Detectives DeFrancesco and Bates

Rarick v. DeFrancesco, 94 F.Supp.2d 279 (2000)

 This decision was issued on April 28, 2000, about three months prior to Nickel's arrest.

[282] "Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the facts are as follows. On or about March 1, 1997, Plaintiff spoke by telephone with his friend, Brian Myers. Plaintiff had previously asked Myers if he could borrow Myers' flatbed truck to go buy feed for his pigs. Myers told Plaintiff that he and his cousin, Joseph Clark, had delivered the truck to Plaintiff's yard; instead of being empty, however, the truck contained two engines and two transmissions (hereinafter 'the engines'). Although Myers did not explicitly state that the engines were stolen, he informed Plaintiff that Clark was in trouble with the police. According to Myers, Clark thought that the Albany County Sheriff's Department (hereinafter 'the Sheriff's Department') would soon be coming to his house, and he wanted to remove some things and place them 'wherever he could.' Plaintiff learned that Clark's troubles also involved Myers and that Myers was cooperating with the Sheriff's Department and that he would arrange for the engines to be turned in as well.

"After Plaintiff ended his call with Myers, he unloaded the engines from the truck, placed them in his yard and took the truck to the feed store. That night it rained, and Plaintiff decided to wait for the grass to dry before driving the truck into his yard to reload the engines. A couple of days later, Plaintiff and Myers reloaded the engines onto the truck, and Myers turned the engines over to the Sheriff's Department.

"On March 10, 1997, Defendant Deputy Ronald Bates came to Plaintiff's house and informed him that the engines had been stolen from their owners. By this point, Plaintiff had learned from television [283] that Clark and others had been arrested for their participation in a 'chop shop operation,' in which cars were stolen and dismantled so that their parts could be resold for profit. Plaintiff and Bates walked around Plaintiff's property, and Plaintiff showed Bates where he had placed the engines when he had unloaded them from the truck to go buy feed. Bates later described Plaintiff's demeanor as helpful. After walking around Plaintiff's property, Bates asked Plaintiff to follow him by car to the Sheriff's Department so that Plaintiff could give a written statement. [Emphasis added.]

"Once Plaintiff arrived at the Sheriff's Department, Bates led him into a room and asked him to sit in a chair. Plaintiff complied. Plaintiff was then handcuffed to a ring that was attached to a wall and left alone in the room. About 30-45 minutes later, Defendant Senior Investigator Mark J. DeFrancesco entered the room and began questioning Plaintiff about his possession of the engines. DeFrancesco then prepared a statement for Plaintiff to sign which purportedly summarized the information that Plaintiff had just recounted to him. After reviewing the statement, Plaintiff refused to sign it because it falsely stated that he had been advised of his Miranda rights and inaccurately summarized the information that he had provided." [Emphases added.]

Neither DeFrancesco nor anyone else ever advised Nickel of his Miranda rights either, contrary to DeFrancesco's false trial testimony on this issue. (DeFrancesco also 'inaccurately summarized' portions of Nickel's purported statement.)

"At that point, DeFrancesco drew up two Information-Complaints charging Plaintiff with criminal possession of stolen property...In addition to the information that Plaintiff had provided to him, DeFrancesco also relied upon information provided by Myers. [FN4:] DeFrancesco stated in his Information-Complaints that his decision to charge Plaintiff was limited to these two sources...However, DeFrancesco later testified that he also based his decision on the fact that Clark, with whom he had spoken prior to interviewing Plaintiff, had told him that Plaintiff knew that the engines were well as his opinion that Plaintiff intended to sell the engines for profit...With regard to the information allegedly provided by Clark, the Court is troubled by the fact that DeFrancesco failed to mention this evidence in his Information-Complaint against Plaintiff, and it is thus not inclined to credit this portion of DeFrancesco's testimony. In any event, however, DeFrancesco's testimony is contradicted by Plaintiff's testimony that Clark told DeFrancesco, [Assistant Chief Craig] Apple [who was also involved in Nickel's case], and Bates that Plaintiff was not at all involved in the criminal operations...With regard to DeFrancesco's opinion that Plaintiff intended to sell the engines, DeFrancesco testified that this opinion was based upon statements taken from other people during the course of the investigation of the chop shop operation...Upon questioning, however, DeFrancesco admitted that he did not recall whether he spoke with anyone else, who was either involved with the investigation of the case or who was under investigation by the Sheriff's Department, who had mentioned Plaintiff's name...Thus, the Court does not credit this portion of DeFrancesco's testimony."

This is 'judge-speak' for: 'He's a liar' (twice over).

[284] "Plaintiff was then fingerprinted, photographed, and transported to the Westerlo Town Court for arraignment. He was later 
released on $500 bail. The charges against Plaintiff were subsequently reduced to misdemeanor possession of stolen property in the fifth degree and were later dismissed altogether.

[285] "Plaintiff alleges in his opposition to Defendant's motion that: 'One week [after Myers turned the engines over to the Sheriff's Department], Mr. Rarick was taken to a substation of the Albany County Sheriff by defendant Bates. There, he was interrogated and handcuffed to a wall. Defendant DeFrancesco, who had not read Mr. Rarick his Miranda rights, demanded that Rarick sign a statement which he had typewritten which recited that Rarick had been apprised of his Miranda rights. Rarick declined to do so. The statement contained several errors, including an assertion that Mr. Rarick knew the engines had been stolen. Based upon this false statement which Rarick refused to sign and a statement of Mr. Myers, the plaintiff was then arrested and charged with two felonies, criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree. Aside from what Mr. Rarick had told DeFrancesco and Myers's statement, there existed no evidence connecting Mr. Rarick to the contraband. Mr. Myers's statement did not indicate any criminality on the part of the plaintiff.'

"'There is nothing in the record of this case which indicates that DeFrancesco, Apple, and Bates had any information of Rarick's involvement in the chop-shop ring, other than the engines having appeared mysteriously on his property two days before Rarick arranged to have them turned over to the Sheriff's Department.'

[285] "Although Plaintiff cooperated with the Sheriff's Department during its investigations of the theft of the engines, he was arrested without a warrant...and charged with criminal possession of stolen property... This arrest occurred, despite the absence of probable cause or reasonable cause to believe that Plaintiff had committed a crime.

"The court finds that Plaintiff's complaint set forth a short and plain statement of false arrest claims, which shows that he is entitled to relief...

[289] "[T]here is no evidence to suggest that Plaintiff held the property with the intent of benefiting himself or someone other than the owner of the property or impeding recovery of the property by the owner.

"There is simply no evidence in the record that DeFrancesco or Bates could have relied on, or that otherwise exists, that Plaintiff held the property with the intent of benefiting himself or someone other than the owner of the property or impeding recovery of the property by the owner. Because Defendants lacked any evidence of this element...the Court finds that a person of reasonable caution would not have thought that Plaintiff was guilty of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree. The Court thus rejects Defendants' claim that they had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff and denies their Motion [to Dismiss] on these grounds.

"[I]t was not objectively reasonable for Defendants to believe that their conduct did not violate [the right to be free from being subjected to false arrest and malicious prosecution] because there is simply no evidence that Plaintiff held the property with the intent of benefiting himself or someone other than the owner of the property or impeding recovery of the property by the owner. Because such evidence does not even arguably exist, the Court determines that a rational jury could not dispute that Defendants' decision to arrest Plaintiff was not legal under the circumstances."

Due to the fact that there are no further published court decisions in this case, it is reasonable to assume that, eventually, an out-of-court settlement was reached.

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