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Nealy v. City of Meriden

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 29, 2018

BOBBY NEALY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MERIDEN, et. al., Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Bobby Nealy (“Plaintiff”), formerly incarcerated and proceeding pro se, filed this action in state court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Nealy has asserted several federal and state constitutional and statutory violations: including due process; equal protection; freedom from racial discrimination; freedom of association; deprivation of liberty; and cruel and unusual punishment.

         Defendants, City of Meriden, Meriden Police Department, Detective John Williams, Sergeant Mennone, Sergeant Cardona, Officer Welles, Officer Witkins, and the members of the CSU Unit (collectively “Defendants”), removed the case here and has filed a motion for summary judgment.

         For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion as to the federal claims and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Mr. Nealy's remaining state law claims and therefore remands them back to Connecticut Superior Court.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         In the early morning hours of April 5, 2014, Desiree McKnight (“Ms. McKnight”), Mr. Nealy's girlfriend, allegedly returned to her apartment after an evening out. ECF No. 25, at 2. Mr. Nealy allegedly was sleeping on Ms. McKnight's living room couch. Id. As Ms. McKnight approached her apartment, she allegedly noticed two masked men-one with a gun. Id. Ms. McKnight allegedly entered her home and closed the door behind her, but the men allegedly kicked in the door. One man allegedly demanded her money, while the other allegedly brandished the gun. Id. The unarmed man allegedly dragged Ms. McKnight by her hair to an upstairs bedroom and allegedly threatened to kill her, if she did not give up her money and jewelry. Id. According to Ms. McKnight, the man fled the bedroom when he heard a gunshot. Id.

         While Ms. McKnight was upstairs, Mr. Nealy allegedly awoke and fled through a sliding door-leaping from the balcony to get help. Id. As he left, he allegedly heard a gunshot behind him. Id. In his search for help, Mr. Nealy allegedly saw police vehicles approach the residence. Id. Mr. Nealy was taken to the hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to his upper arm. Id.

         Numerous officers allegedly responded to the reported home invasion and shooting. Id. Officer Welles allegedly observed damage to the door frame, $1, 206 on a table in the living room, and a bullet hole through the sliding door blinds and door frame. Id. at 3-4. Officer Witkins interviewed Ms. McKnight. Id. at 3.

         During the interview, Ms. McKnight signed the Meriden Police Department Consent to Search form, which provided that “I Desiree McKnight have been informed of my Constitutional Right not to have search made of my property her-in-after mentioned without a search warrant and my right to refuse to consent to a search, hereby authorize the . . . Meriden Police Dept. to conduct a complete search of . . . My property located at 775 West Main St, Apt P.” Id. Ms. McKnight was then taken to the hospital. Id.

         Officers continued searching for evidence that would identify the home invaders, such as fingerprints, hair fibers, and bullet fragments. Id. at 3-4. During their search, detectives examined the dresser drawers opened by the home invasion suspect and noticed a large clear bag containing 2, 310 glassine bags filled with brown powder, which later tested positive for heroin. Id. at 4. Officers immediately recognized the bags as the type used to package and sell heroin on the streets; they seized 1.7 pounds of heroin, with a street value of $45, 000. Id. Detectives also found a safe containing $33, 620 in small bills. Id. The officers seized these items, and the $1, 206 found in the living room. Id.

         On May 7, 2014, a state court judge issued a warrant for Mr. Nealy's arrest on charges of possession of narcotics, possession with intent to sell over one ounce, possession with intent to sell within 1, 500 feet of a daycare facility, and conspiracy to distribute over one ounce. Id. at 4. Mr. Nealy later pled guilty to the charge of possession of narcotics with intent to sell and the judge sentenced him to thirteen years imprisonment-suspended after six years-and three years of probation. Id. The judge also ordered that law enforcement return half of the money seized from Mr. Nealy. Id.

         In May 2016, Mr. Nealy filed a state habeas action in state court challenging his conviction. Id. at 5. That action remains pending. Id.

         On October 17, 2016, Mr. Nealy agreed to a modification of his sentence to thirteen years-suspended after fifty months-and three years of conditional discharge. Id. At the time, Mr. Nealy had a pending motion to correct his sentence because officers never returned the cash seized, subject to federal forfeiture. Id. In exchange for a downward modification, Mr. Nealy withdrew his motion. Id.

         B. Procedural History

         In December 2016, Mr. Nealy filed this lawsuit in state court. Id. On January 6, 2017, Defendants moved to remove the case to federal court, and the Court issued a scheduling order with pre-trial deadlines. ECF Nos. 1, 3.

         Mr. Nealy claims that the officers exceeded the scope of the initial armed home invasion and shooting investigation. Compl., at 4. He argues that during the mayhem of police arriving, securing the crime scene, and beginning to conduct the investigation, Ms. McKnight gave consent to search the crime scene. Id. at 5. He contends that the authorization she gave did not include the dresser or safe where officers found the heroin and cash-but was limited to the crime scene. Id. According to Mr. Nealy, this search and seizure violated protocol and his due process rights. Mr. Nealy further contends that he was a guest at the ...


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