United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. 46]
Vanessa L. Bryant, United States District Judge.
Laurence Washington (“Washington”) asserts Fourth
Amendment claims for false arrest and malicious prosecution
against East Hartford Police Department (“EHPD”)
Detective Frank Napolitano (“Napolitano”), EHPD
Detective Daniel Ortiz (“Ortiz”), and EHPD
Sergeant Francis McGeough (“McGeough”)
(collectively, “Defendants”). [Dkt. 61].
this Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.
[Dkt. 71-1]. Washington opposed the motion. [Dkt. 76].
Defendants replied. [Dkt. 78]. For the following reasons, the
Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment.
Marshall Wiggins' Murder[]
claim arises from a murder he witnessed and his arrest and
prosecution for his alleged role in the murder.
returning to his apartment on May 16, 2016, Washington and a
friend, “Black, ” listened to music, watched
basketball, drank alcohol, and smoked marijuana. [Dkt. 71-6
at 2]. A little while later, Michael Gaston
(“Gaston”) knocked on Washington's door and
asked Washington if he wanted to smoke together.
Ibid. Washington had recently met Gaston and knew
him only as “G, ” a short drug dealer around
town. [Dkt. 76-16 at 3]. Washington invited him in, and the
three continued to smoke, drink and watch the basketball
game. [Dkt. 71-6 at 2]. At half-time, they ran out of
marijuana, and Gaston said he would go out and buy some more.
Ibid; [Dkt. 76-1 at ¶13]; [Dkt. 76-23 at
decided to walk with Gaston to a convenience store about a
mile from his apartment because he needed cigarettes and
soda. [Dkt. 71-6 at 2; Dkt. 76-16 at 3].
they arrived at the store, Gaston and a very large man later
identified as Wiggins went to the back of the store and
talked. [Dkt. 71-6 at 2]. Washington assumed Gaston was
buying marijuana. [Dkt. 76-16 at 3]. Meanwhile, Washington
bought several items and spoke with people in the store.
[Dkt. 71-6 at 2-3].
Gaston and Wiggins returned to the front of the store, the
three went outside. Id. at 3. Washington turned and
began to walk toward his apartment. Ibid. Upon
exiting the store, Gaston called him over to Wiggins'
car. Ibid. Gaston let Washington know that Wiggins
did not have enough marijuana on him, and that they would
have to go with Wiggins to his house to get the amount Gaston
wanted. [Dkt 76-23 at 20:53:00-20:53:30]. Gaston asked
Wiggins if Washington could come along for the ride, and
Wiggins said he didn't care. [Dkt. 71-6 at 3].
got in the front passenger seat and Washington got in the
back-passenger seat. Ibid. Washington felt nauseous
from the combination of the heat in the car, the alcohol he
had previously drank, and the marijuana he had previously
smoked. Ibid. He closed his eyes and rested while
Gaston and Wiggins talked. Id. at 3-4.
came to a stop, and Washington opened his eyes to see Gaston
pointing a gun at Wiggins. Id. at 4.
Washington had had no idea Gaston was carrying a gun. [Dkt.
76-16 at 4]. Washington told Gaston he was crazy for doing
this. Ibid.; [Dkt. 71-6 at 4].
told Wiggins to give Gaston his rings and glasses.
Ibid. When Wiggins did not obey, Gaston fired a
shot. Ibid. Gaston then pointed the gun at
Washington, gesturing to Wiggins to give Washington his
glasses and rings. Ibid. Wiggins dropped his glasses
into Washington's hand and simultaneously reached for the
Wiggins and Gaston started to fight, a shot was fired, and
Washington jumped out of the car and ran. Id. at
5-6. When he reached a back street, he realized he was still
gripping the glasses in his hand and threw them on the
ground. Id. at 6. He also threw his sweatshirt into
a dumpster. Ibid. He walked home. Ibid.
Washington reached his apartment, he found Black and told him
what happened. Ibid. Within minutes, Gaston arrived
at Washington's apartment. Ibid. Gaston told
Washington that he needed Washington's help to retrieve
the murder weapon. Id. at 6-7. Washington thought
Gaston was lying, and that Gaston was trying to get
Washington somewhere less conspicuous so Gaston could kill
Washington. [Dkt. 76-16 at 4]. Washington lied to Gaston to
get away from him, and then fled out of the building and down
four flights of stairs to Hartford Hospital. [Dkt. 71-6 at
8]. He felt suicidal and stayed overnight at the hospital.
Washington's Report to the Police
was discharged from Hartford Hospital the next day. [Dkt.
71-2 at ¶32]. His daughter's mother, Elizabeth Reyes
(“Reyes”), picked him up. Ibid.
Washington told Reyes what he had seen, and she called the
EHPD. Id. at ¶ 33. Washington reported that he
had information on the murder, and the police arranged for
Washington to provide a sworn statement at the police
station. Id. at ¶¶34-36.
station, Washington gave a voluntary interview and provided a
written statement to Napolitano, the lead detective on the
case. Id. at ¶¶37-38. Washington
volunteered to submit to a gun residue kit and identified
Gaston in a photo array. Id. at ¶37.
undisputed that at the end of the interview, McGeough entered
the room and asked Washington if he felt safe. [Dkt. 76-6
(Washington Dep.) at 69]. Washington said he did not because
Gaston knew where he lived. Ibid. McGeough let
Washington know that Washington could be placed into Witness
Protection. Ibid. That night, it was too late to
organize Witness Protection through the State's
Attorney's office. [Dkt. 71-2 at ¶ 43]. Defendants
took Washington to a hotel, booked him a room, and paid for
his stay. Id. at ¶ 44.
next day, they drove Washington to Hartford to be formally
placed in Witness Protection. Id. at ¶44.
