United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JOHN A. LAPAGLIA, Plaintiff,
MATTHEW J. REILLY, Defendant.
RULING GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Jeffrey Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.
in early 2013, plaintiff John Lapaglia decided to call a U.S.
military recruiter in New Haven, Connecticut. When no one
answered the phone, he left an angry voicemail describing how
he would like to detonate a nuclear bomb and kill millions of
Americans. Not surprisingly, plaintiff was arrested for
harassment and threatening. The charges were later dismissed
because the military recruiter whom plaintiff tried to
contact was not available to testify at trial. Plaintiff then
decided to file this lawsuit for malicious prosecution
against the police officer who initiated plaintiff's
arrest and prosecution. Because it is abundantly clear
that-notwithstanding the dismissal of the charges-there was
at least arguable probable cause at the outset to support
plaintiff's arrest and prosecution, I will grant
defendant's motion for summary judgment.
is a resident of New Haven, Connecticut. Defendant is a
detective for the Connecticut State Police and at all
relevant times was a task force officer on the FBI's
Joint Terrorism Task Force.
12, 2013, defendant signed an affidavit in support of an
arrest warrant for plaintiff on state law charges of
second-degree threatening and harassment. See Conn.
Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-62 & 53a-183. The affidavit
was based in large part on defendant's review of
voicemails left with a military recruiter in New Haven in
early March 2013. According to the affidavit, a caller named
“John” left a voicemail “indicat[ing] that
if North Korea gave him a ‘suitcase nuke, ' he
would detonate it in Washington, D.C. and kill millions of
Americans.” Doc. #19-6 at 6. Another voicemail stated
Hello, this is John Lapaglia, and I just wanna say you're
a simple f***ing shit. I hope North Korea suitcase nukes the
United States and kills all of the Americans inside
Washington, D.C. F*** you! I want to speak to your supervisor
for ignoring me. You f***ing piece of s***! F*** you!”
Ibid. The affidavit recounted subsequent
investigation efforts, including an interview of plaintiff to
verify on the basis of voice similarity that it was him who
had called the recruiter. The police arrested plaintiff but
the charges against him were eventually dismissed by way of a
nolle prosequi as a result of the
unavailability at trial of the military recruiter whom
plaintiff had called.
later filed this lawsuit for malicious prosecution. The
complaint alleges that defendant's arrest warrant
affidavit contained multiple false statements, including the
statements of plaintiff that were left on voicemails and that
are quoted above. Doc. #1 at 2 (¶ 7A).
has now moved for summary judgment. The papers filed by
defendant in support of the summary judgment motion
substantiate the basis that defendant had for attributing the
statements quoted above as they appear in the arrest warrant
affidavit. Defendant persuasively contends that these
statements alone establish probable cause for plaintiff's
arrest and prosecution.
defendant's papers are apparently so convincing that
plaintiff himself no longer contends that defendant falsely
attributed the above-quoted statements to him or that these
statements did not give rise to probable cause to arrest and
prosecute him. Plaintiff instead contends that
defendant's arrest warrant affidavit omitted
some additional facts that would have vitiated the existence
of probable cause to arrest him. Plaintiff argues that
defendant should have included the following facts in his
affidavit: (1) that plaintiff receives Social Security
disability payments, (2) that plaintiff has had mental health
problems since he was five years old, (3) that
plaintiff's mother believes he is harmless, (4) that
plaintiff attempted to invoke his right against
self-incrimination before he was interviewed by law
enforcement agents, and (5) that plaintiff denied making any
of the voicemail-recorded statements that were attributed to
principles governing the Court's review of a motion for
summary judgment are well established. Summary judgment may
be granted only if “the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). I must view the facts in the light most
favorable to the party who opposes the motion for summary
judgment and then decide if those facts would be enough-if
eventually proved at trial-to allow a reasonable jury to
decide the case in favor of the opposing party. A court's
role at summary judgment is not to judge the credibility of
witnesses or to resolve close contested issues but solely to
decide if there are enough facts that remain in dispute to
warrant a trial. See generally Tolan v. Cotton, 134
S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam); Pollard v.
New York Methodist Hosp., 861 F.3d 374, 378 (2d Cir.
prevail on a Fourth Amendment claim of malicious prosecution,
a plaintiff must prove that he or she was subject to an
arrest or other seizure within the meaning of the Fourth
Amendment and also that “(1) the defendant initiated or
continued criminal proceedings against the plaintiff; (2) the
criminal proceeding terminated in favor of the plaintiff; (3)
the defendant acted without probable cause; and (4) the
defendant acted with malice.” Roberts v.
Babkiewicz, 582 F.3d 418, 420 (2d Cir. 2009) (per
curiam) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
existence of probable cause is a complete defense to a claim
for false arrest or malicious prosecution. See Betts v.
Shearman, 751 F.3d 78, 82 (2d Cir. 2014);
Manganiello v. City of New York, 612 F.3d 149,
161-62 (2d Cir. 2010). “An officer has probable cause
to arrest when he or she has knowledge or reasonably
trustworthy information of facts and circumstances that are
sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the