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Perugini v. City of Bristol

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 4, 2019

MICHAEL PERUGINI, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF BRISTOL, MARK KICHAR, RODNEY GOTAWALA, STEPHEN LESKO[1]Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT. 29]

          HON. VANESSA L. BRYANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Michael Perugini (“Perugini”) brings the instant action alleging claims against the City of Bristol (“Bristol”), Police Officers Mark Kichar (“Kichar”) and Rodney Gotawala (“Gotawala”), and Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Lesko (“Lesko”). Perugini's claims arise out of his January 2017 arrest and subsequent prosecution. Perugini brings six claims against Lesko: 42 U.S.C. § 1983, malicious prosecution, double jeopardy prosecution, abuse of process, and conspiracy. [Dkt. 1, ¶¶27-66].

         Lesko now moves to dismiss all claims against him under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. [Dkt. 29-1]. The Court finds that Lesko is entitled to prosecutorial immunity because his actions were within his authority as an appointed assistant state's attorney “designated by the Chief State's Attorney” to handle “all prosecutions… of housing matters deemed to be criminal.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 51-278(b)(1)(A) (emphasis added). Therefore, his motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         All facts recited below are asserted in the Complaint. [Dkt. 1]. For the purpose of deciding Lesko's Motion to Dismiss, this Court “draw[s] all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff[‘s] favor, assume[s] all well-pleaded factual allegations to be true, and determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Faber v. Metro Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).

         In December of 2016, Perugini, a landlord, had a dispute with his tenants, and Bristol police officers Kichar and Gotawala became involved. [Dkt. 1 at ¶ 12-20]. On December 27, 2016, fearing he would be arrested, Perugini contacted the Connecticut State's Attorney's Office in Bristol, Geographical Area 17 (“G.A. 17”). [Id. at ¶ 21]. The G.A. 17 office informed Perugini that a warrant for his arrest had been submitted but denied. [Id.] A week later, on January 3, 2017, Perugini was arrested by three Bristol police officers, including Kichar. [Id. at ¶ 22]. Lesko, an assistant state's attorney for housing matters in New Britain, signed the arrest warrant. [Id. at ¶¶ 11, 23, 52].

         On January 23, 2017 Perugini filed a discovery request for the arrest warrant application denied by the G.A. 17 prosecutor. [Id. at ¶ 23]. The next day, Lesko told Perugini that he did not have the G.A. 17 warrant application. [Id.]. Lesko wrote that Kichar had told Lesko that the warrant had been erroneously submitted to G.A. 17 rather than to the housing matters prosecutor, and that Kichar had not told Lesko that the warrant had been previously denied. [Id.] On March 9, 2017, following a renewed request by Perugini, Lesko provided Perugini with a copy of an arrest warrant. [Id.] Lesko also sent Perugini a Bristol Police Department memorandum stating that the warrant was inadvertently delivered to G.A. 17 and refused by a G.A. 17 prosecutor who cited prosecutorial discretion and deemed the incident a civil matter. [Id.] Lesko refused to provide Perugini with the arrest warrant review form for the denied warrant. [Id.]

         Perugini subsequently obtained a copy of the arrest warrant review form from the Bristol Police Department. [Id. at ¶ 24]. The denied warrant was identical to the warrant signed by Lesko. [Id.] The attached form indicated that the G.A. 17 prosecutor found no probable cause, believed the matter was civil, and ordered Kichar not to resubmit the warrant. [Id.] Perugini alleges that Kichar then lied to Lesko when he submitted the application for the arrest warrant. [Id.]

         For nearly two years following Perugini's arrest, Lesko prosecuted Perugini in Connecticut Superior Court for criminal trespass, criminal lockout, and simple trespass. [Id. at ¶ 27]. During this period, Lesko attempted to coerce Perugini into accepting a plea agreement for the above charges but did not succeed. [Id. at ¶ 26]. Lesko filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence that the G.A. 17 prosecutor denied a warrant application identical to the one he granted. [Id. at 28]. The court never ruled on the motion. [Id. at ¶ 28]. On October 1, 2018 the court granted Perugini's motion to dismiss the charges on speedy trial grounds. [Id. at ¶ 29].

         II. Legal Standard for Motion to Dismiss[2]

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court should follow a “two-pronged approach” to evaluate the sufficiency of the complaint. Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 161 (2d Cir. 2010). “A court ‘can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). “At the second step, a court should determine whether the ‘well pleaded factual allegations,' assumed to be true, ‘plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotations omitted).

         “Pro 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). The complaint must still include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         Discussion

         Construing Perugini's pro se complaint liberally, the Court finds that Perugini alleges the following claims against Lesko: conspiracy under § 1983; false arrest under § 1983; malicious prosecution under § 1983; double jeopardy prosecution under § 1983; and abuse of process under § 1983.[3] [Dkt. 1, ΒΆΒΆ27-66]. Perugini ...


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