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Tanya Peteete v. Asbury Park Police

January 31, 2011

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NOT FOR PUBLICATION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, the New Jersey Civil Rights Act ("NJCRA"), the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, and 42 U.S.C. §§ ("Sections") 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986. (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.) The Amended Complaint names as defendants the City of Asbury Park; Asbury Park Police Department ("APPD"); Chief Mark Kinmon, Sergeant Jeff White, Officer Lorenzo Pettway ("Pettway"), Officer Nicholas Townsend, and Officer Daniel Kowsaluk, all of the APPD; the County of Monmouth; Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office ("MCPO"); Monmouth County Sheriff's Office ("MCSO"); Sheriff's Officer Alex Torres ("Torres") of the MCSO; and Detective Scott Samis ("Samis") of the MCPO. (Id. at 2-4.)

The Court previously dismissed the Amended Complaint insofar as it is asserted against the MCPO, finding that the MCPO was immune from liability under the Eleventh Amendment. (See dkt. entry no. 48, 3-22-10 Mem. Op.; dkt. entry no. 49, 3-22-10 Order & J.) The Court entered judgment in favor of the County of Monmouth, MCSO, Torres, and Pettway (collectively, the "County Defendants") on December 13, 2010. (Dkt. entry no. 61, County Defs. 12-13-10 Mem. Op.; dkt. entry no. 62, County Defs. 12-13-10 Order.) Also on December 13, 2010, the Court denied in part Samis's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint insofar as asserted against him, finding that Samis had not shown at the motion to dismiss stage that he was entitled to qualified immunity on the plaintiff's claims against Samis in his individual capacity for violations of her federal and state constitutional rights under Section 1983 and the NJCRA. (Dkt. entry no. 63, 12-13-10 Samis Mem. Op.; dkt. entry no. 64, Samis 12-13-10 Ord.) In its Order, the Court observed that two counts of the Amended Complaint remained viable as asserted against Samis in his individual capacity only: Count One, insofar as it asserts a claim under the NJCRA for violation of the plaintiff's rights under Article I, paragraphs 1 and 7 of the New Jersey Constitution; and Count Two, insofar as it asserts a claim under Section 1983 for violation of the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. (Samis 12-13-10 Order at 2.)

Samis now moves pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56 for judgment in his favor as to the remaining claims pending against him. (Dkt. entry no. 66, Samis Mot. for Summ. J.) The plaintiff opposes the motion, and cross-moves to compel a deposition of Samis. (Dkt. entry no. 68, Mot. Compel Deposition.) The plaintiff has also cross-moved for additional time to conduct discovery, pursuant to Rule 56(f). (Dkt. entry no. 76, Rule 56(f) Mot. & Opp'n to Samis Mot. Summ. J.)*fn1 The Court now decides the motion and cross motions on the papers, pursuant to Rule 78(b). For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant Samis's motion for summary judgment and will deny as moot the plaintiff's cross motions to compel Samis's deposition and for additional time to conduct discovery.

BACKGROUND

The parties being well-versed in the underlying facts of this case, we relate the factual background as it pertains to the instant motion only. The conduct complained of by the plaintiff relates to her arrest outside her residence on September 19, 2007, where a drug raid of the residence by members of the APPD and MCSO was in progress. (Am. Compl. at 4.) The drug raid was the effort of the Monmouth Country Narcotic Strike Force/Gang Task Force ("Task Force"), which was organized under the direction of the MCPO. (Dkt. entry no. 59, Rosenthal Cert., Ex. G, Samis Arrest Rep. at 4.) Ebony Peteete, a relative of the plaintiff's husband, was the target of an investigation in which the Task Force arranged a controlled buy of heroin from her. (Id. at 4-5.) Following a successful controlled buy in the vicinity of the residence, Samis directed Task Force members to arrest Ebony Peteete and the person who had delivered the drugs on her behalf at the residence, where they were observed. (Id. at 5.)*fn2 Inside the residence, Samis observed what appeared to be heroin in plain view, and Task Force members conducted a search of the residence. (Id. at 6; Rosenthal Cert., Ex. E, Pettway Arrest Rep. at 2-3.) The following evidence was observed "on top of the freezer in the kitchen area" and collected by the Task Force:

1. Sixteen empty hypodermic needles with caps.

2. One small black leather wallet containing eight decks of suspected CDS [controlled dangerous substance] Heroin & assorted personal effects.

3. Fourteen individually wrapped glassine decks of suspected CDS Heroin in magazine paper . . . stamped "Games" & "Top Secret" in red ink.

4. Five bundles each containing ten decks of suspected CDS Heroin, totaling fifty . . . wrapped in glassine bags stamped with games in red ink.

5. One magazine paper package containing two bundles each containing ten decks of suspected CDS Heroin wrapped in glassine packets stamped "Top Secret" in red ink.

6. Black leather wallet containing assorted personal effects & $379.00 in U.S. Currency.

7. Thirty-two bills of assorted U.S. Currency totaling $700.00. . . . Buy money used by the undercover ...


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