Addona v. D'Andrea et al
ORDER granting 35 Motion for Summary Judgment. The Clerk is instructed to close this case. Signed by Judge Warren W. Eginton on 9/19/16. (Ladd-Smith, I.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
CHRISTOPHER DONSTON, and
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON
DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This is an action by plaintiff Giovanni Addona against defendants Jared D’Andrea,
Christopher Donston, and Chad Conroy, alleging unreasonable force and failure to intervene in
violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Defendants have moved for summary judgment [ECF No. 35]. For the following reasons,
defendants’ motion will be granted.
The following facts are gleaned from the parties’ statements of fact, affidavits, deposition
transcripts, and other exhibit documentation, including a video of the encounter captured from a
police body camera worn by one of the officers at the scene.
On November 4, 2014, at 8:19 p.m., Sergeant Kurt Molnar and Officers Jared D’Andrea,
Chad Conroy, and Christopher Donston of the Watertown Police Department were despatched to
283 Neill Drive, Watertown, Connecticut, in response to a complaint received from the Western
Connecticut Mental Health Network (“WCMHN”).
The officers received a report that plaintiff had called WCMHN and made what was
perceived to be a threat of assault with a baseball bat to one of the WCMHN social workers.
Upon arrival, Officer Donston activated his department issued body camera. Defendants
assert that the entire encounter between the officers and plaintiff was video recorded. The Court
examined that video, which includes audio.
After the officers rang the front door bell, plaintiff walked out into the yard, where
defendants explained the reason for their presence. Plaintiff responded that he had called the
WCMHN that day to discuss his social security and disability benefits. The officers informed
plaintiff that the WCMHN social workers were on their way to speak to him regarding his phone
call and the perceived threat, to which plaintiff was amenable.
Plaintiff then proceeded toward the rear entry door, but the officers ordered plaintiff to
remain outside. Defendants contend that plaintiff disobeyed their commands, but plaintiff
testified that he was “already not going” inside when he was grabbed from behind.
The video supports defendants’ version to the extent that it was unclear whether plaintiff
would have obeyed defendants’ orders to remain outside absent physical involvement by
Defendants assert that as plaintiff was attempting to reenter the house, Officer Conroy
grabbed plaintiff’s right arm, and Officer Donston grabbed plaintiff’s left arm, in order to prevent
plaintiff from entering the residence. According to defendants, the officers moved plaintiff to a
nearby wall, and other than a subsequent pat-down, the officers at the scene had no other physical
contact with plaintiff. The video corroborates defendants’ assertions, including the absence of
any high-impact collisions.
Nevertheless, plaintiff maintains that he was needlessly smashed against a brick wall and
contends that he felt the bones in his neck crack as his chest hit the bricks. Plaintiff denies that
the entire encounter was recorded. At deposition, plaintiff stated:
It doesn't show – it doesn't really show – it doesn't really show him pushing. It
doesn't show the pushing and slamming; you know what I mean? The way I hit
the brick wall. Don't show that part.
There is a part – that videotape is altered. Trust me, there's parts missing of
There's the part where I hit the brick wall is missing. Because it doesn't show
me going backwards with my neck, and sideways turning my neck. It don't
show that. And going up with my chest; it don't show that. Parts missing, trust
WCMHN social workers Colleen Cherboniak and Gerald Gardiner eventually arrived at
the scene, where they informed defendants that plaintiff had repeatedly called their crisis hotline
that day. Plaintiff was apparently dissatisfied with WCMHN’s response to his calls, and
allegedly said something to the effect of: “What do I need to do, show up down there with a bat?”
Subsequently, Mr. Gardiner tried several times to speak to plaintiff about the phone calls
and the threat, but he was not able to reason with plaintiff. In view of plaintiff’s state of mind,
Mr. Gardiner advised Sergeant Molnar that plaintiff should be transported to a hospital for a
mental evaluation. While initially reluctant, plaintiff eventually agreed and was transported to
Waterbury Hospital. No arrest was made and no charges were filed.
