United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM M. SHOFFLER, Plaintiff,
THE CITY OF WILDWOOD NEW JERSEY, CITY OF WILDWOOD JOHN/ JANE DOE DECISION MAKERS 1-10, CHRISTOPHER CHOBERT, JAMES STEVENS, JOHN/JANE DOE CITY OF WILDWOOD POLICE OFFICERS 1-10, THE CITY OF WILDWOOD POLICE DEPARTMENT, CAPE MAY COUNTY NEW JERSEY, CAPE MAY COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, CAPE MAY COUNTY JOHN/JANE DOE DECISION MAKERS 1-10, CAPE MAY COUNTY OFFICE OF THE SHERIFF, SHERIFF GARY G. SCHAFFER, JOHN/JANE DOE CAPE MAY COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, and/or SERVANTS 1-10, and JOHN/JANE DOE SHERIFF OFFICERS 1-10, Defendants.
Richard F. Klineburger, III, Esq., Klingburger & Nussey
Counsel for Plaintiff.
Richard L. Goldstein, Esq., Marshall, Dennehey, Warner,
Coleman & Goggin, P.A. Counsel for the Cape May
Vanessa Elaine James, Esq., A. Michael Barker, Esq. Barker,
Gelfand & James Counsel for the Wildwood Defendants.
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
case concerns an arrest and subsequent detention that
Plaintiff William M. Shoffler experienced after he repeatedly
swam naked in the Wildwood Bay in front of the Wharf
Restaurant, in Wildwood, New Jersey. He was subsequently
processed at the Wildwood Police Station and then transported
to the Cape May County Correctional Facility in Cape May
Court House, New Jersey until he was bailed out the next day.
Complaint asserts various federal and state law claims
related to his arrest and his treatment during his hours long
detention. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff has asserted these claims
against the City of Wildwood, the Wildwood Police Department,
Wildwood Police Officers Chobert and Stevens, Cape May
County, Cape May County Correctional Facility, the Cape May
County Sheriff's Office, Cape May County Sheriff Gary G.
Schaffer, and various John and Jane Doe defendants from these
entities. Id. Defendants Cape May County
Correctional Facility and the Cape May Office of the Sheriff
were previously dismissed pursuant to a motion to dismiss
based on a lack of liability pursuant to Monell. ECF Nos. 24
(opinion), 25 (order).
issue are Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment, which
are ripe for adjudication. See ECF Nos. 37 (Cape May Motion),
38 (Wildwood Motion). The Court has subject-matter
jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1331, as this case concerns a federal question. For the
reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion and also
sua sponte dismiss the unidentified John/Jane Doe defendants
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21.
about June 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Complaint. ECF No.
37-2 at 1. Plaintiff named as Defendants Cape May County,
Cape May County Correctional Facility, Cape May County Office
of the Sheriff, and Sheriff Gary G. Schaffer as Defendants.
Id. at 2. Plaintiff also named various John/Jane
Does as it pertains to Cape May County Defendants.
Id. Cape May County Correctional Facility and Cape
May County Office of the Sheriff are departments within Cape
May County and are not separate legal entities that can sue
or be sued. Id. These entities were dismissed as a
result of a partial motion to dismiss. See ECF Nos. 24, 25.
also named as defendants The City of Wildwood, the Wildwood
Police Department, and Wildwood Officers Chobert and Stevens,
as well as various John/Jane Doe defendants. See ECF No. 1.
Plaintiff has never filed an amended complaint and therefore
there are no additional individual defendants.
residence during the times relevant to the Complaint was
located at 539 West Burk Avenue. ECF No. 38-1 at 2. During
all times relevant herein, Plaintiff also owned a property
located at 704-06 West Burk Avenue. Id. The property
located at 704-06 West Burk Avenue is a waterfront property;
it is located on the Wildwood Bay. Id.
property consists of a small fenced in area between two
parking lots with a shed located within the fenced in area;
it is not a residential property. Id. The shed on
the property, which according to Plaintiff is approximately
12 feet by 14 feet, is used for a kayak rental business.
