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Caronte v. Chiumento

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

March 2, 2018

MICHAEL A. CARONTE, Plaintiff,
v.
LT. DANIEL CHIUMENTO and LT. DAVID D'AMICO, Defendants.

          DANIEL B. ZONIES, ESQ. Attorney for Plaintiff.

          REYNOLDS & HORN, P.C. Thomas B. Reynolds, Esq. Attorney for Defendants.

          OPINION

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This § 1983 suit arises out of Plaintiff Michael Caronte's arrest for obstruction of justice and resisting arrest following a high speed vehicle chase.[1] Defendants, police officers Lieutenant Daniel Chiumento and Lieutenant David D'Amico, sued in their individual capacities, move for summary judgment. Caronte has filed no opposition to the motion.[2] For the reasons stated herein, the motion will be granted.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In the evening of May 3, 2013, Plaintiff Caronte, while driving his four door black Ford Taurus, cut-off another driver who happened to be an off-duty police officer. (Defendants' Statement of Material Facts[3], “SMF, ” ¶ 1) The situation quickly escalated into a “road rage incident, ” (Id.) involving the other driver repeatedly honking his horn and Caronte “giv[ing] the middle finger [] numerous times to the driver.” (Id. ¶ 3).

         On-duty police officers were dispatched and “Plaintiff was reported to be eluding law enforcement personnel from at least the time period between 5:24 p.m. and 5:35 p.m.” (Id. ¶ 2) Plaintiff was driving dangerously through Berlin Township and Borough and Waterford Township; “traveling in excess of 75 miles per hour” “throughout numerous highways, intersections, and streets, ” cutting off two vehicles, and “blowing a stop sign.” (Id.) Plaintiff eventually stopped in a parking lot in Waterford Township whereupon his “vehicle was surrounded by five to six marked patrol police vehicles.” (Id. ¶ 3)

         Defendant Chiumento “approached, on foot, the Plaintiff's vehicle, and attempted to calm down Plaintiff Caronte . . . but Plaintiff Caronte was yelling and irate.” (SMF ¶ 4) Caronte refused Chiumento's “commands to exit [the] vehicle” “at least two or three [times]” (Id.), stated that he “‘doesn't deal with police . . . doesn't like them . . . they are assholes, '” and at one point Chiumento observed Caronte “reaching under his seat.” (Id. ¶ 5) Then Chiumento “removed Caronte from his vehicle” and “advised” Chiumento that he “was under arrest for obstruction of the administration of the law.” (Id.) Caronte was still noncompliant, attempting “to physically pull away from Lieutenant Chiumento and a brief struggle ensued before Chiumento was able to handcuff Caronte and place Caronte in to the rear of [a patrol car] for transport to the Waterford Township Police Department, where Lieutenant Chiumento issued formal charges against Caronte for obstruction of justice and resisting arrest.” (Id. ¶ 6)

         Approximately six months later, Caronte met with Defendant D'Amico at the Waterford Township Police Department in order “to file criminal Complaints against Lieutenant Chiumento for harassment and simple assault.” (SMF ¶ 8) Caronte also inquired as to the identities of two other officers whom he believed had assaulted him during the arrest. (Id. ¶ 10) Defendant D'Amico stated that neither of the two other officers on duty with Defendant Chiumento at the relevant time were the officers who allegedly assaulted Caronte; D'Amico suggested that the officers may have been from either Berlin, Winslow, or Chesilhurst Departments. (Id.) In January, 2014, a municipal court judge found an absence of probable cause to support the charges against Chiumento and the Complaints were dismissed. (Id. ¶ 8)

         On June 21, 2014, Caronte pled guilty to a violation of the “Waterford Township Municipal Ordinance of peace and good order, Section 195-1” in exchange for the dismissal of the criminal charges of obstruction of justice and resisting arrest charges. (SMF ¶ 7 and Defs' Ex. E, Municipal Court Transcript) The Municipal Court imposed a $2000.00 stipulated fine plus costs. (Id.)

         The Court assumes, for purposes of this motion only, that the following claims remain in this suit at this time[4]; four claims against Defendant Chiumento: (1) § 1983 excessive force; (2) § 1983 false arrest; (3) § 1983 false imprisonment; and (4) common law assault and battery; and one claim against Defendant D'Amico: (1) “violation of procedural due process” pursuant to § 1983. (Dkt No. 35)[5]

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment shall be granted if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if it will “affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law[.]” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” if it could lead a “reasonable jury [to] return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         “[W]hen a properly supported motion for summary judgment [has been] made, the adverse party ‘must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). In the face of a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant's burden is rigorous: he “must point to concrete evidence in the record”; mere allegations, conclusions, conjecture, and speculation will not defeat summary judgment. Orsatti v. NewJersey State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 484 (3d Cir. 1995); accord, Jackson v. Danberg, 594 F.3d 210, 227 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Acumed LLC v. Advanced Surgical Servs., Inc., 561 F.3d 199, 228 ...


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