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Sampson v. Pia

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 27, 2017

TYRAN SAMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ANTHONY PIA, et al., Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, Tyran Sampson, commenced this action by complaint filed on March 6, 2015. The defendants are Officers Anthony Pia and Tanya Ortiz of the Hartford Police Department. The remaining federal claims are asserted against the defendants in their individual capacities for false arrest, malicious prosecution, use of excessive force, and racial profiling. Sampson also includes state law claims for assault and battery. The defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the defendants' motion is granted.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record demonstrates that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986) (plaintiff must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment).

         When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must construe the facts of record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970); see also Aldrich v. Randolph Cent. Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d. 520, 523 (2d Cir. 1992) (court is required to “resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party”). When a motion for summary judgment is properly supported by documentary and testimonial evidence, however, the nonmoving party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, but must present sufficient probative evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 872 (2d Cir. 1995).

         “Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper.” Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991); see also Suburban Propane v. Proctor Gas, Inc., 953 F.2d 780, 788 (2d Cir. 1992). If the nonmoving party submits evidence that is “merely colorable, ” or is not “significantly probative, ” summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact. As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.

Id. at 247-48. To present a “genuine” issue of material fact, there must be contradictory evidence “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Id. at 248.

         If the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case with respect to which he has the burden of proof at trial, then summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. In such a situation, “there can be ‘no genuine issue as to any material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 322-23; accord Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995) (movant's burden satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of nonmoving party's claim). In short, if there is no genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment may enter. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         II. Facts[1]

         The defendants, Anthony Pia and Tanya Ortiz, were police officers with the Hartford, Connecticut, Police Department at all times relevant to this action. On June 10, 2012, Pia was on duty wearing his full police uniform and Sampson was a passenger in a white Toyota Camry, driven by his brother.

         At about 10:10 p.m., Pia received information that the East Hartford police were pursuing a white Toyota Camry believed to have been involved in an armed robbery in East Hartford. Pia believed that the occupants of the Camry being pursued by the East Hartford police were involved in the armed robbery and, therefore, were armed and dangerous.

         At about 10:27 p.m., Pia became involved in a vehicular pursuit of a white Camry through the towns of East Hartford, Hartford, and West Hartford. The pursuit involved numerous marked and unmarked police vehicles with lights and sirens activated. Sampson noticed that the Camry in which he was riding was being pursued by the police. Sampson's brother did not pull over and stop the vehicle for the police. The Camry finally stopped on I-84 after police used stop sticks to deflate the vehicle's tires.

         After the Camry stopped, Pia saw the driver immediately exit the vehicle and flee the scene on foot. He also saw a passenger, Sampson, in the vehicle. Pia approached the passenger side of the Camry to detain the passenger. Pia saw Sampson make hurried, reaching motions toward the driver's side of the vehicle. Pia opened the passenger door and gave Sampson a verbal command to exit the vehicle. At the time he opened the door, Sampson was reaching down and moving in the passenger seat. Pia grabbed Sampson's shirt. Sampson then kicked Pia in the forearm, causing Pia some pain. Pia struck Sampson once in the mid-forehead area with his firearm. Sampson placed both hands in front of his face and Pia was able to pull Sampson out of the vehicle by pulling his shirt or belt.

         Upon being removed from the vehicle, Sampson was placed face down on the ground. While on the ground, Sampson covered his face with both hands. Sampson heard the police give him verbal commands to put his hands behind his back, but he stalled and did not comply for about a minute. Sampson then put his hands behind his back. He was handcuffed, helped to a standing position, escorted to a police cruiser and seated inside. Pia did not put the handcuffs on Sampson. Following his arrest, Sampson was taken to St. Francis Hospital where the laceration to his forehead was treated.

         On June 10, 2012, Sampson was arrested and charged with one count of interfering with an officer, one count of assault on a police officer, and one count of assault in the third degree. The following day, Sampson was arraigned and appointed a public defender. Sampson failed to appear on May 29, 2013, and a warrant was issued for his rearrest. On January 7, 2014, Sampson was rearrested on all charges as well as a charge for failure to appear.

         In November 2014, the State filed a substitute information charging Sampson with one count of assault on a police officer and one count of interfering with a police officer, both charges involving Pia. Following a jury trial in December 2014, Sampson was found not guilty on the charge of assault on a police officer but guilty on the lesser included charge of interfering with a police officer. Sampson was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one year. Sampson's appeal of the conviction remains pending.

         III. Discussion

         The defendants move for summary judgment on all claims.

         A. Rac ...


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