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Ashley v. Maldonado

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 24, 2014

CRAIG ASHLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
PLEASANTVILLE POLICE OFFICER ANGELO MALDONADO, et al., Defendants.

BARRY, CORRADO, GRASSI & GIBSON, P.C. Joseph C. Grassi, Esq. Aaron T. Penrod, Esq. Christopher Gillin-Schwartz, Esq. Wildwood, New Jersey Counsel for Plaintiff

BARKER, GELFAND & JAMES, P.C. A. Michael Barker, Esq. Jeffrey A. Jaketic, Esq. Linwood, New Jersey Counsel for Defendants Angelo Maldonado, James Searle, and City of Pleasantville

ATLANTIC COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF LAW Alan J. Cohen, Esq. Atlantic City, New Jersey Counsel for Defendants Grant Cunningham, Jr., and Atlantic County

OPINION

JOSEPH E. IRENAS, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Craig Ashley initiated this action to recover for injuries sustained during the course of his arrest for driving under the influence in Pleasantville, New Jersey. Ashley brings six total claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, N.J.S.A. 10:6-2. Pending before the Court are two motions for summary judgment; one filed by Defendants Officer Angelo Maldonado, Detective James Searle, and the City of Pleasantville, and another by Defendants Officer Grant Cunningham, Jr. and Atlantic County.[1] For the reasons set forth below, these motions will be granted.

I.

The events giving rise to this suit begin during the afternoon of July 12, 2010. Sometime early that afternoon, Plaintiff Craig Ashley ("Ashley") visited Calidini's, a liquor store located on the Black Horse Pike. (Ashley Dep. at 105:8) Ashley purchased two twenty-four ounce cans of Molson Ice beer and a pint of Hennessey cognac. (Id. at 105:9-14, 37:18-38:3) In Ashley's recollection, after returning home from Calidini's, he ate dinner sometime around 5:00 p.m. and began drinking the alcohol he had purchased earlier. (Id. at 40:23, 41:14-18)

Over the course of the next two to three hours, Ashley drank both cans of beer and the pint of Hennessy, the latter consumed in shots. (Id. at 42:13-19) As he finished drinking his alcohol, Ashley decided to visit his father in Egg Harbor Township, a thirty to forty-five minute car ride from Ashley's home. (Id. at 41:23-25, 44:8) Ashley set out for his father's house between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m., but after getting in his black Chevrolet Impala and beginning the drive, he decided that "it seemed better to go back home, " so he turned his car around and began the trip back to his house. (Id. at 44:12, 47:12-16)

On his trip back, sometime just before 9:45 p.m., Ashley stopped at the traffic light at the intersection of Doughty Road and New Road in Pleasantville, New Jersey. (Id. at 46:25-47:1) Admittedly intoxicated as he waited for the green light, Ashley fell asleep behind the wheel of his car as he waited for the traffic light to change. (Id. at 49:13-14, 49:24-25) Shortly thereafter, at approximately 9:45 p.m., Defendant Officer Angelo Maldonado ("Maldonado") responded to a report of an unconscious male in the driver's seat of a vehicle at the intersection of Doughty and New Roads. (Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 5)

Upon his arrival, Maldonado discovered Ashley asleep at the wheel of a black Impala, the first vehicle at the intersection with two cars waiting behind it. (Id.) As he approached the Impala on foot, Maldonado observed exhaust coming from the tail pipe, and the car's windows down, music playing, with Ashley behind the wheel sleeping. ( Id., Ashley Dep. at 50:5-10, 54:7) Maldonado continued approaching on foot and noticed that the car remained in drive while Ashley's foot rested on the brake. (Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 5) Maldonado then called for backup as he began trying to speak with Ashley. (Id.) Though the parties dispute the precise contents of their conversation, there is no dispute that Maldonado attempted to awaken Ashley by speaking to him, which resulted in Ashley releasing the brake pedal and the Impala moving forward. (Ashley Dep. at 54:18-55:2; Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 5)

In Ashley's recollection, after Maldonado startled him, the car moved forward just three or four feet, and after stopping the vehicle, Ashley could not recall exactly how the car was put into park and pulled over. (Ashley Dep. at 56:2-12) In Maldonado's retelling, Maldonado startled Ashley, resulting in Ashley releasing his foot from the brake pedal and letting the car slide into the intersection before Maldonado shouted for Ashley to stop. (Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 5-6) After hearing Maldonado shout, Ashley stepped on the brake pedal, quickly stopping the car and permitting Maldonado to reach into the Impala to place the car in park. (Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 6)

Just after this, Defendant Officer Grant Cunningham ("Cunningham") and Defendant Detective James Searle ("Searle") arrived at the scene. (Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 6) As Ashley's car came to a stop, Maldonado informed Ashley he was under arrest and had to step out of the car. (Ashley Dep. at 59:7-8; Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 6) When Ashley did not step out of the vehicle, Maldonado grabbed him by the left arm and pulled him from the vehicle while Ashley held onto the steering wheel. (Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 6; Ashley Dep. at 60:10-20) Meanwhile, as Searle remained approximately thirty feet away and observed the scene, Cunningham began advancing towards Maldonado and Ashley to assist with Ashley's arrest. (Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 6; Searle Answers to Interrog. at 5)

Once Maldonado removed Ashley from the car and stood along the open doorframe on the driver's side, Ashley turned to face the vehicle while Maldonado attempted to secure handcuffs on his wrists. (Ashley Dep. at 77:13-16; Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 6; Cunningham Investigation Rep. at 2) When Ashley admittedly "resisted" and pulled his arms away from Maldonado's grasp, Cunningham and Maldonado each took an arm and attempted to place Ashley into the handcuffs while telling him to stop resisting and that he was under arrest. (Ashley Dep. at 78:18-25, 83:12-18; Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 6; Cunningham Investigation Rep. at 2) During the course of their efforts to secure the handcuffs, both Maldonado and Cunningham heard a "pop" noise, which Ashley felt but did not hear. (Ashley Dep. at 131:2; Cunningham Investigation Rep. at 2; Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 6) After this altercation and struggle, Maldonado and Cunningham secured Ashley's wrists in the handcuffs and escorted him to Maldonado's police car. (Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 6)

Though Ashley did not tell the officers that he sustained any injury during the struggle or while in the back of Maldonado's police car, Maldonado noticed something protruding from Ashley's bicep as he helped Ashley out of the car at the Pleasantville Police Department. (Ashley Dep. at 132:23-133:4; Maldonado Answers to Interrog. at 7) As soon as they walked inside, Maldonado called for an ambulance, which ...


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