United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION
Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.
Arthur Cafasso, has sued Defendant, Robert Nappe, a former
police officer of the East Haven Police Department, for
malicious prosecution arising out of Officer Nappe's
application for an arrest warrant charging Mr. Cafasso with
animal cruelty after an altercation between Mr. Cafasso and
Ms. Judy Lawson and her dog, Ralph. Officer Nappe has moved
for summary judgment on Mr. Cafasso's malicious
prosecution claim, arguing that the charge of animal cruelty
was supported by probable cause. I agree and grant the
following facts, which are taken from the parties' Local
Rule 56(a) Statements and the exhibits, are undisputed unless
The June 10, 2014 Arrest of Mr. Cafasso
10, 2014, Officer Nappe was dispatched to Whaler's Point,
a neighborhood in East Haven, Connecticut, in response to a
complaint by Ms. Judy Lawson that Mr. Cafasso had punched her
in the face and kicked her dog, Ralph. (ECF No. 44-3 at 3.)
Upon arriving at the scene, Officer Nappe saw that Ms. Lawson
had “reddening [on] her left cheek” and that
“her lip was slightly cut” but did not observe
any injuries to Ralph. (ECF No. 44-3 at 3); see also
Defendant's Local Rule Statement (“Def.'s L.R.
56(a)(1) Stmt.”), ECF No. 44 at ¶ 3;
Plaintiff's Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement
(“Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt.”), ECF No. 48 at
Officer Nappe then interviewed both Ms. Lawson and Mr. Nappe.
(ECF No. 44-3 at 3-4.) In her statement to Officer Nappe, Ms.
Lawson claimed that she had been walking to the beach when
Mr. Cafasso began “yelling at her to get off his
property or he was going to let his dog out to attack her and
her dogs.” (Id. at 3.) Ms. Lawson told Officer
Nappe that Mr. Cafasso “confronted her and kick[ed]
[her] dog so that the dog would bite him so that he could sue
her.” (Id.) In his statement to Officer Nappe,
Mr. Cafasso stated that while he had confronted Ms. Lawson
for trespassing on his property, he never kicked Ralph, and
Ralph had attacked him. (Id.) After interviewing
both Ms. Lawson and Mr. Cafasso concerning the incident,
Officer Nappe arrested Mr. Cafasso, charging him with one
count of assault on an elderly person in the third degree.
(Def.'s L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 1; Pl.'s L.R.
56(a)(2) Stmt. at 2.)
Officer Nappe Learns of Ralph's Death and Signs an
Affidavit in Support of an Application for
an Arrest Warrant Charging Mr. Cafasso with Animal
days after Mr. Cafasso's arrest, on June 14, 2014, Ms.
Lawson called Officer Nappe and informed him that Ralph had
died. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 4; Pl.'s
L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at 2.) In her call, Ms. Lawson explained
that she believed that Mr. Cafasso's kick caused
Ralph's demise, though Ralph's “veterinarian
could not directly relate the cause of death to the blunt
force injury (bruise on [Ralph's] side) [that he]
sustained during the incident” with Mr. Cafasso. (ECF
No. 44-3 at 4.) Nonetheless, Ms. Lawson conveyed to Officer
Nappe that she wished to bring charges against Mr. Cafasso.
(Id.) After receiving Ms. Lawson's report,
Officer Nappe requested an autopsy of Ralph by the
Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab (the
“C.V.M.D.L.”) (Id.) The C.V.M.D.L.
report did not convulsively link Ralph's death to Mr.
Cafasso's kick but did detail other injuries to Ralph,
including injuries to his spleen. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)(1)
Stmt. at ¶ 7; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at 2.)
Thereafter, on July 9, 2014, Officer Nappe signed an
application for an arrest warrant charging Mr. Cafasso with
animal cruelty in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §
53-247(b). (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 8;
Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at 2; ECF No. 44-3 at 4.)
Mr. Cafasso Enters into a Plea Agreement with the State to
Satisfy his Criminal Liability Arising from the June 10, 2014
Incident with Ms. Lawson
August 4, 2014, the State of Connecticut filed a substitute
information against Mr. Cafasso for breach of the peace in
the second degree in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §
53a-181. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 10;
Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at 2.) In exchange for Mr.
Cafasso's pleading guilty to the breach of peace charge
and his agreement to comply with certain conditions,
including no threats, harassment, or violence against Ms.
Lawson and making a donation to the East Haven Animal Shelter
(ECF No. 44-4 at 2), the State agreed that Mr. Cafasso's
plea would resolve all charges and “all possible
prosecutions” of him arising from the June 10, 2014
incident. (ECF No. 48 at 6; see also ECF No. 44-4 at
3, 11, 15.) Mr. Cafasso entered into that plea agreement and
pled guilty under the Alford doctrine on August 4,
2014. (ECF No. 47 at 31; ECF No. 48 at 6.)
