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Sharif v. City of Hackensack

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 3, 2018

IBN SHARIF, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HACKENSACK, CITY OF HACKENSACK POLICE DEPARTMENT, CAPT. FRANCESCA AQUILA, DET. ROCCO DUARDO, DET. JOSEPH GON2ALES, DET. LT. SCOTT SYBEL, ABC CORP. 1-3 Name hereby fictitious, JOHN DOES 1-10 Name being hereby fictitious, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KEVIN MCNULTY, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Ibn Sharif has filed an Amended Complaint in three counts against Captain Francesca Aquila, Detective Rocco Duardo, Detective Joseph Gonzales, and Detective Lieutenant Scott Sybel. It arises from the allegedly wrongful arrest and filing of criminal charges (now dismissed) against Sharif for allegedly selling cocaine to an undercover officer.

         By Memorandum Opinion (DE 15, cited as "Mem. Op.") and Order (DE 16), I granted defendants' motion to dismiss the original complaint because it failed to allege factually that Sharif was arrested or prosecuted without probable cause. The original complaint stated the legal conclusion that this was a "false" arrest and prosecution, and noted that the three officers involved had committed wrongful acts in connection with an unconnected case. The original complaint, however, did not so much as deny that the cocaine sale had occurred as charged. That dismissal, however, was without prejudice to the filing, within 30 days, of an amended complaint.

         On November 29, 2018, plaintiff, by his counsel, filed his (First) Amended Complaint (cited herein as "1AC"). The Amended Complaint asserts three counts:

I. False arrest and false imprisonment in violation of the U.S. Constitution, impliedly under 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
II. Malicious prosecution, also impliedly under § 1983;
III. Violation of the New Jersey Constitution.

         The City of Hackensack and the Hackensack Police Department, named as defendants in the original complaint, have been dropped from the Amended Complaint. The corresponding Monell claims of municipal liability (former Counts III and IV) have likewise been dropped, although some of the underlying factual allegations remain in the body of the Amended Complaint.

         Defendant Officers Duardo, Gonzales, and Sybel have moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In short, they contend that the complaint in its amended version still fails to allege lack of probable cause factually, but continues to rely on mere legal conclusions. I disagree; the factual allegations of the Amended Complaint suffice (if only barely) to remedy the defects of the original. The motion to dismiss will therefore be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Familiarity with my prior Memorandum Opinion is assumed. The key allegations of the Amended Complaint are as follows.

         On March 15, 2016, at approximately 6:00 p.m., Sharif was arrested by Duardo and Sybel pursuant to three outstanding warrants. (1AC ¶ 16). The charges and the arrest warrant were based on Sharif s alleged participation in sales transactions for cocaine with Gonzalez and Duardo (in an undercover capacity) on March 15, April 12, and May 11, 2016.

         The defendant denies involvement in any drug transaction on March 15, 2016. Gonzalez and Duardo he says, "falsely claimed that the Plaintiff was engaged in an undercover purchase[], "allegations which led to his being "falsely accused of selling cocaine to the defendant, Det. Gonzalez." (1AC ¶ 19) The Amended Complaint makes nearly identical allegations as to the other two purchases on April 12 and May 11, 2016. (1AC ¶¶ 20, 21)

         Based on those alleged undercover purchases, Sharif was charged with selling cocaine to an undercover officer in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(3), as well as knowingly possessing a controlled dangerous ...


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