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Salvatore Badalamente and Shannon Badalamente v. Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office

May 17, 2011

SALVATORE BADALAMENTE AND SHANNON BADALAMENTE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MONMOUTH COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, THOMAS FICHTER, ESQ,
INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS ASSISTANT MONMOUTH COUNTY PROSECUTOR FOR THE MONMOUTH COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, MONMOUTH COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, MARLBORO TOWNSHIP, MARLBORO TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT, EDWARD CLAYTON, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS DETECTIVE AND/OR OFFICER OF THE MARLBORO TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT, ERIC SINGER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS INVESTIGATOR FOR THE MONMOUTH COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, JOHN DOES 1-10, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR CAPACITY AS EMPLOYEES AND/OR INVESTIGATORS WITH THE MONMOUTH COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S : OFFICE, JOHN DOES 11-20, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR CAPACITY AS EMPLOYEES AND/OR MONMOUTH COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICERS FOR MONMOUTH COUNTY, AND JOHN DOES 21-30, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR CAPACITY AS EMPLOYEES AND/OR OFFICERS FOR THE MARLBORO TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolfson, United States District Judge:

*NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Presently before the Court are four separate unopposed motions for summary judgment*fn1 filed by Defendants Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office ("Monmouth PO"), Thomas Fichter ("Fichter), Eric Singer ("Singer), Monmouth County Sheriff's Department ("Monmouth SD"), Marlboro Township ("Marlboro Twp."), Marlboro Township Police Department ("Marlboro PD"), and Edward Clayton ("Clayton") (collectively referred to as "Defendants"),*fn2 to dismiss the 23-count Complaint filed by pro se Plaintiffs Salvatore Badalamente ("Slavatore") and Shannon Badalamente ("Shannon") (collectively "Plaintiffs"). The Complaint asserts a host of violations of constitutional rights and various other claims under New Jersey law, stemming from the alleged false arrest and indictment of Slavatore for conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that there are no disputed issues of material fact, and based on the record, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment. Accordingly, Defendants' motions are granted.

I. Background

Because the pro se Plaintiffs did not respond nor contest the facts asserted by Defendants as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), the Court considers those facts as undisputed so long as they are properly supported by the record. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Bank of Am., N.A. v. Colony Park at Benders Church, LP, No. 09-00705, 2011 WL 925411, at *3 (E.D. Pa. March 17, 2011).

Plaintiffs were long-time residents of New Jersey, however they moved to Georgia in December 2005. From 2003 to 2004, Marlboro PD and Monmouth PO, in response to a report of suspected fraudulent leasing of vehicles, started an investigation on an individual named Paul Brennan ("Brennan"), who operated a company called Shore Classics. See Monmouth County Grand Jury Transcript, State of New Jersey v. John T. Colatrella, et al, May 22, 2006 ("Transcript"), pp. 6-8. During the investigation, Brennan admitted to conducting a conspiracy, along with other individuals, involving the fraudulent leasing and insuring of "shell" or non-existent classic vehicles, with the intended purpose of reporting these vehicles as stolen and collecting the insurance proceeds. See Statement of Paul Brennan on Aug. 28, 2003. Brennan also indicated that Salvatore was involved in the conspiracy as an employee of Shore Classics. Id. at 37-38. Specifically, Brennan stated that Salvatore would find pictures and obtain fictitious titles of classic cars, or sometimes shells of classic cars, and presented them as real cars to the leasing and insurance companies in order to secure fraudulent leases and insurance policies. Id. at 20, 26-27, 37-38. Marlboro PD also obtained statements from Michael Ruales, a former employee of Shore Classics during Spring and Summer of 2001, who corroborated that Salvatore acquired shells on the internet and used them to obtain fraudulent leases. See Statement of Michael Ruales on Apr. 3, 2003.

On May 22, 2006, Fichter, the Assistant Prosecutor of Monmouth PO, presented the case to a grand jury. Fitchter offered Clayton, a detective for the Marlboro PD, as the sole witness. Clayton provided testimony as to the information gathered during the investigation by the Marlboro PD and Monmouth PO, including the statements of Brennan and Michael Ruales. See Transcript, pp. 1, 5. Subsequently, on June 5, 2006, the grand jury returned an indictment against Salvatore and 15 other individuals, which specifically charged Salvatore with "Conspiracy - Theft by Deception," a second degree crime. See Monmouth County Grand Jury Indictment # 06-06-01154, . The next day, Monmouth County PD arrested the individuals named in the indictment; however, because Salvatore had already moved to Georgia by that time, he was not brought into custody. As a result, Monmouth PO issued a press release on its website, detailing the charges against each defendant, provided a description of the allegations, and listed the bail status of each defendant. See Press Release by Monmouth PO on Jun. 13, 2006. Since Salvatore remained at large, the press statement stated that "Salvatore Badalamente ($35,000 w/10%) was located in Georgia. Arrangements are being made to serve him with the warrant. He is the only co-conspirator who remains a fugitive."*fn3 Id. at p. 3.

