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Doe v. Bruno

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 20, 2017

JANE DOE
v.
RICHARD BRUNO

          RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION FOR PREJUDGMENT REMEDY

          Joan Glazer Margolis U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         On February 14, 2017, plaintiff Jane Doe filed her complaint (Dkt. #1) against defendant Richard Bruno and garnishees Domco LLC, Domco II LLC, and Kem Bruno (also known as Kem Curtin). Plaintiff has initiated this action pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2255, which provides a civil cause of action to any person who, while a minor, was a victim of certain predicate criminal offenses related to the exploitation of minors and child pornography, and suffered personal injury as a result. (Id.). Defendant has been indicted pursuant to several of the predicate offenses in 18 U.S.C. § 2255; plaintiff alleges she was a victim of these offenses and seeks damages for her resulting personal injury. (Id.; see also U.S. v. Bruno, 16 CR 235 (JAM)).

         On the date she filed the complaint, plaintiff also filed an Application for Prejudgment Remedy (Dkt. #2), Motion for Disclosure of Property and Assets (Dkt. #3), Motion for Ex-Parte Temporary Restraining Order (Dkt. #4), and Motion for Permission to Proceed Under Fictitious Name (Dkt. #5). Two days later, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer granted plaintiff's Motion to Proceed Under Fictitious Name (Dkt. #14), issued a temporary restraining order with respect to defendant Bruno (Dkt. #15), and referred the Application for Prejudgment Remedy (Dkt. #2) and Motion for Disclosure of Property and Assets (Dkt. #3) to this Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. #16).

         The pending Application for Prejudgment Remedy [“PJR”] seeks an attachment of $500, 000 on defendant's real and personal property[1] (Dkt. #2), and the Motion for Disclosure of Property and Assets seeks defendant's disclosure of any interest in assets sufficient to satisfy the value of the PJR. (Dkt. #3). An evidentiary hearing was held on plaintiff's PJR application on April 3, 2017, at which plaintiff testified briefly and defendant called no witnesses. (Dkt. #33).

         For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's Application for Prejudgment Remedy (Dkt. #2) is granted in the amount of $250, 000. Plaintiff's Motion for Disclosure of Property and Assets (Dkt. #3) is granted, sufficient to satisfy the value of this PJR.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In her complaint and affidavit in support of the PJR application, [2] plaintiff alleges as follows: When she was seventeen-years-old, defendant Richard Bruno “repeatedly raped and sexually abused her on camera over a period of several months, creating a set of brutal and graphic images.” (Dkt. #1, ¶ 2). Defendant was plaintiff's family's landlord, and plaintiff and defendant began communicating on social media. (Dkt. #2, Affidavit in Support of PJR, ¶ 6). According to plaintiff, defendant offered her money and marijuana in exchange for having sex with him and taking photos. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that she usually met defendant weekly at his office on his Mountain Avenue property in New London. (Id. ¶ 7). Behind defendant's office, there was a “secret room” with a bed, women's clothing, sexual devices, a mirror, and a video camera. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that she was the victim of sexual assault and unwanted sexual activities, and that defendant produced videos of her performing sexual acts on him. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 8). At the PJR hearing, plaintiff estimated that defendant made more than ten of these videos. Additionally, at defendant's request, plaintiff sent him nude photos of herself. (Id. ¶ 8).

         On December 21, 2016, defendant was indicted in this district under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2422(b) and 2251(a). (U.S. v. Bruno, 16 CR 235(JAM), Dkt. #1). In Count Two of the Indictment, for Production of Child Pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a), it is alleged that from November 2015 until May 2016, defendant “did knowingly employ, use, persuade, induce, entice, and coerce a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual depictions of such conduct. . . .” (Id. ¶ 2). The Department of Justice identified defendant as having created and possessed illicit images of plaintiff, and identified plaintiff as a victim of defendant's criminal conduct. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8). Plaintiff testified at the PJR hearing that she is the minor referred to in Count Two of that indictment.

         Plaintiff alleges she has “suffered and continues to suffer significant injury, including mental and emotional anguish and fear for her personal safety, because of the acts of the [d]efendant in creating, possessing and viewing the images that document her humiliation and abuse.” (Dkt. #1, ¶ 9). Plaintiff has started counseling, but “feel[s] like [defendant] ruined [her] life and [her] ability to have a relationship. [She] feel[s] very guilty about what [she] did with him.” (Dkt. #2, Affidavit in Support of PJR, ¶ 9). She further swore that as a result of defendant's behavior, she has “suffered extreme emotional distress, interference with personal relationships, feelings of shame, feelings of vulnerability and mistrust, and depression and will continue to suffer the same in the future.” (Id. ¶ 10). Plaintiff testified that she began mental health counseling about one month before the PJR hearing and has had two or three sessions so far; she does not have another session scheduled.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. LEGAL STANDARDS FOR PREJUDGMENT REMEDY

         A prejudgment remedy “is generally intended to secure the satisfaction of a judgment should plaintiff prevail.” Cendant Corp. v. Shelton, No. 3:06 CV 854 (JCH), 2007 WL 1245310, at *2 (D. Conn. Apr. 30, 2007)(citation omitted). Rule 64 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the Court to enter a prejudgment remedy as may be permitted “under the law of the state where the court is located” in order “to secure satisfaction of the potential judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 64(a). See Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v. Brotherhood of Teamsters & Auto Truck Drivers Local No. 70 of Alameda County, 415 U.S. 423, 436 n.10 (1974).

         Pursuant to the Connecticut PJR statute, the standard for issuing a prejudgment remedy is probable cause, so that a prejudgment remedy is appropriate

[i]f the court, upon consideration of the facts before it and taking into account any defenses, counterclaims or set-offs, claims of exemption and claims of adequate insurance, finds that the [movant] has shown probable cause that such a judgment will be rendered in the matter in the ...

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