United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Michael Vazquez, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary
judgment filed by Defendants City of Jersey City
("Jersey City"), the City of Jersey City Police
Department ("JCPD") and Officer Eddie Fernandez.
D.E. 52. Plaintiff Indigo Hatcher opposes the motion (D.E.
54-57), and Defendants filed a brief in reply (D.E.
62).The Court reviewed all submissions made in
support and opposition of the motion, and considered the
motion without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b)
and L. Civ. R. 78.1(b). For the reasons that follow,
Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Factual Background 
approximately 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on December 21, 2014,
Defendant Eddie Fernandez, a patrol officer with the JCPD,
performed plain clothes surveillance at Fulton Avenue in
Jersey City. DSOMF ¶¶ 1, 4, 15, 30. Fernandez and
other JCPD officers were conducting surveillance because of
complaints that drugs were being sold in the area.
Id. ¶¶ 17-19. When a JCPD officer performs
surveillance, he "surveys the relevant area to see what
is going on in the immediate area . . . look[ing] for illegal
activity." Id. ¶ 21. If the officer
observes unlawful conduct, he informs the "perimeter
unit." Id. The perimeter unit, which also
consists of JCPD officers, is located within two to three
blocks from the surveillance area, and is directed to arrest
actors that the surveillance unit observes performing illegal
activity. Id. ¶¶ 23-24.
December 21, 2014, Officer Fernandez performed surveillance
from the backseat of an unmarked car with tinted windows.
Id. ¶ 29. The car was parked across from an
empty lot on Fulton Avenue where Fernandez had concluded
that, "[b]ased on past experience and recent
complaints," people hid drugs. Id. ¶ 27.
While performing surveillance, Officer Fernandez observed a
female walking back and forth in front of the lot, which
Officer Fernandez deemed "suspicious." Id.
¶ 33. Shortly after seeing the female, a van pulled up
and the female approached the vehicle. Officer Fernandez then
watched the driver exit the van and give the female a black
bag in exchange for cash. Id. ¶ 34. The female
took possession of the bag, ran into the empty lot, and
placed the bag on the ground next to "a big box
truck" parked in the lot. Id. ¶ 36.
Officer Fernandez then saw the female leave the empty lot and
speak with the van driver. Id. ¶ 37.
observing these events, Officer Fernandez instructed the
perimeter unit to stop the van for further investigation. The
perimeter unit eventually pulled the van over and arrested
the driver. Id. ¶¶ 37-38. Presumably after
the van left, Officer Fernandez watched the female "go
to the black bag in the empty lot, take out a bag from inside
the black bag and give it to another unknown male."
Id. ¶ 39. While this was occurring, Officer
Fernandez saw another female standing in the middle of Fulton
Avenue "looking back and forth." Id.
¶ 40. "Based on Officer Fernandez's experience
and training, he concluded that [the first female] had just
sold a drug to the unknown male while [the second female] was
looking out for police." Id. Officer Fernandez
observed the first female allegedly sell drugs to a second
unidentified man in the same manner. He then described the
second male to the perimeter unit, who stopped the male and
recovered drugs on his person. Id. ¶ 42.
Eventually, the two females went into a house with the
address of 45 Fulton Avenue, and Officer Fernandez ended his
surveillance because it was getting dark. Id.
¶¶ 44, 54. Before leaving the scene, Officer
Fernandez directed the perimeter unit to recover the black
bag from the empty lot; the bag contained illegal drugs.
Id. ¶¶ 45-46.
Fernandez then went to the South District Police Precinct and
within an hour, requested assistance from non-party Detective
Morris in order to identify the two females that
he saw during the surveillance. Id. ¶¶
47-48. At the time, Officer Fernandez claims that he did not
know the identity of either female. Id. ¶¶
32-33, 47. The first woman was wearing a black knitted hat,
black coat, blue jeans and sneakers. The second woman was
wearing a heavy, black North Face coat. Id. ¶
detective, Morris had access to the computer system used to
look up Bureau of Criminal Investigation ("BO")
data. Using the database, detectives can check BCI
identification numbers, which are given to individuals who
have been arrested. In addition, a detective can enter an
address into the BCI database and retrieve photographs and
identifying information of persons who were previously
arrested at that address. Id. ¶¶ 49-52.
With Detective Morris's assistance, Officer Fernandez
concluded that Plaintiff Indigo Hatcher was the first female
who he saw selling drugs, and Plaintiffs sister, Jasmine
Hatcher, was the look out. Id. ¶ 40. How
Officer Fernandez ascertained the identity of the two females
that he observed earlier in the day, however, is disputed.
