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Diaz v. Devlin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 30, 2019

MARIANNE DIAZ, individually and as mother and next friend of two minor children Jane Doe and Jane Roe, BRYANT ALEQUIN, and JOSHUA MATOS, Plaintiffs,
v.
SGT. JAMES P. DEVLIN, DET. NICHOLAS E. NASON, DET. JEFFREY CARLSON, LT. DET. JOSEPH SCAMPINI, SGT. RICHARD CIPTRO, DET. JAMES CARMODY, OFFICER ANTHONY LORENT, DET. TERRENCE GAFFNEY, DET. JOHN MORRISSEY, DET. SHAWN BARBALE, DET. RONALD REMILLARD, OFFICER REBECCA AGUILAR, OFFICER ELIAS BAEZ, CITY OF WORCESTER, CHIEF GARY J. GEMME, CAPT. PAUL SAUCIER, CITY MGR. EDWARD J. AUGUSTUS, POLICE INFORMANT CRI-1, AND OFFICERS JOHN DOE 1-4, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT’S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Nature of the Case

          Plaintiffs, Marianne Diaz (“Diaz”), individually and as mother and next friend of two minor children (individually (“M1” 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”), [1] Lieutenant Detective Joseph Case 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 CRI-1 (“CI”), and Offs. John Doe 1-4.[2]

         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. c. 12, §§11I (“MCRA”), 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. In three separate motions, Defendants move for summary judgment on all counts. For the reasons set forth below, the motions are granted.[3]

         Background

          This Court's review of the record is in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 50 (1st Cir. 2000).

         On August 17, 2015, Massachusetts State Police Officer Nicholas Nason (“Nason”) applied for, and received a search warrant from a clerk magistrate of the Worcester District Court for the search of an apartment located at 17 Hillside Drive, Worcester, Massachusetts. That warrant authorized a search for an individual named James Jackson, two firearms, cell phones, and documents. Due to the possibility of firearms and the dangerousness of the search, the search was authorized at any time in the day or night, and had “no-knock” provisions. The State Police enlisted the Worcester Police Department Swat Team to affect entry on their behalf. Worcester Police Officers Scampini, Ciptro, Carmondy, Lorente, Gaffney, Morrissey, Barbale, Remillard, and Baez entered the property at 5:15 am on August 19, 2015. The Plaintiffs complain that that entry and subsequent securing of the apartment by the State Police and Worcester Police SWAT Teams caused them injury for which they seek redress. Specifically, the Plaintiff Ms. Diaz claims emotional injuries by being found naked in front of her children and police officers while the SWAT team was securing the apartment. Her daughters also claim emotional damages from the entry. Plaintiffs Mr. Alequin and Mr. Matos allege physical and emotional injuries due to excessive force.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Essentially, Rule 56 [] mandates the entry of summary judgment ‘against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.’ “Coll v. PB Diagnostic Sys., 50 F.3d 1115, 1121 (1st Cir.1995) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, (1986)). In making that determination, the Court views “the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing reasonable inferences in his favor.” Noonan v. Staples, Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009). When “a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party ‘must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The non-moving party may not simply “rest upon mere allegation or denials of his pleading, ” but instead must “present affirmative evidence.” Id. at 256–57.

         Discussion

          Count I – 42 U.S.C. § 1983 via search warrant (All Plaintiffs v. Scampini, Nason, Devlin, Gaffney, Lorente, Remillard, Cipro, Baez, Barbale, Morrissey, Carmody, CI, John Doe 1-4)

         Section 1983 provides a private right of action against a person who, under the color of state law, deprives someone of “any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and [federal] laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order to state a claim under section 1983, “the plaintiff must show a deprivation of a federally secured right.” Harrington v. City of Nashua, 610 F.3d 24, 28 (1st Cir. 2010).

         Plaintiffs complain that the warrant authorizing the search was not supported by probable cause, thus making the search of the apartment unreasonable.[4] Plaintiffs’ opposition to the Motion on Count 1 focuses on the validity of the warrant. They claim that because the search warrant was facially invalid, its execution resulted in an unconstitutional seizure of the Plaintiffs. The question presented is not whether the issuing Worcester District Court Clerk Magistrate erred in issuing the warrant, it is whether the magistrate so obviously erred that any reasonable officer would have recognized the error. Messerschmidt v. Millender, 565 U.S. 535, 556, 132 Sup. Ct. 1235, 1250 (2012).

         The search warrant affiant, Defendant Nason, presented the proposed affidavit in support of the search warrant to a Clerk Magistrate of the Worcester District Court who issued the warrant. Where an alleged Fourth Amendment violation involves a search or seizure pursuant to a warrant, the fact that a neutral magistrate has issued the warrant is the clearest indication that that officer acted in objective good faith. U.S. v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922923 (1994). I have reviewed the affidavit in support of the warrant and find that the issuing magistrate did not obviously err (if there was error at all).[5]

         Defendants, State Police Officers, Nason and Devlin, were present during the search and entered the apartment after the SWAT team had secured the premises. While executing a search warrant officers may take reasonable action to ensure their own safety. See Muehler v Mena, 544 U.S. 93, 98-100 (2005). However, “special circumstances, or possibly a prolonged detention, ” might render a search unreasonable. Michigan v Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 705 (2013). Therefore, where an officer acts in a reasonable manner to protect themselves from harm, the Fourth Amendment is not violated. Generally, detention in handcuffs for a moderate amount of time alone does not constitute excessive force. See Muehler v. Mena, 544 U.S. at 100) (holding that although “duration of a detention can, of course, affect the balance of interests” in determining the reasonableness of force used, a two- to three-hour period in handcuffs was insufficient to support an excessive force claim).

         In Los Angeles County v Rettele, 550 U.S. 609 (2007), the Court held that officers acted in a reasonable manner to protect themselves. The officers obtained a valid search warrant for a home to look for four suspects. Id. at 610. One of the suspects owned a nine-millimeter Glock pistol. Unbeknownst to the officers the suspects had moved from the house a few months prior. Upon entering the home, the officers drew their weapons and ordered a couple out of bed, to put their hands up, and to not move. Id. The couple were naked in their bed and were held at gun point for approximately one to two minutes before the officers allowed the couple to be dressed. Id. The officers realized their mistake, apologized, and left within fifteen minutes. Id.

         The Supreme Court in Retelle held these actions were reasonable to protect officer safety. The Court reasoned that “blankets and bedding can conceal a weapon, ” citing several cases which involved criminal defendants who stored weapons in their bed. Id. at 615. The Court explained that “the deputies needed a moment to secure the room and ensure that other persons were not close by or did not present a danger.” Id. The Court indicated in dicta, however, that officers would not have been free to hold the couple motionless for longer than necessary. Therefore, while the search did cause extreme embarrassment for the couple, it did not violate the Fourth Amendment because such control was reasonably necessary to protect the officer’s safety.

         After entering the premises, Sergeant Devlin is alleged to have used abusive language towards Ms. Diaz (“shut the f*** up”) during the time that the officers were present in her bedroom while the search was ongoing. After a search of the closet and under the bed, all but one officer exited the room, which amounted to less than a few minutes. With one officer remaining in the room, Ms. Diaz was given ...


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