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Harrison v. New Jersey State Police

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 1, 2019

KYRA HARRISON, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          WILLIAM J. MARTINI. U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Krya Harrison ("Plaintiff) brings this action against the New Jersey State Police ("NJSP"), various State Troopers, and John Doe Defendants (collectively "Defendants"). Plaintiff alleges she was pulled over due to her race, assaulted, falsely arrested, and maliciously prosecuted for knowingly calling 9-1-1 without a purpose. The matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss. ECF No. [17] ("Mot."). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On November 22, 2016, Plaintiff (an African-American woman) was driving on Interstate 287 in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey. Compl. ¶ 16, ECF No. [1]. Plaintiff alleges that after she drove past NJSP Officer Rafael R. Castro ("Castro"), he pulled her over because "she was not supposed to pass him on the right and ... he did not like the way she was wearing her seatbelt." Id. ¶ 19. Scared, Plaintiff "dialed 9-1-1 to request a sergeant for back up." Id. ¶ 21. According to the Complaint, Castro then questioned Plaintiff, asking: "why are you on your phone? Do you see me on my phone? Why are you on your phone?" Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiff can allegedly be heard on Castro's Mobile Video Recorder ("MVR") pleading: "I'm scared," "I'm extremely scared," and "I'm calling for help because I'm scared." Id. ¶ 24.

         Plaintiff alleges that Castro then requested her driver's license and registration. Id. ¶ 26. But before Plaintiff could turn over the documents, Castro said he was arresting her for failing to give him her license, registration, and insurance card. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. According to the Complaint, Castro then grabbed Plaintiff and "dragged her from her car, slammed her to the ground, slammed her head to the concrete, stuck his knee in her back and handcuffed her," then dragged her across the ground to his patrol car. Id. ¶ 28. The Complaint further alleges that while Plaintiff sat handcuffed and crying in the patrol car, Castro approached the vehicle, yanked her right arm, and screamed "shut the fuck up." Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiff was eventually transported to the hospital where she was examined for a head injury. Id. ¶ 34.

         The same day Plaintiff was arrested, Castro signed a criminal complaint accusing her of making a 9-1-1 call without a lawful purpose, obstruction, and resisting arrest. Id. ¶ 36. Castro also issued thirteen motor vehicle summons to Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 38. Plaintiff further alleges that she was never read her Miranda Rights. Id. ¶ 39.

         On November 23, 2016, Plaintiff returned to the hospital. Id. ¶ 40. "[S]he was diagnosed with a thoracic spine fracture, left shoulder sprain/strain and neck sprain/strain with the mechanism of injury noted to be blunt trauma, by physical assault." Id. ¶¶ 40-41.

         On March 22, 2017, a Somerset County Grand Jury returned a one count indictment, charging Plaintiff with making a 9-1-1 call without a lawful purpose. Id. ¶ 42. Castro admitted to the Grand Jury that he heard Plaintiff tell the 9-1-1 operator, "I'm asking you for help because I am scared." Id. ¶ 43. On October 24, 2017, Plaintiffs motion to dismiss that indictment was granted. Id. ¶ 44. A different Somerset County Grand Jury re-indicted Plaintiff on the same charge in December 2017. Id. ¶ 45. In September 2018, Plaintiff was tried and acquitted of making a 9-1-1 call without a lawful purpose. Id. ¶ 53.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A complaint survives a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss if the Plaintiff states a claim for relief that is "plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). The movant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). Courts are required to accept all factual allegations as true and draw "all inferences from the facts alleged in the light most favorable" to plaintiffs. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008). But when deciding a motion to dismiss, courts are not required to accept "legal conclusions" as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs Complaint alleges fourteen causes of action:

         Count Claim

Count 1 Pattern and Practice Allegations (Governmental Liability)
Count 2 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Unreasonable and Excessive Force
Count 3 Common Law Assault and Battery
Count 4 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 Unlawful and Unreasonable ...

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