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Felix v. Aselton

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 18, 2019

ANN F. FELIX, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNATHAN ASELTON, Defendant.

          RULING GRANTING MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          JANET BOND ARTERTON, U.S.D.J.

         Ann F. Felix brings a civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Newington Police Officer Johnathan Aselton in his individual capacity. ([Doc. #1]). She alleges that she was subject to false arrest and malicious prosecution and that she was denied equal protection of the laws. Defendant now moves for a judgment on the pleadings. ([Doc. #30]).

         For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Judgment is granted.

         I. Background

         The following facts are drawn from Plaintiffs Complaint and from the public records referenced therein. Plaintiff is a female resident of Newington, Connecticut. (Compl. ¶ 3.) For seven months, she dated John Doe "on and off." (Arrest Warrant Application, Ex. A to Def.'s Mot. for J. [Doc. # 30-2] at 3.) On May 19, 2017, the couple had an argument at Plaintiffs home. (Id.) After Doe left Plaintiffs home, he, by his own admission, proceeded to post "five nude photos" of Plaintiff to a "closed group of 29 people on Facebook." (Id. at 2.)

         On May 21, 2017, Defendant Officer Aselton responded to Plaintiffs harassment complaint to the Newington Police Department about Doe's publication of these photographs. (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff showed him the photos, in which she claims her "face was very clearly identifiable." (Compl. ¶ 7.) Defendant then launched an investigation into a "domestic disturbance which had occurred on 05/19/17." (Arrest Warrant Application at 1.)

         Defendant met with Doe on May 24, 2019 at the Newington Police headquarters. (Id. at 2.) Doe provided a sworn written statement, averring that Plaintiff "lunged at [him, ]" "grabbed [his] right arm and scratched him, " and "pushed [him]" during the argument at her home. (Id.) Doe stated that he bled from a "very small laceration" on his right cheek and that his "arm had scratch marks on it." (Id.) He showed Defendant his right arm, which had "numerous scratches and lacerations of various age, " including "[o]ne small scratch in particular [that] appeared to be new." (Id.) Defendant took photographs of these scratches and provided Doe with victims' rights information. (Id.) Doe also admitted to posting nude photographs of Plaintiff on the Internet following their argument. (Id.)

         Plaintiff subsequently provided Defendant with her own sworn written statement, which disputed Doe's version of events. (Id. at 3.) She stated that she "never lunged at Doe" and that she had "no idea how he may have received scratches on his arms or face." (Id.) She noted that "Doe works on an aircraft, " where "he crawls in small spaces." (Id.) In addition to offering her sworn statement, Plaintiff supplied Defendant with medical documentation that she "was recovering from serious abdominal surgery" at the time of the argument as proof that she "would not have been capable of such activity." (Compl. ¶ 8.) She also showed Defendant "that her fingernails were cut extremely short" to prove that "she could not have inflicted the scratches which were alleged." (Id. ¶ 9.)

         On May 25, 2017, Defendant completed an application for Plaintiffs arrest on charges of disorderly conduct and assault in the third degree. (Id. ¶ 6.) In his sworn application, Defendant described the physical evidence provided by Doe. (Arrest Warrant Application at 3.) Defendant also stated that he "could not clearly identify Felix's face in the photos" and that "[i]t seemed as if Felix was fabricating an answer" to his questions regarding her communication with Doe. (Id. at 4; see also Compl. ¶¶ 7, 10.) The arrest warrant application otherwise repeated both sworn written statements in full, including Plaintiffs denial and her suggestion that Doe could have been injured at work. However, the application did not contain any mention of Plaintiffs medical documentation or the length of her fingernails. (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 9.)

         On June 8, 2017, a Connecticut superior court signed an arrest warrant for Plaintiff on the charges requested by Defendant. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff was later arrested and taken into custody. (Id.)

         On August 31, 2017, Plaintiff appeared pro se before the Connecticut superior court, (Superior Court Transcript, Ex. D to Def.'s Mot. for J. [Doc. # 30-5]), which caused her "fear, humiliation, inconvenience and emotional distress." (Compl. ¶ 12.) At the hearing, the state prosecutor entered a nolle prosequi, because the matter was being handled in family court, and the Judge dismissed the case at Plaintiffs request and without objection by the prosecution. (Superior Court Transcript at 2.)

         On February 6, 2018, Plaintiff brought this one-count civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She alleges that Defendant, acting in his individual capacity, violated her "her right to be free from false arrest and malicious prosecution, " as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. (Compl. ¶ 14.) She also alleges that Defendant subjected her to "disparate treatment in comparison to the male involved in the incidents, and thereby deprived [her] of equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment." (Compl. ¶ 15.)

         Defendant now moves for a judgment on the pleadings on grounds that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Defs Mot. for J. at 1.) Defendant also asserts a defense of qualified immunity. (Id.)

         II. ...


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