the Plaintiff because of her race"

Count Four: Violation of Section 1985 by the Police

Defendants and the County for conspiring to violate the plaintiff's civil rights based on her race Count Five: Violation of Section 1986 by the Police Defendants for failing to prevent the violation of the plaintiff's civil rights Count Seven: Violation of the NJLAD by the Defendants Count Eight: False Imprisonment by the Defendants Count Nine: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress by the Defendants

Count Ten: Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress by the Defendants

Count Eleven: Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress by the "Defendants" [indistinguishable from Count Ten] (Am. Compl. at 7-12.)

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment Standard

The standard for a motion for summary judgment is well-settled and will be briefly summarized here. Rule 56 provides that summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In making this determination, the Court must "view[] the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[] all inferences in that party's favor." United States ex rel. Josenske v. ...


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