United States District Court, D. New Jersey
J. MCCRACKEN LAW OFFICES OF CONRAD J. BENEDETTO On behalf of
SURINDER K. AGGARWAL On behalf of Plaintiff.
GERARD MASCIOCCHI KEAVENEY LEGAL GROUP, LLC. On behalf of
J. MCGUIRE NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL On behalf of Defendant
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
matter concerns the alleged malicious prosecution of
Plaintiff Kazar Milton by Defendant Investigator James Bruno.
Plaintiff was charged with the murder of Luis Rolon. Before
the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. For
the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant's
Court takes its facts from Defendant's Statement of
Material Facts Not in Dispute, Plaintiff's Response,
Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute,
and Defendant's Response. Where the Court takes its facts
from a different source, the Court so indicates.
Rolon was murdered at his residence on January 16, 2008. His
girlfriend, Crystal Ford, witnessed the murder. Defendant, a
Senior Investigator to the Camden County Prosecutor's
Office Homicide Unit, was the lead investigator assigned to
the Rolon case. As a Senior Investigator, his job
responsibilities included conducting an investigation,
interviewing witnesses, obtaining taped statements, and
responding to and assessing crime scenes.
provided Defendant with an initial statement during the early
morning hours of January 17, 2008, in which she described the
murder. According to Ford, Rolon answered the door for
someone he appeared to know, and the first person to enter
“strong armed” his way in and “started
tussling” with Rolon. Ford said the first person to
enter asked “Where the shit at?” before shooting
Rolon, after which two more men entered the
residence. They searched the house and Rolon's
pockets before leaving. Ford called the Camden Police
Department at 10:34 PM to report the shooting.
indicated that the person who shot Rolon was a black male
between 5'9 and 6'0 and had a mustache and a beard.
He was not wearing a mask. She said the shooter wore a black
skully hat, black coat, blue and white striped shirt, and
blue jeans. The shooter shot Rolon with his left
hand. Ford told investigators that the shooter
was about five feet away from her when Rolon was shot and
that “[i]f [she saw] him again [she] could tell
[investigators] that's him.”
the other two individuals who entered, Ford said one wore a
black mask over his face from his eyes down and wore a grey
hoodie. Ford at first said this person was wearing grey
pants, but then said several times that the pants were tan.
While Ford was unable to provide a description of the third
person, she indicated he may have been wearing a black coat.
(Pl. Ex. D at 12).
in the morning on January 17, 2008, Defendant and Detective
Cheryl Campbell of the Camden Police Department arrived at
Ford's home. Ford accompanied them to the
Prosecutor's Office. There, Investigator John Greer of
the Camden County Prosecutor's Office Homicide Unit
showed her a photo array that included Plaintiff's
picture. Ford thereafter gave a videotaped statement
identifying Plaintiff from the photo array as the person who
shot Rolon. Ford stated she had known Plaintiff for about ten
years, because she used to live across the street from
testified at her deposition that she identified Plaintiff
because she “felt pressured” by an individual who
was not the Defendant. More specifically, she said the person
who made her feel pressured was an “older white
man” with white hair and a moustache, a person she
recognized to be different from the person who interviewed
her in the early morning hours of January 17th; in other
words, someone other than Defendant, who had conducted that
interview. At the time, Ford and the older unidentified man
were the only people in the room. Other circumstances
regarding Ford's identification of Plaintiff are also in
dispute. Plaintiff recanted her identification in 2011.
night of Rolon's murder, Defendant learned that local
police had issued a request to stop a suspicious black pickup
truck seen in the area. The vehicle was located and stopped
by police. The occupants of the vehicle were Raheem
Brittingham and Donte Simmons. One of the occupants was
wearing tan pants. Defendant and other officers met with
Brittingham and Simmons and interviewed them. Defendant
stated there was “[n]o doubt in [his] mind those were
the guys in the house.” (Pl. Ex. B at 27:13-18).
asked about their whereabouts prior to the police stop, and
Defendant testified he disbelieved their responses because
they gave conflicting stories. Brittingham and Simmons
thereafter both verbally consented to provide their clothing
to the police to be tested for evidence. One of the
individuals was detained because he had an outstanding
warrant, but the police could not otherwise hold them. (Pl.
Ex. B at 27:18-20). Defendant did not obtain a recorded
statement from either Brittingham or Simmons. Final testing
on the tan pants collected from Brittingham did not reveal
the presence of blood. However, no trace evidence analysis
City Police Officer William Benjamin was Simmons's
step-father. He was present at the scene when the police
stopped Brittingham and Simmons. Defendant claims Benjamin
recognized the vehicle and described its “frequent
operator” as a black stocky male in his thirties with a
beard and mustache. Benjamin spoke with Simmons and advised
Defendant that the individual who regularly operated the
truck was known as “Smack.” Defendant then
learned from Richard Norcross of the Camden County
Prosecutor's Office Intelligence Unit that the
Prosecutor's Office had intelligence indicating Plaintiff
supposedly used the nicknames “Smack” and
January 28, 2008, Defendant requested a search warrant for
the vehicle in which Brittingham and Simmons had been riding
the night of Rolon's murder. During the execution of the
search warrant, the entire vehicle was processed and certain
items were collected as evidence and tested for fingerprints.
There was no match between the fingerprint lifts taken from
the vehicle or the items and Plaintiff's fingerprints.
During the search, several articles of clothing were found
that were consistent with a description of the clothing worn
by the perpetrators of the Rolon murder. These articles were
photographed but not removed. Pursuant to another search
warrant, these items were later collected.
January 18, 2008, Defendant consulted with Gregory Smith, the
Section Chief for the Homicide Unit, about this case.
Following the consultation, Defendant prepared the complaint
charging Plaintiff with Rolon's murder. Plaintiff was
arrested that day. That afternoon, Defendant interviewed
Plaintiff. Plaintiff admitted knowing Rolon and ...