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Corrado Palmerini v. Jeanette Burgos

August 15, 2011


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



Defendants Jeanette Burgos ("Burgos"), Joshua Perez-Correa ("Perez-Correa"), Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Jessica Oppenheim ("Oppenheim"), Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Mannion ("Mannion"), Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan ("Kaplan"), and Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office Investigator Kelly Polack ("Polack") (collectively, "Defendants") move to dismiss the Complaint filed by pro se Plaintiff Corrado Palmerini, pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).*fn1 The Complaint alleges, inter alia, violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; these violations stem from the Middlesex County Prosecutor Office's decision to prosecute Plaintiff for crimes against Plaintiff's ex-fiancee Burgos, and the subsequent refusal of the Prosecutor's Office to charge Burgos with filing false police reports. For the reasons that follow, the Court dismisses the Complaint against Defendants with prejudice.*fn2


A. Factual Background

For the purpose of this Opinion, the facts alleged in the Complaint ("Compl.") are assumed to be true. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). On July 7, 2008, Plaintiff's then-fiancee Burgos reported to a police officer that Plaintiff had punched her in the mouth, slapped her face, and pulled her hair. Compl. at ¶ 2. Plaintiff was arrested by a Newark, New Jersey police officer and charged with simple assault under domestic assault laws. Compl., Ex. A. The police report states that Burgos did not sustain any injuries and refused medical attention. Id. On the same day, Burgos was granted a temporary restraining order against Plaintiff. Compl., Ex. B. On July 31, 2008, the temporary restraining order was dismissed by the Chancery Division -- Family Part in Essex County, New Jersey on the basis that Burgos' allegation of domestic violence had not been substantiated. Id.

On August 4, 2008, Burgos reported Plaintiff to the Sayreville Police Department for domestic violence. Compl. at ¶ 3. While it is not clear from the Complaint, it appears that this report was used as the basis for entering a final restraining order against Plaintiff by the Middlesex County Family Court. See id. at ¶¶ 3-4; Compl. at Ex. G. Thereafter, on September 12, 2008, a warrant was issued for Plaintiff's arrest by the Sayreville Police Department after Burgos claimed that Plaintiff had violated the final restraining order by telephoning her. Compl., Ex. E. It appears Plaintiff was arrested for violating the final restraining order. See id. at ¶¶ 3-4.

Subsequent to that incident, on September 20, 2008, Burgos called the Old Bridge Police Department to report Plaintiff for violating the restraining order after she saw him at a Home Depot in Old Bridge, New Jersey.*fn3 Compl. at ¶ 5. Burgos claimed that Plaintiff had been "following her around inside the Home Depot for approximately 20 minutes." Compl., Ex. G. As a result of this incident, a warrant was issued for Plaintiff's arrest by the Old Bridge Police Department for violating the final restraining order. Compl. at ¶ 5. Eight days later, on September 28, 2008, Burgos met with an Old Bridge police officer to add additional details to the incident report, including that Plaintiff, while in the Home Depot parking lot, threatened to kill her. Id. at ¶ 7.

Plaintiff's Complaint is again unclear with regard to the next series of events. It appears that at some point during this saga, Perez-Correa, a friend of Burgos, told police that Plaintiff had made terroristic threats against Burgos while he and Plaintiff were talking to each other on the telephone. Id. at ¶ 6. After Plaintiff received notification that the Middlesex County Prosecutor's office planned to use this against him, Plaintiff contacted Perez-Correa. See id. In response, Perez-Correa submitted an undated affidavit to Kaplan, the Middlesex County Prosecutor, in which he recanted statements that he had made to police regarding his phone conversation with Plaintiff. See id. Perez-Correa wrote that after speaking to Burgos he "agreed to tell police that [Plaintiff] had said potentially harmful things about [Burgos]" because making such statements would help Burgos move on from her relationship with Plaintiff. See id. at ¶ 10.

On September 25, 2008, Plaintiff appeared in court to respond to this charge, and possibly others. Compl. at ¶ 6. The prosecution was not persuaded by Perez-Correa's affidavit, and Plaintiff was charged by Oppenheim, a Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor, with witness tampering and "and yet more bogus charges." Id. As a result, Plaintiff was incarcerated from September 25, 2008 to April 13, 2009, "plus the times [he] was rearrested for violations of restraining [orders], terrorist threats, and stalking." Id. at ¶ 8.

Following his release from incarceration, Plaintiff complained to Old Bridge police officer Detective Michael Cronin ("Cronin") that Burgos had made false statements to the police when reporting the incident that had taken place at Home Depot. Compl. at ¶ 9; Compl., Ex. O. On June 8, 2009, Plaintiff provided Cronin with the video surveillance footage from the Home Depot incident. Compl. at ¶ 9; Compl., Ex. O. After securing a photo of Burgos, Cronin reviewed the footage the next day. Allegedly, Cronin reviewed each video and determined that Burgos' description of the Home Depot incident was false. Id. According to Plaintiff, Cronin concluded that this new information provided probable cause to arrest Burgos for "making two false reports to law enforcement that falsely incriminates another." Id.

On June 10, 2009, Cronin contacted Mannion, another Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor, to brief him on his investigation of Burgos. Id. In his report, Cronin writes that Mannion agreed with the charges and recommended Cronin sign the complaint. Id. However, on June 11, 2009, Cronin reported that he received phone calls from Mannion and Oppenheim strongly recommending that he not pursue charges against Burgos. Id. On the same day, Cronin's immediate supervisor, Detective Sergeant Daroci, advised Cronin to "close [the] case as per the order of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office." Id. Cronin never signed the complaint against Burgos, and Burgos was never arrested on charges of falsifying two police reports. Id.

On June 19, 2009, Plaintiff wrote to Kaplan, asking that he investigate violations of his civil rights by Burgos and Oppenheim, as well as Polack, an investigator with the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.*fn4 Compl., Ex. P. Plaintiff received no response. Compl. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff also sought the assistance of the New Jersey State Attorney General's office, but by letter dated October 7, 2009, the office concluded that the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office had not abused its discretion in handling Plaintiff's criminal matters. Compl., Ex. Q.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint on January 15, 2010, as well an application requesting that he be permitted to proceed without prepaying court fees. The Complaint seeks a number of remedies, including but not limited to an acknowledgment that his rights were violated, compensation for pain and suffering and financial damages, expungement of his record, payment of all costs for Attorney's fees, "[p]unishment to all persons mentioned and removal of these persons from [o]ffice," dismissal of the restraining orders against him, and restitution ...

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