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Gojcaj v. Trompetta

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 28, 2017



          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Marash Gojcaj brought this civil rights action arising from the State of Connecticut's unsuccessful prosecution of him for witness tampering. The sole remaining defendant, Detective Dan Trompetta, filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 55), seeking to dismiss the final count-malicious prosecution-remaining in Gojcaj's second amended complaint. (ECF No. 37.) For the reasons stated below, I GRANT the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. Background

         A. Facts[1]

         Gojcaj was charged with the 2004 murder of Zef Vulevic in 2008. (ECF Nos. 55-2 at ¶2; 60-2 at ¶2.) The plaintiff pled not guilty to the murder charge and was released from custody pending trial. (ECF Nos. 55-2 at ¶ 3; 60-2 at ¶ 3.) The murder trial was scheduled to commence on September 7, 2010. (ECF Nos. 55-2 at ¶ 4; 60-2 at ¶ 4.)

         On August 31, 2010, Detective Trompetta “submitted an Affidavit and Application for an Arrest Warrant against [Gojcaj], charging him with [w]itness [t]ampering” in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-151. (ECF Nos. 55-2 at ¶ 5; 60-2 at ¶ 5.) In that affidavit, Trompetta stated the following: (1) Stephen Nanai, a prosecution witness in the murder trial, contacted Trompetta on June 16, 2009; (2) Nanai informed Trompetta that Gojcaj had contacted him by telephone and, during that phone conversation, Gojcaj asked to meet him in person, which Nanai declined to do; (3) on July 12, 2010, Nanai contacted Trompetta again and informed Trompetta that Gojcaj had again contacted him, also on July 12, 2010, requesting an in-person meeting; (4) Nanai reported to Trompetta that during that conversation, Gojcaj told Nanai he wanted to speak to Nanai about the murder trial, that Gojcaj had read Nanai's sworn statement to the police, and that portions of the statement could be damaging to Gojcaj; (5) Gojcaj asked Nanai whether he had embellished his statement to the police and wanted assurances from Nanai that he would not be damaging to Gojcaj if called to testify during the trial; (6) Nanai told Trompetta that he felt that Gojcaj was attempting to sway his trial testimony; (7) Nanai provided a sworn written statement regarding these telephone conversations with Gojcaj; (8) in that statement, Nanai also stated that he and Gojcaj were “old friends, ” that the conversation was casual, included small talk, and that Gojcaj never threatened Nanai and “made no outright” requests of Nanai; (9) the same cell phone Gojcaj used to contact Nanai was also used to contact other state witnesses; and (10) Trompetta believed Gojcaj was attempting, unlawfully, to induce Nanai to alter his testimony. (ECF Nos. 55-2 at ¶ 6; 60-2 at ¶ 6; see also ECF No. 55-4 at 5.)

         In his affidavit attached to the warrant application, Trompetta “quoted verbatim the sworn written statement provided by Nanai on August 30, 2010, in which Nanai described the nature of the calls he had received from Marash Gojcaj.” (ECF Nos. 55-2 at ¶ 7; 60-2 at ¶ 7) (internal quotation marks and citations to the record omitted.) In the quoted statement, Nanai stated: (1) that Gojcaj informed Nanai that he wanted to “talk . . . about his upcoming trial, ”; (2) that Gojcaj told Nanai that he had “read [Nanai's 2007 statement, ] and it was the only one that was damaging to him”; (3) that he asked Nanai if Nanai had “maybe embellished in his statement”; and (4) that he said he “just wanted to make sure that if [Nanai] got called to testify, [he] wouldn't say anything that would be damaging to [Gojcaj].” (ECF Nos. 55-2 at ¶ 9; 60-2 at ¶ 9) (quoting ECF No. 55-5) (internal quotation marks omitted). Nanai, in his sworn statement, stated that he “felt like maybe [Gojcaj] was trying to lead me but made no threats.” (Id.) (internal quotation marks omitted.) In his affidavit, Trompetta also included “telephone records obtained by court order [that] corroborated Nanai's descriptions as to time and place for the phone calls from plaintiff, as well as those to other prosecution witnesses [Gojcaj] had contacted.” (ECF Nos. 55-2 at ¶ 10; 60-2 at ¶ 10.)

