United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS
BOND ARTERTON, U.S.D.J.
Virginia Silano and Gregory Marconi bring this complaint
pro se against Defendants Victoria Scarnuly-Grasso,
the Town of Trumbull (the "Town"), Daniel Silva
("Officer Silva"), Rocco Testi ("Detective
Testi"), and Kevin Hammel ("Detective Hammei")
(together with the Town, Officer Silva, and Detective Testi,
the "Trumbull Defendants") alleging defamation per
se (Count I) and libel per se (Count II) against Ms.
Scarnuly-Grasso; negligence per se against Ms.
Scarnuly-Grasso (Count III); a "Stigma Plus"
violation of the ADA against Officer Silva that is construed,
upon consent of the parties, as a defamation claim against
Officer Silva (Count IV); a claim of civil conspiracy to
maliciously prosecute against Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso and the
Trumbull Defendants (Count V), violation of 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against the Town of Trumbull (the "Monell
Claim") (Count VI); and slander per se against Ms.
Scarnuly-Grasso predicated on a different set of facts (Count
VII). Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso moves [Doc. # 39] to dismiss the
claims against her and the Trumbull Defendants move [Doc. #
58] to dismiss the claims against them.
Amended Complaint ("Compl.") [Doc. # 69] sets forth
a history of disputes Plaintiff Silano has with two
neighbors, non-party Thomas Chetlen and Defendant
Scarnuly-Grasso, that began in the summer of 2010. (Compl. at
These disputes, and the interactions with police that
occurred in conjunction with them, give rise to the causes of
action set forth in the Complaint.
Interactions with Mr. Chetlen and Non-party Officer
late May, 2010, Ms. Silano complained to the Bridgeport
Police Department that she had been harassed and assaulted by
non-party Thomas Chetlen, who is Ms. Silano's neighbor.
(Compl. at 18.) As a result of this complaint, the police
warned Mr. Chetlen to stay away at risk of arrest.
Chetlen and Ms. Silano had a further altercation on June 25,
2010 when Mr. Chetlen allegedly drove into Ms. Silano while
she was crossing the street. (Id. at 19.) After
calling 911, Ms. Silano was interviewed by non-party Trumbull
Police Officer Daniel Wheeler. Officer Wheeler issued a
citation to Mr. Chetlen for failing to stay in his lane and
arrested Ms. Silano for criminal mischief. (Id. at
Interactions with Mr. Chetlen and Officer Silva
six weeks later, on August 10, 2010, Plaintiff Silano and Mr.
Chetlen had a further altercation in a nearby park when Ms.
Silano encountered Mr. Chetlen while walking her dogs.
(See Ex. D ("Aug. 10 Incident Report") to
Compl.) After Mr. Chetlen and Ms. Silano both contacted the
Trumbull police, Officer Silva visited them and took down a
report. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege the report
misrepresented what Ms. Silano told Officer Silva in an
attempt to "cast [Ms.] Silano as mentally unstable"
and in retaliation for Ms. Silano's complaints to the
police. (Compl. at 9, 20.)
Aug. 10 Incident Report first details Mr. Chetlen's
version of events and then recounts Ms. Silano's version.
Ms. Silano described an on-going dispute with Mr. Chetlen.
(Id.) Officer Silva's Aug. 10, 2010 report notes
in its final sentence, "on a final note, [Ms. Silano]
mentioned that she ha[s] psychological issues that she is
dealing with, and added that it runs in the family."
August 31, 2010, Ms. Silano sent a letter to the Town Clerk
of Trumbull providing notice of her "Intention to
Commence an Action for Intentional [In] friction of Emotional
Distress, Dereliction of Duties, [and] Filing a False Police
Report." (See Ex. G. ("Aug. 31
Letter") to Compl.) This letter sets forth Ms.
Silano's description of her interaction with Officer
letter, Ms. Silano stated that she told Officer Silva,
"if Mr. Chetlen came onto [her] property again, [she]
would shoot him." (Id.) The Aug. 31 Letter also
lists details that Officer Silva allegedly omitted from his
Aug. 10 report, including the fact that Officer Silva told
Ms. Silano that "if Mr. Chetlen continues to complain
about [Ms. Silano], [she] would be arrested or worse,
committed to a mental institution ...." (Aug. 31
Autumn Interactions between Plaintiff Silano and Defendant
apparently unrelated incident, on or about September 6, 2010,
Ms. Silano observed Defendant Scarnuly-Grasso assaulting a
child in the street in front of Ms. Silano's home. Ms.
Silano ran out of her home "and screamed obscenities at
Scarnuly-Grasso in order to stop" the assault. (Compl.
September 28, 2010, Plaintiffs allege that Ms.
Scarnuly-Grasso entered Ms. Silano's home and threatened
Ms. Silano "with action by the Trumbull Police
Department (specifically Testi) if Silano spoke about the
child abuse incident or continued to complain about George
Cooney's sale of Pepsi at the Pinewood lake
association." (Id.) On October 22, 2010 Ms.
