United States District Court, D. Connecticut
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R. Chou, John Matthew Doroghazi, Rebekeh S. Gulash, Wiggin
& Dana, New Haven, CT, Elana Spungen Bildner, ACLU
Foundation of Connecticut, Hartford, CT, for Plaintiff.
James Glass, James Newhall Tallberg, Karsten & Tallberg
LLC, Rocky Hill, CT, for Defendants.
OF DECISION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
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.
I. Factual Background
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
20:36:00-20:36:40]. Washington 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
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 gun. Ibid.
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
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 ...