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Fairbanks v. O'Hagan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 10, 2019

MATTHEW FAIRBANKS, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER DANA O'HAGAN, DETECTIVE WILLIAM CARLETON, OFFICER WILLIAM CASSIDY, OFFICER JAMES GEORGE and SERGEANT KEVIN JANVRIN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge.

         This civil action arises out of an alleged domestic assault and battery by Matthew Fairbanks (“Fairbanks” or “plaintiff”) on his estranged father during a social gathering at plaintiff's apartment in Danvers, Massachusetts. The local police department was notified and Officers Dana O'Hagan (“Officer O'Hagan”), James George (“Officer George”), and William Cassidy (“Officer Cassidy”), and Sergeant Kevin Janvrin (“Sergeant Janvrin”) and Detective William Carleton (“Detective Carleton”) (collectively “defendants”) responded. Fairbanks was subsequently arrested for assault and battery and the police discovered numerous weapons and ammunition after a search of his apartment.

         Fairbanks brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for, among other things, false arrest and unlawful search and seizure in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. In August, 2018, this Court allowed defendants' motion for summary judgment on the remaining counts for false arrest (Count I) and unlawful search and seizure (Counts II and III), holding that 1) the police had probable cause to arrest Fairbanks at the time of the incident and 2) their subsequent search of the apartment and seizure of the weapons found were justified both as a protective sweep and by the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.

         Plaintiff has now filed a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) for reconsideration of the Court's prior decision and amendment of its judgment. He contends, among other things, that the Court 1) ignored evidence that created genuine issues of material fact with respect to the allegedly unlawful search and seizure and 2) failed to address his argument that there were three separate entries into his apartment on the night of the incident. After reviewing its previous Memorandum and Order (Docket No. 71), the filings of the parties and the affidavits of the relevant individuals, the Court agrees with plaintiff and will alter and amend its prior order on defendants' motion for summary judgment.[1]

         I. Background

         A. Facts

         For the Court's initial recitation of the relevant facts, see the prior Memorandum and Order on defendants' motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 71).

         B. Additional Facts Not Previously Addressed

         The Court herein supplements its statement of facts set forth in its prior Memorandum and Order.[2]

         First, there now appears to be a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the .45 caliber pistol, knives and other weapons paraphernalia were in plain view when the officers confiscated them from the apartment without a warrant. Officer Cassidy submits in his affidavit that Maria Melendez (“Melendez”) led the officers to the laundry area of the apartment and opened

closet-like double doors revealing a .45 pistol and some knives and bullets and magazines that she had placed on top of a washer or dryer.

         Melendez denies that version of events, however, explaining in her affidavit that, while she told the officers where the pistol and knives were located, she never escorted them to the weapons. Rather, she contends that she left the apartment before the officers performed their protective sweep. Drawing a reasonable inference in favor of plaintiff as the non-moving party on summary judgment, see O'Connor v. Steeves, 994 F.2d 905, 907 (1st Cir. 1993), Melendez's affidavit suggests that it was the officers who opened the closet in the laundry room to discover the pistol and knives and thus those weapons were arguably not in plain view.

         Second, there also appears to be a genuine issue of material fact as to whether there was a separate entry into the apartment after the initial protective sweep and whether the weapons and paraphernalia were seized during that subsequent search. According to the affidavit of Officer Cassidy, he did not move any objects during the protective sweep and thereafter

stood-by outside the apartment door to make sure no one entered the apartment . . . [while] Sergeant Janvrin made arrangements for building maintenance and the police ...

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