Washington signed a Witness Protection Agreement, where he
remained until his arrest in September 2016. Id. at
Additional Investigation and Gaston's Arrest, Interview,
interviewing Washington, Ortiz retrieved the store
surveillance footage and entered it into evidence. [Dkt.
76-13 at 2]; [Dkt. 76-16 at 2]. The defendants had also
inspected the scene. [Dkt. 76-15 (Ex. 14)].
19, 2016, Napolitano drafted an arrest warrant application
and affidavit for Gaston, seeking to charge Gaston with
murder, felony murder, robbery in the first degree, criminal
possession of a pistol/firearm, and carrying a
pistol/revolver without a permit. Id. at ¶49.
The arrest warrant affidavit for Gaston relied on information
provided by Washington and represented that Washington was
“prudent” and “credible.” [Dkt. 76-1
at ¶95]. Gaston was arrested. [Dkt. 71-2 at ¶ 51].
7, 2016, Napolitano interviewed Gaston. [Dkt. 76-1 at
¶93]. In the interview, Gaston lied repeatedly.
Ibid. Gaston denied knowing who Washington was.
years later, on June 6, 2018, after a trial at which
Washington testified, the jury found Gaston guilty of murder,
felony murder, and robbery in the first degree. [Dkt. 71-2 at
¶53]. Though he was charged with conspiracy, the jury
did not convict him and acquitted Gaston of conspiracy to rob
Napolitano and McGeough's Arrest of Washington
August 31, 2016, Napolitano drafted an arrest warrant
application for Washington, in consultation with McGeough.
[Dkt. 71-2 at ¶ 61; Dkt. 76-3 (Ex. 2, Application for
Arrest Warrant for Laurence Washington)]. The application,
asserting there was probable cause to believe that at a
minimum Washington conspired with Gaston to rob Wiggins,
sought to charge Washington with three separate crimes:
felony murder of Wiggins, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat
§ 53a-54c; first degree robbery of Wiggins violation of
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-134; and conspiracy with Gaston
to commit first degree robbery of Wiggins, in violation of
Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-48 and 53a-134. [Dkt. 71-2
affidavit accompanying Washington's arrest warrant
application largely repeated the affidavit accompanying
Gaston's arrest warrant application. Compare
[Dkt. 76-3] with [Dkt. 76-2]. The only other information
police had obtained after Washington's May 16 statement
was Gaston's statement, which they did not find credible.
[Dkt. 76-1 at ¶¶ 61, 99].
submitted, the affidavit accompanying Washington's arrest
warrant application stated the following:
That on 5/7/16 I interviewed Washington at EHPD. Washington
stated that he was with “G”, walking to the
convenience store on Main St. He said he had only recently
met “G” a few weeks ago. He said, once inside the
store “G” started talking to a very large black
male. Wiggins is 6'8 and 350 pounds. He stated he had
never met the male, but that “G” was trying to
buy some “weed” from Wiggins. Washington stated
he and “G” went outside and eventually got into
Wiggins vehicle. Washington stated “G” got into
the front passenger seat and he got into the back passenger
seat. Washington stated that after doing a U-turn they drove
south on Main St. for short distance before turning left onto
a street that he is unfamiliar with. Washington stated that
Wiggins then stopped the vehicle in a driveway. Washington
stated that when the vehicle stopped, “G” pulled
out a black revolver with his right hand and pointed it at
Wiggins, ordering Wiggins to give him his glasses and
That Washington stated he started yelling at “G”
that he was crazy and that he wanted no part in this.
Washington stated that he was scared, and could not believe
what was happing [sic]. Washington stated “G”
ordered Wiggins to reach back and hand him (Washington) the
glasses. Washington stated that when Wiggins handed him the
glasses he also started to struggle with “G.”
Washington stated that “G” then started shooting
Wiggins. Washington stated that he got out of the vehicle and
started running, while “G” continued to shoot. He
stated he heard several shots as he was running. He stated
that they were the only 3 people in the vehicle.
That Washington was shown a photo array and identified
Michael Gaston [redacted] as “G”, and as the
person he saw shoot Wiggins. Washington also provided details
that matched physical evidence, recovered video, and
information that only an involved person would know.
Washington further provided the location where he threw
Wiggin's glasses as he was running away. Those glasses
were later located by Sgt. McGeough and Det. Johnston where
Washington stated they would be found. Washington provided
this information in a written statement and the entire
interview was audio and video recorded.
That Washington stated he had no knowledge of the intended
robbery and stated that Gaston acted on his own, however,
Washington admitted to running away with the victim's
stolen sunglasses and acknowledged that he watched Gaston
point a gun at Wiggins and order Wiggins to hand over his
property. Washington was sitting in the back seat of the
vehicle and could have exited the vehicle if he truly had no
part in the robbery. Video also shows Washington and Gaston
arrive at the convenience store, converse with Wiggins, and
leave with Wiggins, together.
[Dkt. 76-3.] The affidavit made no mention of the following
witness statements, all of which were known to the
• Washington told police that Gaston and Washington were
watching the NBA playoffs that night with Black and had come
to the store to purchase cigarettes and liquor, and to buy
more marijuana. [Dkt. 76-1 at ¶103].
• Washington told the police that, upon exiting the
store, Washington turned to walk home. [Dkt. 76-1 at
¶¶ 72, 102].
• Washington told the police he had no idea that Gaston
was going to rob Wiggins, and also did not know that Gaston
had a gun until he pulled it ...