Mr. Cafasso is Arrested for Animal Cruelty on October 31,
October 26, 2014, state prosecutor Joseph LaMotta signed the
arrest warrant application Officer Nappe had signed on July
9, 2014. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 14;
Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at 1.) Officer Nappe's
affidavit set forth, among other things, that: (i) Ms. Lawson
reported to Officer Nappe that Mr. Cafasso had kicked Ralph;
(ii) Ms. Lawson reported that her veterinarian observed a
“blunt force injury (bruises on [Ralph's] side)
sustained during the incident” with Mr. Cafasso; (iii)
Ms. Lawson advised Officer Nappe that she believed that Mr.
Cafasso's attack had killed Ralph; (iv) the C.V.M.D.L.
report documented “injuries to the dog (Ralph),
including injury to [Ralph's] spleen”; and (v)
Ralph died four days after the incident with Mr. Cafasso.
(ECF No. 44-3 at 4.) The affidavit also recited that Mr.
Cafasso had already been arrested for assault on an elderly
person on June 10, 2014, and that he had been summoned to
appear in court on that charge. (Id.) Before signing
the application, Attorney LaMotta amended the cover sheet to
charge Mr. Cafasso with animal cruelty under Conn. Gen. Stat.
§ 53-247(a), the misdemeanor subsection of the statute,
instead of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-247(b), one of the
felony subsections. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶
15; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at 2; ECF No. 44-3 at 1.)
On October 28, 2014, two days after Attorney LaMotta signed
the arrest warrant application, a Connecticut Superior Court
Judge signed it, thereby authorizing Mr. Cafasso's
arrest. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 16;
Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at 2.) On the basis of that
arrest warrant, on October 31, 2014, East Haven Police
arrested Mr. Cafasso at his home, arriving with a
“large police presence” and “in full view
of his neighbors.” (ECF No. 48 at ¶ 19-20.) During
his arrest, Mr. Cafasso explained to the officers that the
charge for which he was being arrested had been resolved
under the terms of his plea agreement with the State on
August 4, 2014, but he was taken into custody anyway.
(Id. at ¶¶ 20, 23.) One of the arresting
officers informed him that Officer Nappe - who was apparently
not present for the arrest - had instructed them to take him
into custody in the manner that they did, which the officer
acknowledged was unusual. (Id. at ¶ 20.)
Following several court appearances on the animal cruelty
charge, on December 18, 2014, Attorney LaMotta, after
reviewing the transcript of the August 4 plea colloquy,
declined to prosecute the animal cruelty charge against Mr.
Cafasso by entering a nolle prosequi. (Def.'s L.R.
56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 18; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at
The Amended Complaint
September 8, 2015, Mr. Cafasso filed an amended complaint.
(ECF No. 17.) The amended complaint alleges that
“[t]his is an action for malicious prosecution against
Officer Robert Nappe arising under the Fourth Amendment to
the United States Constitution.” (ECF No. 17 at ¶
1.) In support of that claim, Mr. Cafasso alleges that he was
charged with assault of an elderly person in violation of
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-61a. (Id. at ¶ 7.)
In connection with that charge, he alleges that he entered
into a plea agreement with the State that provided “if
[he] pleaded to a lesser charge than assault, the [S]tate
would not pursue either the assault charges or any potential
animal cruelty charges.” (Id. at ¶ 9.) He
further alleges that, despite his plea agreement with the
State, Officer Nappe “submitted an arrest warrant for
[Mr. Cafasso] in late October 2014” and that the
warrant intentionally omitted any reference to Mr.
Cafasso's plea agreement with the State. (Id. at
¶¶ 13, 16.) According to the amended complaint,
“[u]pon being shown a copy of the plea agreement, the
[S]tate agreed to dismiss the new prosecution as it violated
 the plea agreement.” (Id. at ¶ 18.)
The amended complaint alleges that the state court judge
would not have signed the warrant for Mr. Cafasso's
arrest for animal cruelty had the disposition of his assault
case been included in Officer Nappe's arrest warrant
application, and that in the absence of the intentional acts
and omissions of Officer Nappe, Mr. Cafasso would not have
been prosecuted for animal cruelty. (Id. at
¶¶ 19, 20.)
Applicable Legal Standards
judgment is appropriate only if the movant shows that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Tolan v.
Cotton,134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014)(internal quotation
marks and citations omitted). If the moving party carries its
burden, “the opposing party must come forward with
specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine
dispute of material fact.” Brown v. Eli Lilly &
Co., 654 F.3d 347, 358 (2d Cir. 2011). In determining
whether summary judgment is appropriate, I must
“construe the facts in the light most favorable to the