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Gilbert and Tonya Badillo v. Sergeant Keith Stopko

May 2, 2012

GILBERT AND TONYA BADILLO, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SERGEANT KEITH STOPKO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas

OPINION

IRENAS, Senior District Judge:

Plaintiffs Gilbert and Tonya Badillo (collectively "Plaintiffs") initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to recover for alleged constitutional violations stemming from an undercover investigation of a large-scale narcotics distribution conspiracy.*fn1 Plaintiffs' residence was searched pursuant to a warrant, and Plaintiff Gilbert was arrested and incarcerated for 37 days despite the fact that the search revealed no evidence of illegal activity. Although Gilbert was indicted for Second Degree Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance, the charge was dismissed six months later. Pending before the Court are Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).*fn2

I.

According to the Complaint, Operation Real Deal was an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office focusing on a cocaine distribution operation in the Long Branch area.*fn3 (Id. ¶ 18.)

Operation Real Deal utilized a confidential informant, undercover officers, and intercepts of telephone calls through Communications Data Warrants, applied for by Defendant Stopko of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. (Id. ¶¶ 19-21.) Named as Defendants in this action are (1) law enforcement officers from the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice's Gangs and Organized Crime Bureau, (2) law enforcement officers from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, (3) law enforcement officers from the Monmouth County Sheriff's office, and (4) Patrolman Camacho from the Long Branch Police Department.*fn4 (Id. ¶¶ 2-5.)

Plaintiffs reside at 118 Joline Avenue, Long Branch, New Jersey, with their three children. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Gilbert is five feet five inches tall, weighs 150 pounds, and is 40 years old. (Id. ¶ 13.) Gilbert owned a green Ford Explorer, registration number VHU20C. (Id. ¶ 15.) Tonya owned a black Nissan Xterra, registration number RMR96L. (Id. ¶ 16.) In 2004, Plaintiffs started a nonprofit community program known as "Team Jump Off" which assisted neighborhood youths in college placement and employment. (Id. ¶ 3.) "Team Jump Off" also conducted gang awareness workshops in conjunction with the City of Long Branch and the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. (Id. ¶ 4.)

Antinohel Centeno, a.k.a. "Tino", was a member of "Team Jump Off" and a friend of Plaintiffs' son. (Id. ¶ 6.) Because of this, he was a regular visitor to Plaintiffs' residence. (Id. ¶ 17.) Antinohel lived at 384 Hendrickson Avenue, Long Branch, New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 7.) In 2009, he was approximately five feet six inches tall, weighed approximately 325 pounds and was 18 years old. (Id. ¶ 12.) Antinohel drove a 1997 black Honda Accord, registration number WAE18L, registered to Candelari D. Morataya of 384 Hendrickson Avenue, Long Branch, New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 14.)

In January 2009, Gilbert lent Antinohel a cell phone under his plan with the condition that Antinohel pay a portion of the bill. (Id. ¶ 8; Ex. B to Pls' Opp.) In June 2009, after Antinohel did not pay his portion of the bill, Gilbert cancelled the cell phone. (Id. ¶ 9.) Antinohel then obtained a cell phone under his own name and address. (Id. ¶ 10.)

Defendants monitored incriminating cell phone conversations between Real Deal suspects and "Tino" made on the cell phone registered under Gilbert's name. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) Defendants Stopko, Morello, Sole, Wisliceny, Rivera, Orgen and Torrey conducted surveillance of Plaintiffs, their home, Tino, and other Real Deal suspects. (Id. ¶ 26.) The Complaint alleges that Defendants disregarded clear evidence that Antinohel Centeno was Tino. (Id. ¶ 27.)

On August 27, 2009, Defendant Stopko applied for an arrest and search warrant for Gilbert Badillo and Plaintiffs' home. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) In support of the warrant, the Complaint avers that Defendant Stopko provided the following:

On 4/17/09 [a]t approximately 1:29 p.m., Det. Torrey observed via the pole camera, a black Honda Accord New Jersey registration WAE18L, registered to Candelari R. Moretaya, 384 Hendrickson Avenue, Long Branch, New Jersey, arrive and park in front of 93 Broadway Avenue. An Hispanic male, matching the physical description of Badillo exited the front passenger-side door of the aforementioned vehicle and proceeded in the direction of 93 North Broadway Avenue (Corea's residence). At the same time, an Hispanic male attired in a black t-shirt and black pants exited the front driver's side door of the vehicle and walked to the middle of the street toward Dontiago's Auto Repair. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30 internal quotations omitted.)

According to the Complaint, the "Hispanic male matching the physical description of Badillo" is recorded on the pole camera as being a six foot tall African American male. (Id. ¶ 32.) The Hispanic male exiting the driver's side door is Antinohel Centeno, a.k.a. Tino, a five foot six inch male weighing 325 pounds. (Id. ¶ 32.) Gilbert alleges in the Complaint that he does not match the physical description of either man captured on the pole camera recording, and therefore this evidence was improperly cited in support of the search and arrest warrant. (Id. ¶ 34.)

The Complaint also alleges that Defendants disregarded clear evidence that Antinohel Centeno was Tino. For example, the Complaint alleges that Defendants learned that the cell phone that was previously listed under Gilbert's name was, after June 2, 2009, "subscribed to by Antinohel Centeno, 384 Hendrickson Avenue, Long Branch, New Jersey." (Id. ¶ 38.) Defendants' investigation also revealed that the heavy Hispanic male drove a car registered to the same Hendrickson Avenue address. (Id. ¶ 37.)

On August 27, 2009, Defendants Stopko, Renshaw, Aitken, Estrada, Scully, Rue, Snowden, Pickett, Canon, Ramirez, Camilliri, and Camacho executed the search warrant of Plaintiffs' residence in the presence of Plaintiffs and their children. (Id. ¶ 46.) The Complaint avers that during the search, an unnamed Defendant approached Gilbert and, using abusive language, demanded to know the location of the hidden money and drugs. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49, 51.) Gilbert protested his innocence and stated that he did not have any drugs. (Id. ¶¶ 49, 52.) According to the Complaint, Defendants then proceeded to search the home again, causing extensive property damage, destroying furniture, ...


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