At the hospital, plaintiff received a psychological evaluation, but he was not treated for
any physical injuries.
A motion for summary judgment will be granted where there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and it is clear that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Only when reasonable minds could not
differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper." Bryant v. Maffucci, 923
F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 849 (1991).
The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of any material factual
issue genuinely in dispute. American International Group, Inc. v. London American International
Corp., 664 F.2d 348, 351 (2d Cir. 1981). In determining whether a genuine factual issue exists,
the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving
party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
If a nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of
his case with respect to which he has the burden of proof, then summary judgment is appropriate.
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. If the nonmoving party submits evidence which is "merely
colorable," legally sufficient opposition to the motion for summary judgment is not met.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
Qualified immunity shields government officials “from liability for civil damages insofar
as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). To lose
immunity, an official must violate a right, the contours of which are “sufficiently clear that a
reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right.” Anderson v.
Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987). The Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed the importance
of resolving the qualified immunity determination at the earliest possible stage in the litigation.
Hunter v. Bryant 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991).
“A police officer is entitled to qualified immunity if (1) his conduct does not violate a
clearly established constitutional right, or (2) it was ‘objectively reasonable’ for the officer to
believe his conduct did not violate a clearly established constitutional right.” Hartline v. Gallo,
546 F.3d 95, 102 (2d Cir. 2008).
“[T]he reasonableness inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question
is whether the officers' actions are objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances
confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.” Graham v. Connor,
490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989). The determination requires a balancing of a number of factors,
including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the
safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade
arrest by flight. See Brown v. City of New York, 798 F.3d 94, 100 (2d Cir. 2015).
“Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an
arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical
coercion or threat thereof to effect it.” Graham 490 U.S. at 396. Here, defendants briefly
restrained plaintiff in order to prevent him from leaving the scene of the investigation. While
plaintiff denies that any physical coercion was necessary to prevent his entry into the residence,
he was reluctant to comply with police requests. When told, “Stay out here for a second,”
plaintiff responded, “Why? What do I got to stay out here for?” When an officer responded,
“Because we want to talk to you,” plaintiff, in turn, replied, “I’m going inside,” and walked
toward the door. Considering that defendants were responding to a report that plaintiff had
threatened physical violence and could be mentally unstable, reasonable police officers could
have concluded that plaintiff presented a threat to the safety of the officers or others if permitted
to leave the immediate scene. Moreover, the video of the encounter demonstrates that defendants
used only a minor amount of force to restrain plaintiff’s ingress. Indeed, at deposition, plaintiff
testified that his own mother, who was a few feet away from the encounter, could not remember
plaintiff being slammed into a brick wall.
Plaintiff argues that his version of the encounter in question differs from that of
defendants and that defendants ask this Court to disregard plaintiff’s sworn testimony. However,
“[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the
record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the
facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
380 (2007). Here, as in Scott, the videotape evidence directly contradicts the plaintiff’s
testimony such that no reasonable jury could believe his testimony. Under the circumstances,
“no rational jury could [find] that the force used was so excessive that no reasonable officer
would have made the same choice.” See Lennon v. Miller, 66 F.3d 416, 426 (2d Cir. 1995).
Likewise, while all law enforcement officials have an affirmative duty to intervene to protect the
constitutional rights of citizens from infringement by other law enforcement officers, here,
defendants had no reason to intervene to protect plaintiff from excessive force by other officers
where none was evident. See Simcoe v. Gray, 577 Fed. Appx. 38, 40 (2d Cir. 2014); Anderson
v. Branen, 17 F.3d 552, 557 (2d Cir. 1994). Accordingly summary judgment will be granted in
For the foregoing reasons, defendants’ motion for summary judgment [ECF No. 35]
is GRANTED. The Clerk is instructed to close this case.
Dated this 19th day of September, 2016, at Bridgeport, Connecticut.
/s/Warren W. Eginton
WARREN W. EGINTON
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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