Fernandez testified that he told Morris the address of the
house that he saw the women enter, 45 Fulton Avenue, and that
Morris entered this address into the BCI database. After
Morris entered the address into the database, the names
Indigo and Jasmine Hatcher "popped up." Aboushi
Cert. Ex. B, Deposition of Eddie Fernandez at ¶ 55:7-18
(June 30, 2016) (hereinafter "Fernandez Dep").
Morris pulled up the arrest reports for Indigo and Jasmine,
which included photographs of both women. After seeing
Indigo's photograph, Officer Fernandez identified her as
the first female who was selling drugs, and after seeing
Jasmine's photograph, Fernandez identified her as the
lookout. Id. at T55:18-56:3.
however, testified that Officer Fernandez "provided
[him] with a substantial amount of information in order for
[Morris] to figure out who that person [i.e. Indigo]
was." Aboushi Cert. Ex. C, Deposition of Dejon Morris at
¶ 21:16-18 (June 30, 2016) (hereinafter "Morris
Dep."). Although Morris did not recall precisely what
information Officer Fernandez provided to him, Morris
believed that Fernandez provided the address, the name Indigo
Hatcher, and potentially her date of birth. Id. at
T21:19-22; T23:9-10. Because Fernandez provided Morris with
enough identifying information, Morris testified that he did
not need to conduct an address search in the BCI database.
Id. at T24:5-25:4. Morris also testified that
Fernandez only provided him with information for one female,
and accordingly, he only pulled one photograph from the
database for Fernandez to review. Thus, Fernandez only
identified one person. Id. at T26:12-21. After
Morris inputted the information provided by Fernandez into
the database, a picture came up. Id. at T23:l 1-19.
When the photo appeared on Morris's computer screen,
Fernandez said, "That's her." Id. at
T28:l-7. Once Fernandez saw the photograph associated with
Plaintiffs BCI report, "he was 100% sure" that
Indigo Hatcher was the first female he saw while conducting
surveillance earlier in the afternoon. DSOMF ¶ 56.
approximately 7:00 p.m. that same evening, Officer Fernandez
called Jersey City Municipal Court Judge Rosen and provided
Judge Rosen with information regarding his surveillance.
Based on this information, Judge Rosen determined that there
was probable cause, and signed four complaint-warrants for
Plaintiffs arrest. DSOMF ¶¶ 59, 62; Adelman Cert.
Ex. B. The complaint-warrants stated, among other things,
that Plaintiff possessed illegal drugs with the intent to
distribute and that she conspired with Jasmine to commit drug
offenses. DSOMF ¶ 61, Adelman Cert. Ex. B. Then, on
April 9, 2015, Officer Fernandez testified in front of a
grand jury as to the events he saw on December 21, 2014.
Because of Officer Fernandez's testimony, which included
his determination that Plaintiff was the first female, an
indictment was returned against Plaintiff on April 9, 2015.
The indictment contained various allegations concerning the
possession and distribution of illegal drugs on December 21,
2014. DSOMF ¶¶ 63-64.
indicates that she was not even in Jersey City, much less on
Fulton Avenue, when Fernandez was surveilling the area. While
Fernandez was conducting surveillance in the afternoon on
December 21, 2014, Plaintiff indicates that she working at a
Shop-Rite in Hoboken, New Jersey. Plaintiffs time card from
Shop-Rite shows that on December 21, she worked from 1:23
p.m. to 6:36 p.m. PSOMF ¶¶ 6-7. Despite Plaintiffs
representation that she was at work when the surveillance
occurred, "Fernandez claims that he is 100% sure that
Indigo Hatcher was engaged in the narcotics activity he
claims to have observed." Id. ¶ 26.
summer of 2015, Plaintiff received a notice in the mail to
appear in court in Jersey City. Plaintiff appeared and was
informed by a judge that there were drug charges pending
against her and that there was a warrant for her arrest.
DSOMF ¶¶ 66-67; PSOMF ¶ 34. Plaintiff was
arrested and bail was set at $10, 000. PSOMF ¶ 36.
Plaintiff was placed in a holding cell but was released the
same day when she posted bail. DSOMF ¶¶ 69-71.
August 10, 2015, the charges against Plaintiff were dismissed
because the State determined that Officer Fernandez's
identification of Plaintiff was incorrect. Id.
¶ 72; PSOMF ¶ 39. In moving to dismiss the
Indictment, the Assistant Prosecutor explained that
"[a]s it turns out your Honor, the police did not
observe Indigo Hatcher making hand[-]to[-]hand transactions,
it was another female who entered the home at 45 Fulton
Street." PSOMF ¶ 39.