On June 16, 2006, Salvatore turned himself in first at the Woodbury Police Station, then the Middletown Police Department, and finally at the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office.*fn4 Upon notifying the Monmouth PO, Singer, an investigator with the Monmouth PO, and another detective, arrived to take custody of Salvatore. Salvatore alleges that he was hand-cuffed, taken out of the Sheriff's Office through the public entrance, was humiliated by Singer and the detective in front of his father, and was forced to lay down in the back seat of the car used to transport him, because the front seat was pushed all the way back so that there was no leg room. Compl., ¶ 45-51. Salvatore further alleges that Singer and the detective made him rest his head on a hardcover book about classic cars. Compl. ¶ 51. However, Plaintiffs do not allege that Salvatore suffered any physical injuries, and while Salvatore alleges in the Complaint that he suffered emotional distress, Plaintiffs failed to present any evidence of such distress.*fn5

Plaintiffs filed the instant 23-count Complaint on May 21, 2008. These counts include: violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution for malicious prosecution, false arrest, and excessive force (Count I); violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for failure to supervise and discipline (Count II); violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for inadequate hiring and training procedures (Count III);*fn6 violations of the New Jersey Constitution (Counts V and VI); claims under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act ("NJTCA") (Count VII); violations under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act ("NJCRA") (Count VIII); common-law false arrest (Count IX); common-law malicious prosecution (Count X); common-law intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count XI and XX); common-law battery (Count XII); common-law false imprisonment (Count XIII); common-law assault (Count XIV); common-law defamation (Count XVI); common-law negligent supervision and training (Count XVII); common-law conspiracy (Count XVIII); violations of the New Jersey Laws Against Discrimination ("NJLAD") (Count XIX); common-law negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count XXI); and common-law loss of consortium (Count XXII). The Complaint also seeks injunctive relief that would require Defendants to remove all references of Salvatore's indictment from any and all websites belonging and/or in the control of Defendants (Count XV), as well as claims for punitive damages (Count XXIII). After a period of discovery, Defendants filed the instant motions for summary judgment. Pro se Plaintiffs, despite receiving several extensions by the United States Magistrate Judge, filed no opposition.*fn7

Finally, the Court issued a Letter Order on January 11, 2011, advising the parties that it will consider the instant motions as unopposed, and to date, Plaintiffs still have not opposed the motions or otherwise responded to the Court's Letter Order. As such, these motions will be considered unopposed.

II. Standard of Review

"Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n. 1 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). For an issue to be genuine, there must be "a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Curley v. Klem, 298 F.3d 271, 276-77 (3d Cir. 2002). For a fact to be material, it must have the ability to "affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Kaucher, 455 F.3d at 423. Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment.

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Monroe v. Beard, 536 F.3d 198, 206-07 (3d Cir. 2008). If a non-movant fails to oppose the motion, Rule 56(e) provides that the Court may grant the motion for summary judgment "if appropriate." See, e.g., Anchorage Assocs. v. V.I. Bd. of Tax Review, 922 F.3d 168, 175 (3d Cir.1990); Damiano v. Sony Music Entm't, 975 F.Supp. 623, 627 (D.N.J.1996) (granting summary judgment motion because plaintiff's argument was unopposed, and thus no genuine issue of material fact was created). The motion is appropriately granted when the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Anchorage Assocs., 922 F.2d at 175. When "the non-moving party fails to oppose the motion for summary judgment by written objection, memorandum, affidavits and other evidence, the Court will accept as true all material facts set forth by the moving party with appropriate record support." Carp v. IRS, No. 00-5992, 2002 WL 373448, at *2 (D.N.J. Jan.28, 2002) (quoting Anchorage Assocs., 922 F.2d at 175). Even if a record contains facts that might provide support for a non-movant's position, "the burden is on the [non-movant], not the court, to cull the record and affirmatively identify genuine, material factual issues sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Morris v. Orman, No. 87-5149, 1989 WL 17549, at *8 (E.D.Pa. March 1, 1989) (citing Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689 (3d Cir.1988); see also Atkinson v. City of Phila., No. 99-1541, 2000 WL 793193, at *5 n. 8 (E.D.Pa. June 20, 2000).

Moreover, in deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. A nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment simply by asserting that certain evidence submitted by the moving party is not credible. S.E.C. v. Antar, 44 Fed. Appx. 548, 554 (3d Cir. 2002).

If the non-movant fails to oppose the motion for summary judgment, Rule 56(e) provides that the Court may only grant the motion for summary judgment "if appropriate." See, e.g., Anchorage Assoc. v. V.I. Bd. of Tax Rev., 922 F.2d 168, 175 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Damiano v. Sony Music Entm't, 975 F.Supp. 623');">975 F. Supp. 623, 627 (D.N.J. 1996) (granting summary judgment motion because plaintiffs argument was unopposed, and thus no genuine issue of material fact was created). When "the non-moving party fails to oppose the motion for summary judgment by written objection, memorandum, affidavits and other evidence, the Court will accept as true all material facts set forth by the moving party with appropriate record support." Carp v. Internal Revenue Serv., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2921, at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 28, 2002) (quoting Anchorage Assoc., 922 F.2d at 175). Even if a record contains facts that might provide support for a non-movant's position, "the burden is on the [non-movant], not the court, to cull the record and affirmatively identify genuine, material factual issues sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Morris v. Orman, No. 87-5149, 1989 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1876 at *8 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 1, 1989) (citing Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689 ...


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