United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Harold Trent Butler has filed this lawsuit against numerous
police officers of the police department in Hamden,
Connecticut. He claims that he was subject to false arrest
and malicious prosecution in violation of his rights under
the Fourth Amendment. Because the officers had at least
arguable probable cause to arrest and initiate the
prosecution of Butler, they are entitled to qualified
immunity, and I will grant their motion for summary judgment.
following facts are drawn from the parties' statements of
undisputed facts as well as from the Court's review of
the bodycam video exhibits relied on by both parties. Harold
Trent Butler and his then-girlfriend Kamiya Knox shared a
house in Hamden, Connecticut. On the night of December 10,
2016, Jacqueline Perez-a friend of Knox-placed a 911 call to
the police to report that Butler was at the house where he
was assaulting Knox.
the police arrived, Knox answered the door. She was wet and
wearing only a towel, and she came outside the house. Butler
then appeared in the doorway in his underwear, and he tried
to close the storm door on the police but was stopped by the
officers. Butler was then handcuffed and temporarily detained
in a police cruiser pending further investigation by the
police at the scene.
officers questioned Knox and Butler, who provided very
different accounts about what had happened. Knox claimed that
Butler was upset that she had been at a New Haven night club
with her friends and had been sending her angry texts. She
asked her friends to bring her home, and when they got to the
house Butler was verbally abusive. Almost immediately after
her friends left, Butler grabbed her by the hair and dragged
her to the basement where he kicked and/or stomped her when
she tried to get off the floor. Knox also showed the officers
that one of her fingers was dislocated. Knox told the
officers that she thought she “was going to die,
” that Butler “is a monster, ” and that she
was “scared” of him.
contrast, Butler claimed that he was the victim-that
he had been “jumped” by three to four females,
two of them armed with knives, one of whom stabbed him. He
showed officers a wound on his neck. When asked about the
wound to Butler's neck, Knox denied placing her hands on
Butler or harming him.
officers saw signs inside the house that were consistent with
some kind of physical struggle. They saw droplets of blood in
the basement, kitchen, and bedroom, and they also observed
smashed glassware in the kitchen and that the basement
furniture was in disarray.
still on the scene, the police contacted two of Knox's
friends who had come to the house with Knox that night
(including Jacqueline Perez who had placed the 911 call) and
interviewed them in the parking lot of a nearby McDonalds
restaurant. Although the parties dispute some of the details
about what Perez said, Butler does not dispute that Perez
told the police that there was an altercation in which both
Butler and Knox were on the floor and that Perez and two
other female friends tried to keep them apart.
was arrested and charged shortly thereafter with disorderly
conduct, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §
53a-182, and third-degree assault, in violation of
Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-61. The prosecution
was later terminated by means of nolle prosequi, and
Butler filed this lawsuit against the defendant police
officers pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that he
was subject to false arrest and malicious prosecution in
violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Defendants have now
moved for summary judgment.
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 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. My 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, 572 U.S. 650, 656-57
(2014) (per curiam); Pollard v. N.Y. Methodist
Hosp., 861 F.3d 374, 378 (2d Cir. 2017).
Fourth Amendment protects the right to be free from
unreasonable search and seizure. See U.S. Const.
amend. IV. A plaintiff may generally claim a violation of his
right to be free from unreasonable seizure if he has been
subject to a false arrest or malicious prosecution. See,
e.g., Jocks v. Tavernier, 316 F.3d 128, 134 (2d Cir.
2003). But the existence of probable cause is a complete
defense to any claims for false arrest and 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).
as here, an officer is subject to a lawsuit for money damages
on grounds that he has violated a suspect's rights under
the Fourth Amendment, the officer may assert a defense of
qualified immunity. Qualified immunity shields government
officials from claims for money damages unless a plaintiff
shows the officer has violated clearly established law such
that any objectively reasonable officer would have understood
that his or her conduct ...