         Gojcaj's second amended complaint asserts that Trompetta knowingly made five omissions in his affidavit that were allegedly material to the probable cause determination. (ECF Nos. 55-2 at ¶ 12; 60-2 at ¶ 12.) These were: (1) that “most, if not all of the potential witnesses” Gojcaj contacted were friends, acquaintances, or business associates “with whom [Gojcaj] would naturally be expected to communicate”; (2) that Nanai “informed Trompetta that Gojcaj did not ask him to change or alter testimony of any sort, in any way whatsoever”; (3) that Nanai also “informed Trompetta that the tone of the conversation between him and the plaintiff was casual and friendly”; (4) that Nanai, who was facing drug charges when he first communicated the incident to Trompetta, provided the written statement quoted in Trompetta's warrant affidavit in exchange for Trompetta's promise that he and representatives from the State's Attorney's Office would submit letters to the Pardon Board on behalf of Nanai; and (5) that Trompetta was aware that Nanai's “veracity was questionable” because Nanai's wife was a state trooper, Nanai was facing pending charges in Danbury, and he “had asked for and/or negotiated promised quid pro quo in exchange for giving a written statement.” (ECF No. 37 at ¶ 21.) The plaintiff claims that Trompetta omitted these facts to mislead the judge reviewing the warrant application (id. at ¶¶ 22, 23), to “plac[e] a general chilling effect” on Gojcaj, and to interfere with Gojcaj's ability to defend himself in the murder trial. (Id. at ¶ 26.)

         On September 1, 2010, Gojcaj was arrested pursuant to a warrant for tampering with the state's trial witnesses. (ECF No. 37 at ¶ 27.) Gojcaj was arraigned on September 2, 2010, and pled not guilty to the tampering charge. (ECF No. 37 at ¶ 28.) The presiding judge set Gojcaj's bond at $500, 000.00. (Id.) Gojcaj could not post the required amount and, as a result, remained incarcerated throughout the subsequent proceedings relating to his murder and tampering charges, which were tried separately. (Id. at ¶ 29.) A jury convicted Gojcaj on his murder charge on November 5, 2010, [2] and Gojcaj was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment. (Id. at ¶ 34.) A jury acquitted Gojcaj of tampering on November 20, 2011.[3] (ECF No. 37 at ¶ 45.)

         B. Procedural History

         Gojcaj filed a civil rights complaint against multiple defendants on November 20, 2014. (ECF No. 1.) The eight-count complaint asserted claims against Trompetta in his individual and official capacities, Danbury Police Chief Alan Baker, in his individual and official capacities, and the City of Danbury. (Id.) On April 10, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Gojcaj's claims were time-barred or, in the alternative, failed to state a claim for relief. (ECF No. 12.) On May 26, 2015, Gojcaj simultaneously filed a memorandum in opposition to the defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 16) and an amended complaint. (ECF No. 17.) Because Gojcaj filed this amended complaint, the Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss without prejudice. (ECF No. 18.) The amended complaint asserted six counts: (1) malicious prosecution under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, (2) malicious prosecution in violation of Article One, Sections Seven and Nine, of the Connecticut Constitution, (3) abuse of process, (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (5) malicious prosecution under Connecticut law, and (6) a claim of supervisory and municipal liability against Chief Baker and the City of Danbury. On June 16, 2015, Defendants filed a second motion to dismiss (ECF No. 20), which I granted in part and denied in part. (ECF No. 34.) Counts Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six were dismissed with prejudice, and the City of Danbury and Chief Baker were dismissed as defendants in this matter. (Id.)

         I also offered Trompetta the opportunity to file a supplemental brief as to whether the amended complaint failed to state a plausible claim for relief in Count One because it failed to suggest that Trompetta lacked probable cause that Gojcaj's had committed witness tampering when he signed the warrant affidavit. (ECF No. 34 at 30.) Trompetta instead filed a new motion to dismiss (ECF No. 35), but Gojcaj filed a second amended complaint in response, so Trompetta's motion to dismiss was denied as moot. (ECF Nos. 37, 38.) Trompetta then filed an answer to the second amended complaint. (ECF No. 39.) On November 30, 2016, Trompetta filed this motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 55.)

         II. Discussion

         The remaining claim in the second amended complaint asserts a federal law claim against Trompetta in his individual capacity for ...

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