Wharf Restaurant is located adjacent to Plaintiff's
property at 708 West Burk Avenue and is also waterfront.
Id. at 3. According to Plaintiff, in the evening of
June 30, 2015, after doing some work around his 704-06 West
Burk Avenue property with non-parties Gary Meyer and
Plaintiff's girlfriend Michelle Walsh, Plaintiff decided
to take a swim in the bay. Id. According to
Plaintiff, he “probably had a couple beers through the
day” of June 30, 2015. Id. Ms. Walsh recalls
seeing Plaintiff consume two beers on June 30, 2015.
to Plaintiff, he was swimming in the bay when the shorts he
was wearing “came off.” Id. Plaintiff
describes the shorts “like a corduroy short, not a
bathing suit.” Id. Plaintiff was then observed
swimming naked in Wildwood Bay by the Wharf Restaurant's
manager, Ron Lebenski. Manager Lebenski called the Wildwood
Police Department and reported that Plaintiff was swimming
naked and that this was disturbing the Wharf's patrons.
Id. at 4.
to Plaintiff, he heard someone from the Wharf Restaurant yell
at him as he was coming out of the water naked, but Plaintiff
does not recall what was said. Id. Ms. Walsh recalls
seeing Plaintiff come out of the water without his shorts on.
Police Officers Christopher Chobert and James Stevens
responded to Manager Lebenski's call at the Wharf
Restaurant at approximately 7:44 p.m. on June 30, 2015.
Id. Upon arrival at the Wharf Restaurant, Officer
Chobert spoke with the caller. Id. at 5. Manager
Lebenski informed Officer Chobert that he had observed
Plaintiff swimming naked in the water alongside the Wharf.
Id. Manager Lebenski informed Officer Chobert that
Plaintiff, who was known to Manager Lebenski, owned the
property adjacent to the restaurant. Id. Manager
Lebenski stated that Plaintiff was in the water completely
naked and that this caused a No. of the restaurant's
patrons to complain and become alarmed. Id. There
are photographs and a video showing Plaintiff naked and
walking near the water. Id.
speaking with Manager Lebenski, Officer Chobert made contact
with Plaintiff. Id. He approached Plaintiff's
property and observed Plaintiff standing naked inside a shed
on the property. Id. Officers Stevens and Chobert
walked through the open gate of Plaintiff's property to
speak with Plaintiff. Id. at 6. Plaintiff was
advised that he was not permitted to swim naked. Id.
Plaintiff saw the officers approach the property and began
yelling and cursing at them. Plaintiff began to yell
obscenities such as “Fuck you cops, ” and
“Fuck South Jersey cops.” Id.
yelling caused several nearby residents to come outside to
investigate the commotion. Id. Based on
Plaintiff's behavior, Officer Chobert issued Plaintiff a
local ordinance summons for disorderly conduct. Id.
Manager Lebenski also signed a criminal complaint against
Plaintiff for disorderly conduct. Id. Officers
Chobert and Stevens then left the scene. Id.
deposition, Plaintiff stated that he remembered that a police
officer showed up on his property and entered his shed.
Id. at 6-7, 8. He remembers them coming to the
property and telling him that he shouldn't be there with
no clothes on. Id. at 6-7. Plaintiff then agreed
with the police officer. Id. at 7. Plaintiff recalls
putting his shorts back on sometime after the officers
arrived. Id. Plaintiff stated that he did not recall
anything else regarding the conversation with the officers at
that time. Id. at 7. After the conversation,
Plaintiff recalls that the officers left Plaintiff's
property. Id. at 8.
Walsh recalls an officer telling Plaintiff that he could not
swim naked and that the police had received complaints from
the Wharf regarding Plaintiff's swimming naked.
Id. Ms. Walsh recalls Plaintiff telling the officer
that his shorts “slipped off” and the officer
told Plaintiff “not to do it again.” Id.