Scarnuly-Grasso returned to Plaintiff Silano's home and
"ma[de] statements about working with the police and
Honis... ." (Id.) On November 6, 2010,
Plaintiffs allege that Plaintiff Silano and her husband
Plaintiff Marconi attended a wine-tasting event at which she
was accosted by Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso. (Id.)
November Interactions with Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso
allege that on November 9, 2010 Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso
intentionally gave a report both orally and in writing to the
Trumbull police department that falsely claimed Ms. Silano
had threatened her, harassed her, and created a public
disturbance. (Compl. at 2; see Ex. A. ("Nov. 9
Scarnuly-Grasso Complaint to Police") to Compl.) Officer
Silva memorialized Ms. Scarnuly's complaint in an
Incident Report (Ex. B ("Nov. 9 Incident Report")
Scarnuly-Grasso's seven-page handwritten complaint
describes, among many other incidents, a phone call on the
evening of November 8, 2010 "where [Ms. Silano]
threatened [Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso by saying, ] 'This is not
over and I will finish you off" (Nov. 9 Scarnuly-Grasso
Complaint to Police, at 4-5.) Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso also stated
that she had been "threatened" by Ms. Silano
(id. at 6).
result of the Nov. 9 Complaint to Police, Officer Silva
interviewed Ms. Silano at her home on Nov. 12, 2010. (Compl.
at 11.) During this meeting, the Complaint alleges that Ms.
Silano provided her version of the events with Ms.
Scarnuly-Grasso and told Officer Silva that she had seen Ms.
Scarnuly-Grasso abusing a child. The Complaint alleges that
Officer Silva refused to mention the child abuse in his Nov.
12 Incident Report, and that this omission is part of the
conspiracy to prosecute Ms. Silano for falsely reporting
child abuse to DCF. (See Ex. E ("Nov. 12
Incident Report") to Compl.)
November 22, 2010, Ms. Silano delivered a three-page written
statement to the Trumbull Police Department, which was
received by Officer Driscoll and forwarded to Officer Silva.
(Compl. at 21; see Ex. J ("Nov. 22 Silano
Complaint to Police") to Compl.) Plaintiffs allege that
this statement laid out the allegations of harassment and
child abuse against Ms. Scarnuly- Grasso. (Compl. at 21.)
Testi later interviewed Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso to follow up on
her original November 9 complaint of harassment and wrote up
his interview notes. (See Ex. C ("Nov. 24
Incident Report) to Compl.) In this report, he noted Ms.
Scarnuly-Grasso did not want to press charges against Ms.
Silano. (Id.) On December 1, 2010, Officer Testi
followed up with a telephone call to Ms. Silano.
(Id.) Officer Testi described their conversation in
the Nov. 24 Incident Report:
On 12/01/10, 1... spoke via telephone with Virginia Silano
regarding this incident. Silano seemed very irritated with
Scarnuly in regards to other incidents that occurred between
the two and other parties in the past. I explained to [her]
that from this phone call forward if she contacts Scarnuly in
any way ... as well as goes on her property she will be
arrested. Silano stated she understood this warning.
24 Incident Report.) Plaintiffs allege that this report
contains material omissions. During the conversation, Officer
Testi allegedly stated that it was the Trumbull Police
Department's policy and custom "to withhold police
services from individuals the Department regards as mentally
disabled" and that the Trumbull police department
regarded Ms. Silano as "crazy." (Compl. at 9.)
Encounters with Chetlen and Scarnuly-Grasso in early
January 2011, Mr. Chetlen came to Ms. Silano's house,
prompting her to call 911. Officer Wheeler of the Trumbull
Police Department responded to the call and subsequently
arrested Ms. Silano on the ground that she "ran out in
to the street and threatened to shoot [Mr. Chetlen]."
(Compl. at 22.)
February 2011, Plaintiffs allege that Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso
accused Plaintiff Marconi of "aiding and abetting"
Ms. Silano in committing crimes against Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso
and against Mr. Chetlen. The Complaint states, "While
this meeting was never memorialized by the Association in
writing, it was recorded via audio. Scarnuly-Grasso
instigated the Board to fire me [Plaintiff Marconi] from my
employment at the Association .. . because ... I didn't
stop my wife from harassing Scarnuly-Grasso and because the
guns in my house were registered to me." (Compl.
Police Reports Made Available to Others
allege that on or about February 9, 2011, the Trumbull Police
Department provided a copy of the August 10, 2010 Incident
Report to non-parties George or Diana Cooney. Ms.
Scarnuly-Grasso provided copies of the August 10, November 9,
and November 24 Incident Reports to the Pinewood Lake
Association on May 5, 2011, and then to the Department of
Children and Families ("DCF") on May 19, 2011.
(Id. at 4.)
DCF Investigation and Arrest of Ms. Silano
April 26, 2011, Plaintiff Silano called Connecticut's
Department of Children and Families to report the September
6, 2010 incident in which she saw Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso strike
a child. (Ex. A ("Hammel Aff.") to Trumbull
Defendants' Mot. to Dismiss [Doc. # 58-2] at
After investigating this complaint, DCF adjudicated it as
unsubstantiated at intake. The Complaint alleges that
Detective Hammel both failed to fully investigate the
complaint to DCF and that he ultimately arrested her for
falsely reporting child abuse to DCF.
of 2012, Ms. Silano told Detective Hammel about a recording
she made of nonparties Mr. Chetlen, Mr. William Verespy and
Mr. George Cooney in which they described a plot to kill Ms.
