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Jones v. Somerset County Prosecutor's Office

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 7, 2017

RICCO JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
SOMERSET COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Freda L. Wolfson United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter has been opened to the Court by Defendant Detective Sergeant Joseph Walsh Jr.'s (“Defendant”) filing of a “Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's False Arrest and False Imprisonment Claims[.]” (ECF No. 19.) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint raises § 1983 claims against Defendant Walsh for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, selective enforcement, as well as a state law claim for “Official Misconduct” under N.J.S.A. 2C:30-2. The claims arise out of Plaintiff's arrest for Burglary and related charges in June 2012. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny Defendant's hybrid motion for failure to comply with the Local Civil Rules. Pursuant to the Court's screening authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court will dismiss without prejudice the § 1983 claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and selective enforcement, as alleged against Defendant Walsh in his personal capacity. The Court will dismiss with prejudice the state law claim for Official Misconduct. Plaintiff may file a Second Amended Complaint within 30 days to the extent he can cure the deficiencies his § 1983 claims, as described in this Opinion.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         a. The Original Complaint

         Plaintiff's original Complaint is dated April 7, 2015, and was docketed on April 13, 2015. (ECF No. 1.) At the time he filed his Complaint, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Southern State Prison. (See ECF No. 1.) The Court granted his application to proceed in forma pauperis and screened the Complaint pursuant to §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B). (ECF Nos. 1, 2.) In its screening Order, and accompanying Opinion, the Court dismissed with prejudice the § 1983 claims against the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office. (ECF Nos. 3-4.) The Court further dismissed Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim against Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Murphy on the basis of prosecutorial immunity. (Id.) The Court also dismissed without prejudice Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the two John Doe Defendant employees of the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office. (Id.) The Court, however, permitted Plaintiff's § 1983 claims for false arrest and false imprisonment to proceed against Defendant Walsh. (Id.) In its screening Opinion, the Court noted that Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Walsh appeared to be time barred:

Here, pursuant to the prisoner mailbox rule, Plaintiff filed his Complaint on April 7, 2015 at the earliest, and Plaintiff's Complaint lists the date of his arrest as June 26, 2012. Plaintiff's Complaint does not, however, provide the date on which he was arraigned. As such, the Court is not yet able to determine whether his claims of false arrest and false imprisonment are untimely.

(See ECF No. 3, Opinion at 8-9, fn. 6.)

         Summons issued as to Defendant Walsh, and, on December 15, 2015, Defendant Walsh sought a Clerk's extension of time within which to file his Answer or other respond to the Complaint, which was granted. (See ECF No. 9.) Plaintiff subsequently wrote a letter to the Court requesting to amend his Complaint to include claims for “Discrimination and Racial Profiling.” (ECF No. 10.) The letter included a description of his claims but did not attach the Amended Complaint as required by L. Civ. R. 7.1(f). (See id.) Although Plaintiff did not formally request to change his address, Plaintiff's letter to the Court listed a new address at Bayside State Prison. (Id.) The letter was received by the Court on December 18, 2015, but was not docketed until December 29, 2015. (See id.)

         In the meantime, on December 28, 2015, New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Ashley Gagnon filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint on behalf of Defendant Walsh. (ECF No. 10.) The certificate of service indicates that Ms. Gagnon served the motion on Plaintiff at Southern State Correctional Facility. (ECF No. 10-1.)

         On July 8, 2016, the Court issued a Memorandum and Order permitting Plaintiff to submit an Amended Complaint within 30 days of his receipt of the Court's Order. (ECF No. 15.) The Court also denied Defendant Walsh's first motion to dismiss without prejudice in light of Plaintiff's request to submit an Amended Complaint, and permitted Defendant Walsh to file a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Id.)

         b. The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, which is dated July 29, 2016, was docketed on August 19, 2016. (ECF No. 16.) In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states that Defendant Walsh “sought to have [Plaintiff] indicted for the crime(s) of (Att) Burglary, Burglary, Theft, and [H]indering [A]pprehension or Prosecution.” (ECF No. 16, Am. Compl. at 10.) Plaintiff alleges that “Officer Walsh and the Raritan Police Department had knowledge of the crime being committed by another actor, as shown in video footage provided by the reporting party.” (Id.) Plaintiff appears to allege that the Raritan Police asked Plaintiff to come to the police station to make a statement, and Plaintiff told the officer that he “had nothing to say, you have a video.” Plaintiff's Amended Complaint also states the following:

As to the charge of Discrimination & Racial Profiling, Officer Walsh charged me with the above crimes when he had knowledge of the crime being committed by another actor. However, Officer Walsh went in front of a Somerset County Grand Jury, to get a search warrant for Mr. Kevin Blanchard's residence in the month of June 2012. Officer Walsh discovered merchandise and proceeds from a burglary that was reported out of Bridgewater [T]ownship, as according to discovery. However, Officer Walsh never charged Mr. Blanchard. Detective Walsh charged me with crimes that he knew I had “No” knowledge of, but didn't charge Mr. Blanchard with crimes he was [on] video committing. The “only” difference between Mr. Blanchard and myself[] is that I'm Black and Spanish, and [Blanchard] is Caucasion [sic].
As to the accusation of OFFICAL MISCONDUCT, officer Walsh, knew that [a] crime was committed but declined to file charges, as to his sworn duties.”

(Id. at 11.)

         The disposition of the criminal charges at issue is confusing at best. Plaintiff states in his Amended Complaint that the charges against him “were dropped on May 13, 2013” (Id. at 10), and cites to attachments to his Amended Complaint. Included in those attachments is a copy of the relevant indictment, Indictment No. 12-07-00540-I, which indicates that the alleged criminal acts at issue occurred on June 7, 2012, and that Plaintiff was indicted on one count each of third degree Attempted Burglary, third degree Burglary, fourth degree Theft, and fourth degree Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution. (Id. at 7.) The Indictment includes a handwritten date of July, 19, 2012. (Id.) Plaintiff has also attached to the Amended Complaint a document entitled “New Jersey Promis/Gavel Event Detail”, which lists Plaintiff's arraignment date as June 27, 2012. (Id. at 9.)

         Plaintiff has also attached to the Amended Complaint several pages of a “Plea Form” that describes a global plea deal on multiple indictments in which Plaintiff would plead guilty to fourth degree Hindering on Indictment No. 12-07-00540-I with dismissal of the remaining charges on that indictment. (See ECF No. 16, Am. Compl. at 12-13.) Plaintiff appears to state, however, that he refused to agree to the global plea deal, which allegedly caused the prosecutor to seek an extended term. (Id. at 16.) In his “State[ment] of Claims”, Plaintiff also states that he was convicted on the “sole charge of Hindering” on Indictment 12-07-00540-I, and filed a petition for post-conviction relief with respect to that conviction; his appeal, however, was not heard because he “maxed the sentence out[.]”[1] (Id.) In this regard, the Court notes that the New Jersey Department of Corrections Inmate Locator, which is a publically available website, indicates that Plaintiff was sentenced on May 13, 2013 to eighteen months of imprisonment on one count of fourth degree Hindering on Indictment No. 12-07-00540-I.[2]

         c. The Current Motion

         On September 15, 2016, Defendant Walsh filed a “Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's False Arrest and False Imprisonment Claims[.]” (ECF No. 19.) The motion does not include a L. Civ. R. 56.1 statement of material facts not in dispute (“L. Civ. R. 56.1 statement”). (See ECF No. 19.) Plaintiff's opposition brief, which is dated November 9, 2016, ...


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