United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.:
Joseph Barron (“Barron”), Janine Watts
(“Watts”), and Tammy Godfrey-Khalil
“Plaintiffs”) bring this action, sounding in
civil rights and in tort, against the State of New Jersey,
then-New Jersey State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes
(“Fuentes”), Detective Stephen Reifler
(“Reifler”), 12 other police officers
(“Officer Defendants”), the Essex County
Prosecutor and Assistant County Prosecutor Jennifer Fetterman
(“ECPO Defendants, ” and together with Fuentes,
Reifler, and the Officer Defendants, the “State
Defendants”); Essex County; the Township of Irvington,
its then-Police Chief Michael Chase (“Chase”),
and then-Police Director Joseph Santiago
(“Santiago”); and other unnamed individuals and
entities. This matter comes before the Court on the State
Defendants' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss. No oral argument was held. Fed.R.Civ.P.
78(b). For the reasons below, the State Defendants'
motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part.
Investigation and Arrest of Plaintiffs
State Defendants, Township of Irvington, and Essex County
(the “Public Entity Defendants”) planned an
operation as to suspected drug-dealing activities in
apartment 2F at 525 Chancellor Avenue, Irvington, New Jersey.
Compl. ¶ 46, ECF No. 1. The Public Entity Defendants used
a confidential informant to buy drugs from “Dawn,
” who was the target of the investigation. Id.
¶ 47. Dawn lived in apartment 2FL (“2FL”),
next door to Plaintiff Barron's apartment at 2FR
(“2FR”). Id. ¶ 48.
the investigation, Reifler obtained a search warrant on
affidavit for Dawn's residence (2FL). Id. ¶
49. Over a week later, the Officer Defendants held a briefing
on the proposed sting operation. Id. ¶ 50.
Fuentes, Township of Irvington law enforcement officers,
including Chase and Santiago, Essex County employees, and the
ECPO Defendants were either present or had knowledge of the
operation and otherwise helped plan it. Id.
¶¶ 51-52. After the briefing, the Officer and
Public Entity Defendants set up surveillance on 2FL, during
which time someone saw “a black male wearing glasses
and a black female with blondish hair” through a back
rear window blind. Pls.' Opp'n, Ex. A ¶ 53, ECF
No. 19-18 (“Am. Compl.”). The Officer and Public
Entity Defendants then forcibly entered 2FL and found drugs,
but located no individuals, including Dawn. Id.
leaving 2FL, the same Defendants went to 2FR-where Plaintiffs
were-and, without probable cause, requested and obtained
consent to search that apartment. Id. ¶¶
55-56. Once inside, the Defendants saw drugs which led to
Plaintiffs' arrest and incarceration. Compl. ¶ 58.
Plaintiffs claim the Officer Defendants and Public Entity
Defendants planted the drugs as a pretext for arrest.
Id. ¶¶ 57-58; Am. Compl. ¶ 29.
Plaintiffs' arrest, Assistant Prosecutor Fetterman
elicited grand jury testimony from Reifler that she knew or
should have known was false. Am. Compl. ¶ 68. Reifler
testified that Godfrey-Khalil was Dawn-although he never met
or saw her, id. ¶ 69; that he spoke with the
landlord of 2FL and 2FR who only speaks Portuguese,
id. ¶ 70; that the landlord was unable to pick
Dawn out of a photo lineup that included Godfrey-Khalil-
having only the characteristics of being African-American
females in common, id. ¶¶ 70- 71; and that
Barron leased and paid utilities on both apartments.
Id. ¶¶ 72-73. He also testified about
seeing Godfrey-Khalil and another person from 2FL's
window, but the police report is devoid of that observation.
Id. ¶ 74. Finally, Reifler gave false testimony
because Godfrey-Khalil and another individual were
African-American. Id. As a result of the arrests,
Barron was incarcerated for four months, Godfrey-Khalil for
six months, and Watts for two and a half weeks. Id.
¶¶ 75-77. Assistant Prosecutor Fetterman then
dismissed all charges against Plaintiffs. Id. ¶
The Action Here
consent, the parties agreed to dismiss certain claims. So the
Court will address the remaining issues, those being
violations of Plaintiffs' civil rights for false arrest,
wrongful incarceration, racial profiling, and conspiracy
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1981, and 1985 (Count I)
and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (“NJCRA”),
N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:6-2, et seq. (Count II)
and a state law malicious prosecution claim (Count V).
12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole
or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the
burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges
v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(citation and quotation marks omitted). The plausibility
standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,
' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). Thus, “a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his
entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted).
42 U.S.C. § 1983, a defendant, acting under color of
law, may be sued for deprivation of alleged constitutional or
statutory rights. Miller v. Mitchell, 598 F.3d 139,
147 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted); Hafer v.
Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 31 (1991) (“[S]tate officers
[are not] absolutely immune from personal liability under
§ 1983 solely by virtue of the ‘official'
nature of their ...