Silano. (Compl. at 23.) Ms. Silano attempted to provide this
recording to Detective Hammel and State's Attorney Kevin
Drumm, but they refused to accept it. (Id.) The
audio recording also contains evidence that Detective Hammel
plotted to entrap Ms. Silano and he plotted to entrap Ms.
Silano's former attorney, Mr. Crozier, for
money-laundering. (Id.) In August 2012, Detective
Hammel again arrested Ms. Silano for violation of the
no-contact order. (Id. at 24.) In April, 2013,
Detective Hammel arrested Ms. Silano for filing a false
report with the police. (Id. at 25.)
filed their complaint in the Superior Court, Judicial
District of Fairfield, on November 7, 2012, and Defendants
removed to federal court on December 10, 2012. The original
complaint pleaded "False Statement" against
Defendant Scarnuly-Grasso (Count I), "Stalking"
against Defendant Scarnuly-Grasso (Count II), and violation
of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officers Silva (Count III)
and Testi (Count IV) on the basis of equal protection
violations arising from attempts cast Ms. Silano as mentally
ill in police reports. On December 26, 2012, the Court stayed
the case [Doc. # 8] pending resolution of one of the state
criminal cases underlying the complaint and restored it to
the active docket on July 28, 2016 [Doc. # 11]. On February
22, 2017, the Court granted [Doc, # 57] Plaintiffs'
motion to amend their complaint, adding the Town of Trumbull
and Detective Hammel as defendants, adding and modifying the
causes of action, and modifying some of the factual
Scarnuly-Grasso moves to dismiss Counts I, II, III, V, and
VII. She moves to dismiss Counts I, II, and VII-the
defamation per se claims-because Plaintiffs fail to
allege that she charged them with crimes of moral turpitude
as required under Connecticut law. She argues that Count III,
the negligence per se claim predicated on violation
of the Connecticut criminal harassment charge, should be
dismissed because there is no private cause of action for
harassment in Connecticut. Count V, which alleges a
conspiracy to maliciously prosecute Ms. Silano, should be
dismissed as to Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso because Plaintiffs fail
to allege that she acted in concert with the Trumbull
Trumbull Defendants move to dismiss Counts IV, V, and VI.
They argue that all claims should be dismissed as
time-barred. Count V, conspiracy to maliciously prosecute,
should also be dismissed because Plaintiffs have not pleaded
an underlying tort, the allegations do not rebut the
presumption of probable cause created by issuance of the
arrest warrant, several of the defendants did not initiate
the prosecution, and the arresting officer made a full and
fair disclosure to the prosecuting attorney. Count VI, the
Monell claim, which alleges that the town had a policy and
practice of refusing to help, should be dismissed because
Plaintiffs fail to allege a policy or custom in all but
Counts I and II: Defamation Per Se
I and II allege libel and slander per se against Ms.
Scarnuly-Grasso for the written and oral complaints she
furnished to the Trumbull Police Department on November 9,
2010. Under Connecticut law, a defamatory statement is
"a communication that tends to harm the reputation of
another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or
to deter third persons from associating or dealing with
him." Levesque v. Town of Vernon, 341 F.Supp.2d
126, 140 (D. Conn. 2004). To establish a prima facie case of
defamation, a plaintiff must show that "(1) the
defendant published a defamatory statement; (2) the
defamatory statement identified the plaintiff to a third
person; (3) the defamatory statement was published to a third
person; and (4) the plaintiffs reputation suffered injury as
a result of the statement." Cweklinsky v. Mobil
Chemical Co., 267 Conn. 210, 217 (2004) (internal
quotations and citations omitted). "Truth is a complete
defense to a suit for defamation." Timbro v.
Hertler, 2006 WL 1230560 at *3 (Conn. Super. Ct. April
24, 2006) (internal citations omitted) (citing Strada v.
Connecticut Newspapers, Inc., 193 Conn. 313, 316(1984)).
or slander is . . . actionable per se if it charges a crime
involving moral turpitude or to which an infamous penalty is
attached." Miles v. Perry, 11 Conn.App. 584,
602 (1987). "The modern view of this requirement is that
the crime be a chargeable offense which is punishable by
imprisonment." Gleason v. Smolinski, 319 Conn.
394, 431 n.31 (2015) "Whether words are actionable
per se is a question of law for the court."
Motion to Dismiss, Ms. Scarnuly-Grasso argues that a fair
reading of the complaint she made to the police shows no
allegation of commission of a crime punishable by
imprisonment. Rather, she "simply described her
interactions with Ms. Silano and explained how she felt as a
result of those interactions." (Mem. Supp.
Scarnuly-Grasso Mot. to Dismiss ("Scarnuly Mot. to
Dismiss") [Doc. # 39-1] at 7-8.) However, the text ...