Ms. Walsh does not recall anything else about the initial
interaction between Plaintiff and the Wildwood police
to Plaintiff, after the officers left, Plaintiff went to take
another swim and “basically the same happened”
and his shorts came off again. Id. at 8. Officer
Stevens was again dispatched to the 700 block of West Burk
Avenue based on a report that Plaintiff was once again
swimming naked in the water near his property despite the
prior warning and summons issued to him earlier that day.
his arrival back to Plaintiff's property, Officer Stevens
observed Plaintiff exiting the bay naked. Id.
Officer Stevens approached Plaintiff and informed Plaintiff
that he was under arrest. Id. at 9. Plaintiff was
initially resistant, pulling away from Officer Stevens and
tightening his arms in response to the officer's attempt
to handcuff him. Id. Officer Stevens advised
Plaintiff many times to stop resisting. Id. He then
brought Plaintiff to the ground in order to affect the arrest
and to overcome his resistance. Id.
to Plaintiff, “the next thing” he knew, he was
pushed face down in the sand and handcuffed behind his back.
Id. Plaintiff also believes that “a few words
might have been exchanged” between him and Officer
Stevens when Plaintiff was on the ground but he does not
recall what was said. Id. Plaintiff does believe
that he was told to put his hands behind his back.
Id. Plaintiff was still naked when he was handcuffed
but he was allowed to get dressed. Id. at 10.
Officer Stevens was able to locate a pair of shorts and
Plaintiff was allowed to put them on. Id.
time did Plaintiff advise Officer Stevens that he was in any
pain or that the handcuffs were too tight. Id.
Officer Stevens recalls that the arrest took place near the
water outside of the fenced in area of Plaintiff's
property. Id. Officer Stevens then transported
Plaintiff to police headquarters for processing at
approximately 8:13 p.m. Id. Plaintiff does not
recall the discussion with Officer Stevens after he returned
to his property but “does not believe” that he
was belligerent or aggressive towards him. Id.
Walsh did not observe Plaintiff going into or coming out of
the water on the second occasion but did observe Plaintiff
without his shorts on. Id. When Ms. Walsh observed
Plaintiff and the officers, Plaintiff was already on the
ground; she had just come out of the shed. Id. at
11. She did observe Plaintiff get taken to the ground.
Id. She recalls hearing the police officer tell
Plaintiff to “hold still” while Plaintiff was on
the ground and she told the officer to “be
careful” when handcuffing Plaintiff because he had a
bad back. Id. Ms. Walsh recalls that “one,
maybe two” officers were present during Plaintiff's
Ms. Walsh observed Plaintiff on the ground, he was in the
process of being handcuffed. Id. According to Ms.
Walsh, Plaintiff was still naked at this point and the
officer permitted Plaintiff to get off the ground and allowed
Ms. Walsh and Mr. Meyer to help Plaintiff put his shorts on.
Id. Ms. Walsh estimates that Plaintiff was on the
ground for “a couple minutes” before being
allowed to stand up and put on his shorts. Id. at
was then transported to the Wildwood police station.
Id. During processing one of Plaintiff's hands
was handcuffed to a bar as is standard procedure when
processing arrests in order to ensure the safety of police
officers. Id. After being processed, Plaintiff was
released with a summons for disorderly conduct and resisting
arrest. Id. As Stevens was escorting Plaintiff out
of police headquarters, Plaintiff aggressively lunged at
Officer Stevens. Id. Plaintiff was not handcuffed at
this time as he was being released. Id.
Stevens then pushed Plaintiff against the booking area wall
and placed Plaintiff under arrest for disorderly conduct.
Id. Officer Stevens then contacted Municipal Court
Judge Garrabrant who authorized a warrant for disorderly
conduct. Id. at 14. Judge Garrabrant set
Plaintiff's bail at $3, 500. Id. Once back in
the processing area, Plaintiff was extremely belligerent and
was yelling and cursing. Id. Plaintiff had a bowel
movement on himself while in the processing area.
