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Conquistador v. City of New Britain

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 2, 2019

JEAN K. CONQUISTADOR, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW BRITAIN, et al. Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.

         Defendant Officer David Cello (“Cello”) moves for summary judgment against plaintiff Jean K. Conquistador (“Conquistador”) on Conquistador's claim for false arrest. For the reasons discussed below, Cello's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED (ECF No. 104), and the Court will grant summary judgment on Conquistador's remaining claim for unlawful search and seizure unless Conquistador shows within 21 days why summary judgment should not be granted on that claim too.

         I. Factual Background

         As a threshold matter, Conquistador has admitted the facts set forth in Cello's L.R. 56(a)1 statement, as Conquistador's belated opposition brief does not attach a L.R. 56(a)2 statement rebutting Cello's L.R. 56(a)1 Statement or specifically cite any record evidence as required by L.R. 56(a)3, but instead attaches Cello's two interrogatory responses and a police report as exhibits.[1] (ECF No. 113.) Accordingly, because Conquistador has not submitted any evidence to raise a genuine dispute about the facts set forth in Cello's L.R. 56(a)1 statement, and because those facts are adequately supported by the exhibits attached to Cello's motion, they are deemed admitted. See D. Conn. L.R. 56(a)1; Miron v. Town of Stratford, 976 F.Supp.2d 120, 127 (D. Conn. 2013) (“Where a party fails to appropriately deny material facts set forth in the moving party's 56(a)1 statement, and where those facts are supported by evidence in the record, those facts are deemed to be admitted.”). The following facts adopted from Cello's Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement and exhibits are therefore undisputed. (ECF No. 104-2, Defendant's Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement (“Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt.”).)

         On January 11, 2016, the plaintiff, Jean K. Conquistador, called for a cab service and was picked up at 12:35 p.m. at 116 Ashley Street in Hartford, Connecticut. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 1; ECF No. 104-3, Deposition of Jean K. Conquistador Transcript (“Conquistador Dep. Tr.”) 81:9-16, 84:18-85:4.) The cab took Conquistador to TD Bank in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he remained for about five minutes. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 2; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 85:5-8, 86:5-22.) Conquistador was then taken to TD Bank in Hartford, where he remained in the cab, and made some phone calls, for about five minutes. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 3; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 86:23-87:13.) Conquistador was next taken to Boost Mobile on West Main Street in New Britain, Connecticut, where he went into the store for a few minutes, and then returned to the cab. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 4; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 87:14-17, 88:5-10.) Conquistador was next taken to 999 Asylum Street in Hartford, where he remained for about five minutes. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 5; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 88:11-19.) Conquistador was then taken back to Boost Mobile on West Main Street in New Britain, where he remained for about five minutes. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 6; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 88:23-89:3.) Conquistador then asked to be taken back to TD Bank in New Britain. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 7; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 89:7-13.) At this point, the cab driver refused, and requested payment in the amount of $435.00. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 8; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 89:14-18; 91:4-16.) The cab driver told Conquistador to pay the fare or he would call the police. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 9; Conquistador Dep. Tr. No. 89:17-18.) Conquistador refused to pay the requested amount, and did not pay the cab driver any cab fare. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 10; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 92:1-9.)

         Thereafter, both the cab driver and Conquistador called the New Britain Police. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 11; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 90:19-23.) The cab driver informed the New Britain Police that Conquistador did not want to pay. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 12; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 90:24-91:3.) New Britain Police Officer David Cello arrived on scene and spoke with Conquistador, who was still in the cab. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 13; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 92:10-14, 93:9-14.) Conquistador told Cello that he had requested a cab service that day to drive him around. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 14; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 93:15-17.) Conquistador also told Cello that he was not going to pay the requested cab fare. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 15; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 93:15-17, 94:1-4.) Conquistador did not pay any cab fare that day. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 16; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 94:5-11; see also ECF No. 113 at 2 (conceding same).) The cab driver, Dibekul Gebrhiwot, gave Cello a written sworn statement, wherein he stated:

I got dispatched by yellow cab at 12:35 on this date to 116 Ashley Street in Hartford, CT. When I arrived I picked up Jean Conquistador. I drove him to 939 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT. I arrived in Bridgeport at about 2 pm. Jean went into the Bank, (TD Bank) and did not come out until 2:41 pm. Jean said to me that the bank could not cash his check because the amount was too large. Jean asked me to take him to a different bank. The bank was Peoples Bank and I noticed Peoples Bank had two doors and I was afraid he would go in one door and run out the other without paying me his cab fare. Jean next asked me to take him to a cash checking store which was also on Main Street in Bridgeport. I do not remember the name of the cash checking store. Jean asked me to drive to the TD Bank on the corner of Asylum Street and Trumbull St in Hartford and I did. Jean did not go inside the bank. I let him use my cell phone and he made about 10 calls and 4 of them were to the 411 service that will charge my phone extra money. Jean asked me to drive him to Boost Mobile on West Main in New Britain and I did. Jean came out of Boost Mobile and said to me he needed to drive back to Hartford, 999 Asylum Ave to get a letter notarized. I drove to 999 Asylum Ave in Hartford and back to Boost Mobile on West Main Street in New Britain. At this point no money was exchanged. At this point I wanted to end business with Jean and have him pay the cab fare of $435.00 dollars (Four Hundred and thirty five dollars). Jean said he could not pay me the cab fare that he has no money. I was starting to head in the direction of 16 Ashley Street, Hartford, CT to bring Jean home. I contacted my dispatch and they contacted the police. I did not bring Jean back because I was afraid he would not pay me the cab fare. I stopped in New Brite Plaza near Payless Shoes in New Britain, CT and this is where the police met up with me and Jean who was in the back of my yellow cab CT registration T4848T. I did buy Jean something to eat at about 1730 hours from Mcdonalds. I do not want him to pay me back for Mcdonalds. I only want Jean to pay the full cab fare of $435.00 (Four Hundred and thirty five dollars).

(Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 17; ECF No. 104-4, Statement of Dibekul Gebrhiwot (“Gebrhiwot Stmt.”).)

         Conquistador was arrested for Larceny in the 6th degree. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 18; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 96:19-21.) Conquistador appeared in Court on March 31, 2016, and pled guilty to the charge of Larceny in the 6th degree. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 19; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 96:19-97:22; ECF No. 104-5, March 31, 2016 Court Tr. at 2:1-22.) Conquistador's guilty plea has never been reversed on appeal, expunged by an executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 20; Conquistador Dep. Tr. 98:6-17, 99:6-12.)

         II. Procedural History

         On May 31, 2016, Conquistador filed this lawsuit against the City of New Britain, the New Britain Police Department, New Britain Police Officer David Cello, New Britain Police Officer Farrell, Yellow Cab Company of Connecticut, and Dibekulu Gebrhiwo, the cab driver, alleging violations of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) This Court's initial review order dismissed all of Conquistador's claims except his Fourth Amendment claim for false arrest and unlawful search and seizure against Officer Cello. (ECF No. 12 at 9, 10.) Nonetheless, the Court permitted Conquistador to file an amended complaint with respect to his other claims, which Conquistador declined to do. (ECF No. 12 at 10; ECF No. 13.) Cello answered the complaint on June 6, 2017. (ECF No. 25.)

         On September 12, 2018, Cello filed this motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 104.) Conquistador did not file any opposition papers by the deadline to respond, October 12, 2018, but instead on October 29, 2018 filed a request for extension of time to file opposition papers. (ECF No. 106.) The Court granted an extension through November 29, 2018 for Conquistador to file a response, noting that the Court “will not further extend this deadline.” (ECF No. 107.) Conquistador again failed to respond by this deadline. On December 3, 2018, Conquistador filed yet another motion for extension of time to respond. (ECF No. 110.) In accordance with its previous order, the Court denied the request for extension. (ECF No. 111.)

         Nonetheless, on December 17, 2018, Conquistador filed a brief in opposition to Cello's summary judgment motion that restated many of the allegations in the complaint. (ECF No. 113.) In particular, Conquistador's opposition brief argues that he “was falsely arrested” because the “cab meter was never turned on during plaintiff's taxi ride, ” and that the incident was “more of a civil matter, ” but he concedes that he “did not pay the fare as it was excessive.” (Id. at 1-2.)[2]Conquistador's opposition brief also asserts, without citation, that he has raised material disputed facts and asks to be held to a less stringent standard as a pro se litigant. (Id.) The following day, Cello filed a reply, arguing ...


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