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Figueroa v. Town of North Haven

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 6, 2017

JOSE L. FIGUEROA, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF NORTH HAVEN, et al, Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On April 19, 2017, Jose L. Figueroa-a prisoner at the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution in Enfield, Connecticut-filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Town of North Haven, the North Haven Police Department, Detective Matthew Falcon, Delnacer Acosta and Assistant State's Attorney Robert Mullins. Figueroa amended his complaint on August 18, 2017. This order addresses the Amended Complaint, Doc. No. 13.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a plausible right to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro se complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         II. Allegations

         Figueroa alleges that on December 8, 2014, North Haven police officers responded to a report of a burglary at the Ryder Truck Rental Company in North Haven, Connecticut. An employee of the company stated that the batteries in five rental trucks had been stolen. A videotape of the area where the trucks were parked depicted a gray Honda CRV entering the unlocked gate of the premises at 2:30 a.m. on December 8, 2014. The videotape also showed someone getting out of the car and removing items from the rental trucks.

         On April 15, 2015, New Haven, North Haven, and Clinton police officers executed a search warrant at 208 Chatham Street in New Haven, Connecticut in connection with a burglary investigation. Delnacer Acosta lived in a residence next door and was a suspect in many burglaries committed in various towns and cities in Connecticut. In connection with the search executed at 208 Chatham Street, New Haven Police Detective Ingles made contact with Acosta and transported him to the New Haven Police Department for interrogation.

         Both New Haven Police Detective Ingles and North Haven Police Detective Falcon participated in the interrogation of Acosta. During the interrogation, Acosta confessed to being involved in stealing batteries from the Ryder trucks on December 8, 2014. At the time, he was driving a (stolen) gray Honda CRV. Acosta stated that Figueroa and two other persons accompanied him in the car and were also involved in stealing the truck batteries. Acosta indicated that they had scrapped the batteries for cash.

         Figueroa claims that Detective Falcon did not make any efforts to substantiate Acosta's statements regarding Figueroa's involvement in the burglary of the truck batteries. Figueroa contends that Detective Falcon knew or should have known that Acosta was a convicted felon and had a motive to falsely identify Figueroa as also having been involved in the burglary.

         On November 11, 2015, Detective Falcon signed an affidavit in support of a warrant for Figueroa's arrest, and presented the affidavit and an arrest warrant application to Assistant State's Attorney Mullins for review. On November 17, 2015, Attorney Mullins signed the arrest warrant application. Attorney Mullins submitted the arrest warrant application to a state judge on November 19, 2015. The judge signed the warrant for Figueroa's arrest that day.

         Figueroa claims that Detective Falcon's affidavit in support of the arrest warrant was false or contained false statements and that there was no probable cause for his arrest in connection with the stolen Ryder truck batteries. At some point between December 4, 2015 and December 9, 2015, police officers executed the warrant for Figueroa's arrest on charges of larceny and criminal trespass. Figueroa's bail was set at $10, 000, which he could not post.

         On December 21, 2015, in State v. Figueroa, Case No. CR-15-0285364-S, a prosecutor entered a nolle prosequi with respect to all charges against Figueroa stemming from the theft of the Ryder truck batteries. Figueroa claims that on January 21, 2017, a judge formally dismissed all criminal charges in the case.

         III. Discussion

         Figueroa asserts both federal and state claims against the defendants. He alleges that the defendants violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution by arresting him without probable cause and wrongfully depriving him of liberty. He also claims that the defendants falsely arrested him, falsely imprisoned him, maliciously prosecuted him, intentionally inflicted ...


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