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Adams v. City of Atlantic City

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 20, 2014

JULIUS ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY, et al., Defendants.

Jennifer Ann Bonjean, Esq., BONJEAN LAW GROUP PLLC, Brooklyn, NY, Attorney for Plaintiff.

Tracy Riley, Esq., LAW OFFICES OF RILEY & RILEY, Mt. Holly, NJ, Attorney for Defendants City of Atlantic City, Frank Timek, Brent Dooley, Matthew Rogers, Raymond Wagner, Kyle, Eisenbeis, Daryl Hall, Michael Losasso, Glenn Abrams, and James V. Pasquale.

James T. Dugan, Esq., ATLANTIC COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF LAW, Atlantic City, NJ, Attorney for Defendant Atlantic County.

James T. Dugan, Esq., Matthew J. Behr, Esq., MARSHALL, DENNEHEY, WARNER, COLEMAN & GOGGIN, Cherry Hill, NJ, Attorneys for Defendants Dana Litke, Detective Michelle, London, and Joe Pepe.

OPINION

JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Julius Adams brings this lawsuit against the City of Atlantic City, Atlantic County, nine police officers and three Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office employees, for injuries stemming from a police assault. Plaintiff asserts that, after he filed internal affairs complaints with the police department and the Prosecutor's Office about an unwarranted traffic stop, he was subjected to a targeted beating and canine attack by several police officers and two police dogs. Plaintiff also alleges that his internal affairs complaints were not handled properly.

Before the Court are three motions to dismiss brought by Atlantic County ("the County") [Docket Item 6], Atlantic City ("the City") and Officer Michael Losasso [Docket Item 9], and Defendants Dana Litke, Michelle London and Joe Pepe ("the ACPO Defendants") [Docket Item 17].[1] The latter motion is unopposed.

Because the County is not a proper defendant to this action, because certain tort claims against Officer Losasso are time-barred, and because Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the ACPO Defendants and does not oppose their motion to dismiss, the Court will dismiss some claims with prejudice, as specified below. All other claims against the moving defendants will be dismissed without prejudice, because the Complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Court will grant Plaintiff 14 days to file an Amended Complaint, curing the deficiencies noted in this Opinion.

II. Background

A. Facts

The facts are drawn from the Complaint and are accepted as true for the purposes of these motions. On June 17, 2011, an unspecified number of Atlantic City police officers, including Defendants Officer Michael Losasso and Officer Brent Dooley, initiated a traffic stop of Plaintiff Julius Adams, a resident of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 27.) Plaintiff asserts that the stop was "unsupported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing." (Id.) The police officers "assaulted Plaintiff and falsely charged him with various traffic violations, including but not limited to DUI." (Id. ¶ 28.)

Three months later, Plaintiff filed an internal affairs complaint with the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office ("ACPO") about the June 17 incident. (Id. ¶ 29.) When the ACPO informed Plaintiff that it would not pursue the complaint, Plaintiff renewed the complaint with the Internal Affairs Section of the Atlantic City Police Department ("ACPD"). (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) Plaintiff asserts that the ACPD either took no action or never informed Plaintiff of any actions it took with respect to the complaint. (Id. ¶ 31.)

When Plaintiff appeared in court for the DUI charges and related traffic tickets, stemming from the June 17 incident, a few ACPD officers, including Officer Dooley, "threatened Plaintiff by punching their hand into their other hand, suggesting that they would inflict physical injury on Plaintiff again at a later date." (Id. ¶ 32.)

On February 28, 2012, Plaintiff and two acquaintances were exiting the Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City when two police officers stopped them, requested identification, and ordered them against the wall. (Id. ¶¶ 33-35.) One officer, referring to Plaintiff, asked, "Is that him?" to which another officer responded, "Yeah, that's him." (Id. ¶ 37.) Other police cars pulled up to the scene, and the police handcuffed Plaintiff and "began to punch and beat" him. (Id. ¶¶ 37-39.) Officer Frank Timek unleashed a canine from one police car and "ordered it to attack Plaintiff, who was completely subdued and handcuffed." (Id. ¶ 40.) The canine "bit Plaintiff's thigh multiple times, causing deep puncture wounds and extraordinary pain." (Id. ¶ 41.) Sergeant Daryl Hall ordered a second canine to be unleashed on Plaintiff, and both dogs "continued to maul Plaintiff's leg...." (Id. ¶¶ 42-43.) Sergeant Hall stopped the attack and told the men: "We got your IDs. We know where you live. If you say anything, the same thing will happen to you...." (Id. ¶¶ 44.) Both Sergeant Hall and other officers used language derogatory to African-Americans during the incident. (Id. ¶¶ 35, 44, 45.)

Plaintiff, who was bleeding "profusely, " was taken to a hospital by ambulance. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46.) After receiving treatment, Plaintiff was sent to the Atlantic County jail, where he was detained for one week. (Id. ¶ 46.) Plaintiff asserts that his "wounds were severely infected which necessitated surgery and required him to wear wound bags for many weeks, " and which have caused "permanent physical injuries and disability." (Id. ¶ 47.)

Plaintiff filed an excessive force complaint with the internal affairs section of the ACPD regarding the February 28 incident. (Id. ¶ 48.) Defendant Commander James V. Pasquale later informed Plaintiff that the officers had been "exonerated" and the charges in the complaint were "not sustained." (Id.)

B. Procedural history

On November 22, 2013, Plaintiff filed a six-count Complaint against the City of Atlantic City, Atlantic County, nine police officers and three employees of the ACPO. Count I alleges that the individual police officers and the ACPO Defendants violated Plaintiff's First, ...


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