Id. Plaintiff never asked to use the restroom.
Id. The bathroom is adjacent to the processing area.
Id. It is standard policy to allow arrestees to use
the restroom when they ask. Id. Plaintiff was never
sprayed with Lysol or any other substance. Id.
Officer Stevens then transported Plaintiff to the Cape May
County Correctional Facility. Id. At no time during
the transport did Plaintiff complain of any pain or injury.
Id. at 15. The transport occurred without further
alleges that while at the station, he was handcuffed to a bar
while being processed. Id. Plaintiff alleges that
while being processed, he asked to use the bathroom.
Id. He alleges that he was not permitted to do so
and so he went where he was. Id. After that, he
stated at his deposition that “Officer Shawn got very
angry with me at that point. And to the best of my
recollection he sprayed me down with Lysol or a substance of
the same type. . . . So that I was choking from the Lysol or
whatever he was spraying me with.” Id.
also alleges that when he was handcuffed at the Wildwood
police station, he asked to sit down because he was tired but
was not permitted to sit down. Id. Plaintiff does
not believe any officer hit him while at the Wildwood police
station. Id. Plaintiff does not believe that any
officer kicked him while at the Wildwood police station.
Id. Plaintiff states that the Wildwood police
officers were “aggressive” with handling him and
they “chained” him to a bar. Id. When
asked about any physical injuries caused by any Wildwood
police officer, Plaintiff stated that his back “was a
little sore” as he stood for processing. Id.
asked about any psychological injuries caused by any Wildwood
police officer, Plaintiff stated that he was denied use of
the bathroom and sprayed with Lysol. Id. at 16.
Plaintiff stated that the Wildwood officer was approximately
three to four feet away from Plaintiff when the officer
sprayed the Lysol. Id. When asked what the Wildwood
police officers did that was inappropriate Plaintiff stated
that they denied him use of the bathroom he was being
processed at the station, they sprayed him with Lysol, and he
had to “twist around” to be able to sit in the
back of the police vehicle during transport as well as coming
onto his property and into the shed, arresting him, and
pushing him face down into the sand while arresting him.
Id. at 16-17.
arrived at Cape May County Correctional Facility around 7:00
p.m. on June 30, 2018. ECF No. 37-2 at 4. Plaintiff was
placed in a cell with steel bars. Id. Plaintiff
repeatedly laid on the floor and kicked the bars for a half
an hour or so. Id. No. one came so plaintiff put a
roll of toilet paper in the toilet and started flushing it.
Id. Plaintiff was doing these things because he
wanted a phone call. He had heard you get a phone call but is
not certain whether that was true. He screamed about twenty
times about wanting his phone call. Id. Officers
then entered the cell, rushed the plaintiff, and pepper
sprayed him. Id. Plaintiff was then placed in a
restraint chair. Id. A spit bag was placed over
plaintiff's head. Id. Plaintiff alleges he was
in the restraint chair with a spit bag on his head for six
hours. Id. at 5.
addition to Plaintiff's testimony, reports from Cape May
County Correctional Facility state that Plaintiff was trying
to stuff his mattress down the toilet and that after spray
was administered, he was secured to the Emergency Restraint
Chair and then taken to the front shower where he was
cleansed of spray and then evaluated by the nurse.
Id. The Inmate Emergency/Medical Treatment form
shows that the spray was cleansed from his face. Id.
The videotape of this incident demonstrates that plaintiff
was put in a restraint chair and then rolled to the shower
where his eyes were cleansed. Id. Sheriff Gary G.
Schaffer had no personal involvement in regard to this
incident at the Correctional Facility. Id.
girlfriend bailed him out on July 1, 2015. Id. The
charges against Plaintiff were dismissed because the
complainant did not appear for Plaintiff's criminal
has not disputed any of the above facts. Indeed,
Plaintiff's opposition brief provides no factual support
to refute these facts and instead only references ...