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Diaz v. Devlin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 10, 2017

MARIANNE DIAZ, individually and as mother and next friend of two minor children Jane Doe and Jane Roe, BRYANT ALEQUIN, and JOSHUA MATOS, Plaintiffs,



         Plaintiffs, Marianne Diaz ("Diaz"), individually and as mother and next friend of two minor children (individually ("Ml" and "M2" and collectively, the "minor children"), Bryant Alequin ("Alequin") and Joshua Matos ("Matos") have filed suit against the City of Worcester ("City") and individual Defendants Sergeant James P. Devlin, Detective Nicholas E. Nason ("Det. Nason"), Detective Jeffrey Carlson ("Det. Carlson"), Lieutenant Detective Joseph Scampini, Sergeant Richard Cipro, Detective James Carmody, Officer Anthony Lorente, Detective Terrence Gaffney, Detective John Morrisey, Detective Shawn Barbale, Detective Ronald Remillard, Officer Rebecca Aguilar, Officer Elias Baez, Chief Gary J. Gemme, Captain Paul Saucier, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Police Informant Cr-1 ("CI"), and Offs. John Doe 1-4. Plaintiffs allege that their rights were violated and they suffered personal injuries when state and local law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at their apartment. They allege claims against the Defendants under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for violation of their Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights, corresponding claims under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, Mass.Gen.L. ch. 12, §§111 ("MCRA")[1], and state law tort claims for false arrest, conspiracy, assault and battery, assault with a deadly weapon, intentional infliction of emotional distress, trespass, and fraud.

         This Order addresses Defendant Jeffrey Carlson's Motion To Dismiss (Docket No. 35). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


         Standard of Review

         Det. Carlson seeks to dismiss the claims against him pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court "must assume the truth of all well-plead[ed] facts and give plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom." Ruiz v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., 496 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Rogan v. Menino, 175 F.3d 75, 77 (1st Cir. 1999)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must state a claim that is plausible on its face. BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). That is, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id. at 555 (internal citations omitted). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Dismissal is appropriate if plaintiff s well-pleaded facts do not "possess enough heft to show that plaintiff is entitled to relief." Ruiz Rivera v. Pfizer Pharm., LLC, 521 F.3d 76, 84 (1st Cir. 2008) (internal quotations and original alterations omitted). "The relevant inquiry focuses on the reasonableness of the inference of liability that the plaintiff is asking the court to draw from the facts alleged in the complaint." Ocasio-Herndndez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 13 (1st Cir. 2011).


         Det. Carlson of the Massachusetts State Police ("MSP") was part of an ongoing joint investigation with the Worcester Police Department ("WPD") into an individual by the name of Shane Jackson ("Jackson"), who was a suspected crack cocaine dealer. Law enforcement had previously executed a search warrant targeting Jackson at an apartment located at 17 Hillside Street, Worcester, Massachusetts, Apartment 3 ("Apartment"); this search, which took place on September 22, 2014, was conducted pursuant to a search warrant issued by the a Worcester District Court magistrate. Jackson had a prior conviction for drug dealing and the affidavit in support of the search warrant stated that he had a firearm. The search yielded digital scales with apparent drug residue, but no gun or drugs.

         Jackson moved out of the Apartment on or about May 1, 2015, and thereafter, Diaz, her two minor children, Alequin (Diaz's fiance and the father of M2, Diaz's youngest child) and Matos moved in. Law enforcement continued to investigate Jackson. On March 30, 2015, Det. Carlson conducted surveillance of him at an address on Fox Street in Worcester, MA. Two days later Jackson was arrested and charged with narcotics distribution; the charges were later dismissed. On or about August 5, 2015, a default warrant the Worcester District Court mailed to Jackson at the Apartment was returned because he no longer resided there. On August 6, 2015, WPD officers arrested Jackson and charged him with larceny over $250 for stealing a phone from a convenience store. When Jackson was arraigned that same day, he did not list the Apartment as his address. Det. Carlson and other law enforcement agents investigating Jackson knew that the owner/landlord of the Apartment was O&R Realty Trust. Motor vehicle records, probation records and electric company records indicated that Plaintiff lived at the Apartment in August 2015.

         Notwithstanding readily available information indicating Jackson had moved and that Plaintiffs now resided in the Apartment, on August 17, 2015, Det. Nason, who worked with Det. Carlson on the Jackson investigation, applied to the District Court for a no-knock search warrant targeting Jackson at the Apartment. The only information supporting the warrant was gathered from the CI. According to the affidavit, Jackson was staying at the Apartment and had guns in his possession. More specifically, the CI, who was described as a reliable informant and drug user, told Det. Nason that Jackson was staying at the Apartment and the CI had been in the Apartment within the previous 72 hours and saw two guns (a 9mm pistol and a .22 pistol). This information was false. Law enforcement agents did not conduct surveillance of the area (to see if Jackson resided there) before executing the no-knock search warrant on August 19, 2015. They did not check the mailbox to see who was listed as residents of the apartment and did not contact the landlord to confirm who was living there prior to conducting the raid. The CI claimed that Jackson was working with a female accomplice, but law enforcement officers did not show the CI a picture of Diaz to determine whether she was the female that s/he had observed with Jackson.

         Police executed the warrant shortly after 5:00 AM on August 19, 2015. Det. Carlson was involved in planning and approving the raid. Armed SWAT officers entered a bedroom where Diaz - naked due to the warm weather - was sleeping with her children, shouting obscenities at her. The officers would not allow Diaz to move or cover herself until they had searched the room. Eventually she was allowed to cover herself with a bathrobe and a female police officer performed a pat frisk on her, reaching under the bathrobe to do so. Matos had been sleeping on a couch in the living room when the raid began. Officers ran at him, pointed weapons at him, and shouted obscenities at him. Matos complied with requests to drop to the floor, but when he told the officers that he had an injured wrist and a fracture from a recent accident, they ignored him and one officer stepped on his hand. Alequin had been in the bathroom preparing for work when the raid began. An officer kicked the door in and Alequin fell back. Officers seized him, twisted his arm behind his back, and aimed a sub-machine gun at him. When he asked why the officers were raiding his home, they ignored his question as they handcuffed him. Officers searched the apartment. Ultimately, they found nothing of interest. When officers produced photographs of Jackson and an alleged accomplice, Plaintiffs insisted they did not know them. The police then left.

         Following the raid, Ml, the older of the minor children refuses to sleep alone and has been treated for anxiety. Her younger sister, M2, was treated for sleep disruption and still awakens some nights in terror. Alequin sought help and was diagnosed as needing psychiatric treatment. A broken bone in Matos's hand was re-fractured, and he has sought treatment for debilitating anxiety and depression. Diaz says she suffers stress and anxiety over the impact of the raid on her children and fiance, but it is unclear if she has sought medical help for these issues.

         Whether Plaintiffs have stated a Plausible Claim against Pet. Carlson

         Det. Carlson asserts that Plaintiffs' allegations in the Complaint are insufficient to state a claim against him in relation to the planning and execution stages of the raid. Plaintiffs, in response, concede that they do not catalogue every aspect of Det. Carlson's involvement with the investigation and raid, but they argue the complaint and the reasonable inferences therefrom make out a plausible claim. In particular, Plaintiffs argue that there are sufficient facts asserted to ...

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