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Barrett v. Town of Plainville

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 28, 2017

JULIE ANN BARRETT, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF PLAINVILLE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          WILLIAM G. YOUNG DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plainville Police Department Patrolman Julie Ann Barrett (“Barrett”) brings a section 1983 claim against the Town of Plainville (“Plainville”) for the involvement of Plainville Police Chief Alfred (“Alfred”) in the search and seizure of Barrett's personal cell phone in connection with North Attleborough's internal investigation of another police officer. Plainville has now moved for summary judgment.

         A. Procedural History

         Barrett initially filed a complaint in the Norfolk Superior Court on November 15, 2016, asserting three counts: (1) a section 1983 claim against Plainville, Alfred, and Lieutenant Floyd (“Floyd”) (count I); (2) a violation of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 12, sections 11H and 11I against Alfred and Floyd (count II); and a violation of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 214, section 1B against North Attleborough's Police Department Captain Joseph DiRenzo (“DiRenzo”) and Chief John Reilly (“Reilly”), as well as John and Jane Doe (count III). Notice Removal, Ex. A, Compl. (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1-1. After the case was removed to this Court, Notice Removal 1, ECF No. 1, and various defendants moved for dismissal of the claims against them, Mot. North Attleborough Defs. Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. Rule 12(b)(6), ECF No. 9; Defs., Town Plainville, James Alfred & James Floyd's Mot. Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), ECF No. 12, this Court heard oral arguments, Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF No. 22, and dismissed counts I and II solely as to Alfred and Floyd, Order, ECF No. 23. Barrett subsequently dismissed her claims against John and Jane Doe, Notice Voluntary Dismissal, ECF No. 43, and Reilly and DiRenzo, Stipulation Dismissal, ECF No. 51.

         Plainville now moves for summary judgment on count I. Def. Town of Plainville's Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 39. The parties briefed the issues and filed supporting statements of facts. Pl. Julie Barrett's Opp'n Def. Town Plainville's Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Opp'n”), ECF No. 48; Pl. Julie Barrett's Statement Material Facts Supp. Opp'n Town Plainville's Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Facts”), ECF No. 48-1; Def. Town of Plainville's Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mem.”), ECF No. 40; Def. Town Plainville's Statement Undisputed Material Facts Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.'s Facts”), ECF No. 41. On September 14, 2017, this Court heard oral argument and took the matter under advisement. Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF No. 55.

         B. Undisputed Facts

         Barrett is employed as a police officer for the Town of Plainville. Compl. ¶ 1; Def.'s Facts ¶ 1. On July 30, 2016, there was an alleged incident in which Sergeant David Gould (“Gould”) of the North Attleborough Police Department punched Detective James Moses (“Moses”) of the Plainville Police Department and also committed domestic assault and battery against Barrett. Compl. ¶¶ 23-24; Def.'s Facts ¶ 2.

         On August 9, 2016, State Troopers Edward Keefe (“Keefe”) and Yuri Bukhenik (“Bukhenik”) investigated the alleged assault and battery. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 7; Def.'s Facts ¶ 4. Following Barrett's declining to discuss the incident with Keefe, Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 5-7, Keefe and Bukhenik then went to the Plainville Police station where they explained to Floyd that they would like to ask Barrett some questions and look at her phone, id. ¶¶ 8-9. Floyd had Barrett called off of patrol and into the station, id. ¶ 10, where Keefe and Bukhenik told Barrett that they wanted to discuss the alleged domestic violence incident. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. Barrett, however, again indicated that she had nothing to say, Pl.'s Facts ¶ 2; Def.'s Facts ¶ 13.

         Keefe asked Barrett if he could take a look at her cell phone, but Barrett said no. Def.'s Facts ¶ 14. Keefe then told Barrett that they needed to take her cell phone as evidence, Pl.'s Facts ¶ 2; Def.'s Facts ¶ 15, and that if she did not give her cell phone over voluntarily, they would get a warrant, Def.'s Facts ¶ 21, and leave Barrett without her cell phone for a much longer period of time, id. ¶¶ 16, 19. Barrett said she was inclined to have them get a warrant. Id. ¶ 20. Barrett told the state troopers that her phone was in her police cruiser and that she wanted to make some calls. Id. ¶ 22.

         The troopers let Barrett go to her cruiser and make phone calls. Id. ¶ 23. During this time, Barrett received a call from Moses, who told her that Floyd had called Alfred and said that Barrett was being uncooperative, and that Alfred was going to the Plainville Police station to get Barrett to cooperate. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. Moses told Barrett that he was with Alfred, id. ¶ 35, and had told Alfred that he would call and talk to Barrett, id. ¶ 26. Barrett told Moses that Floyd, Keefe, and Bukhenik were trying to take her phone. Id. ¶ 28. Moses told Barrett, “they can, ” and that “they” already had his phone. Id. ¶¶ 29-30. He encouraged Barrett to hand over her phone, saying “Don't lose your job over this, ” and “You have to cooperate in an internal investigation.” Id. ¶¶ 31-32. Moses lied to Barrett by telling her that she had to cooperate and reinforced Barrett's belief that there was an internal investigation by saying that she could lose her job. Id. ¶¶ 33-34.

         Barrett told Floyd that she wanted to speak with a union attorney; Floyd responded that the attorney said that Barrett had to cooperate. Id. ¶ 36. Barrett handed her cell phone over, id. ¶ 37, because of Floyd's statement that the union attorney said she had to cooperate and Floyd's and Alfred's directives, Pl.'s Facts ¶ 6. Floyd went back into the police station and the state troopers took the phone, asked Barrett to sign a form, then drove away. Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 38-40.

         Keefe took the phone to the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office and downloaded the contents of the device. Id. ¶ 41. Barrett resumed patrol; a trooper returned her cell phone to her later during her shift. Id. ¶¶ 42-43.

         Alfred later returned to the police station and told Barrett that he did not know what happened on July 30, but that if something had happened, it pissed him off. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 3; Def.'s Facts ¶ 44. Barrett interpreted this as meaning that Alfred would ...


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