United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case arises from the arrest of Plaintiff Ryan Veneziale by
two New Jersey State Police Officers on September 28, 2012.
Presently before the Court are the competing summary judgment
motions of the remaining parties in this case: Plaintiff Ryan
Veneziale (“Veneziale”) and Defendants Trooper
Steven Stone (“Stone”), Sergeant Kion Wilson
(“Wilson”), and the State of New
Jersey. A number of other claims have been
withdrawn and the claims against Defendants John Doe (1-5)
will be dismissed.The remaining claims against the individual
defendants Stone and Wilson are for False Arrest (Count V),
False Imprisonment (Count VI), and Excessive Force (Count I)
under both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the New Jersey Civil
Rights Act, N.J.S.A. 10:6-1. The remaining claim against the
State of New Jersey alleges Failure to Train in violation of
both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the New Jersey Civil Rights
Act, N.J.S.A. 10:6-1 (Count IV).
Court has considered the written submission of the parties
and the arguments advanced at the hearing on November 1,
2017. For the reasons stated on the record that day, as well
as those that follow, Plaintiff Veneziale's Motion for
Summary Judgment is denied and the motion of Defendants
Wilson, Stone, and the State of New Jersey is granted in part
and denied in part.
September 28, 2012, Plaintiff Ryan Veneziale was a passenger
in a car driven by Nicolas Geracito. Geracito was intoxicated
and crashed the car into a tree on private property in
Hainesport Township, New Jersey. Police Officers from the New
Jersey State Police arrived on the scene, including Stone and
Wilson. The car was totaled, but both passengers survived.
Geracito failed a field sobriety test and was arrested at the
happens next is recorded by police video cameras which
capture audio and video; however, there is a significant
period of time where the parties can be heard, but they are
outside the view of the camera. Veneziale was questioned by
Wilson and was asked for his driver's license in order to
the complete the accident report. This interaction can only
be heard. Based on subsequent activity, it could be that the
parties where positioned just beyond the camera view. The
interaction between Veneziale and Wilson begins the chain of
events that form the predicate for Plaintiff's Complaint.
is no dispute that Plaintiff refused to give Wilson his
driver's license, despite being asked and directed
multiple times to furnish it. The video/audio depicts a
frank, but tension filled conversation carried out in calm,
metered tones. Veneziale can be heard protesting that,
because he was not driving the car, he was not obligated to
turn his license over to the police. The audio/video captures
Veneziale saying “I wasn't driving” in
response to Wilson's demands for the license. After
Wilson informs Veneziale that he is required to furnish his
license even though he was not operating the vehicle,
Plaintiff states that he “disagree[s].” At this
point, although the words alone may suggest a conversational
tone and there is no yelling, the frustration is palpable.
Then, Stone intervenes and the situation escalates. Stone can
be heard shouting at Veneziale and demands that he
“get[s his] driver's license out now” and
warns Veneziale that this is his last chance to cooperate
with the police. Veneziale retorts: “what are you going
to do to me?” Shortly after Veneziale's retort,
Wilson, Veneziale, and Stone come into the camera view in a
tussle. Stone places his forearm into the shoulder or back of
Veneziale and appears to forcefully slam him to the ground.
Upon impact, Plaintiff's mouth strikes the cement while
his right side strikes the driver's parked car. Veneziale
can be seen hitting the front of a car and striking the
ground with some force. On two separate occasions, Veneziale
informs the officers of damage to his teeth.
and Stone contend that they all fell to the ground because
Veneziale, who was intoxicated, lost his balance while he was
actively resisting arrest. Veneziale contends that he was
unnecessarily thrown to the ground by the frustrated
officers, causing his face to strike the cement resulting in
the fracture of his front teeth. The video only depicts the
parties as Veneziale hits the car and the ground. There is no
video account to prove or disprove the parties' accounts
of how they all came into a struggle. The audio confirms the
parties' assertion that no one verbally informed
Veneziale that he was under arrest before he can be seen
hitting the ground.
was handcuffed, taken to the hospital by ambulance, and then
placed under arrest and charged with obstruction of justice,
resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. More charges were
filed against Veneziale because he was combative during his
transport from the hospital to the police station. During
this ride, he allegedly spit blood on Stone, repeatedly
unbuckled his seatbelt, struggled with Stone, and attempted
to kick Wilson, who was operating the vehicle. As a result,
additional charges of aggravated assault on a police officer,
attempted escape, and throwing of bodily fluid charges were
levied against him. These charges stemming from the transport
are not relevant here.
April 9, 2013, Veneziale applied for and was granted entry
into a pre-trial diversion (“PTD”) program for
both sets of charges. He successfully completed the program
and both complaints were dismissed. Plaintiff filed this
action on September 26, 2014. The Defendants' chief claim
is that Plaintiff's Complaint is barred by Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), because successful
completion of a pre-trial intervention/diversion program is
not a favorable termination. For the reasons that follow, the
Court disagrees as to Count I only.
Standard of Review
will grant a motion for summary judgment if there is no
genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Pearson
v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir.
2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322 (1986)); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c). Thus,
this Court will enter summary judgment only when “the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c).
issue is “genuine” if supported by evidence such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the
nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
“material” if, under the governing substantive
law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the
suit. Id. In determining whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all
reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party
has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by
affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Maidenbaum v.
Bally's Park Place, Inc., 870 F.Supp. 1254, 1258
(D.N.J. 1994). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion
for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify
specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those
offered by the moving party. Andersen, 477 U.S. at
256-57. Indeed, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the
entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery
and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at
deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary
judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the
evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine
whether there is a genuine issue for trial.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility
determinations are the province of the finder of fact.
Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d
1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).
primary issue is whether Plaintiff's claims of False
Arrest, False Imprisonment, and Excessive Force are barred by
the holding in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477
(1994), because none of the criminal charges levied against
him were favorably terminated. Both parties move for summary
judgment on the balance of the remaining claims. The court
will address whether any claims survive Heck
scrutiny, then consider the balance of the claims on the
Scrutiny under Heck v. Humphrey
Court finds that Plaintiff's claims of false arrest and
false imprisonment are barred by Heck but, for the
reasons that follow, the claim of excessive force is not