Watkins v. Silta et al
Judge F. Dennis Saylor, IV: ORDER entered. Memorandum and Order on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Copy mailed.(Pezzarossi, Lisa)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
SAMIL SILTA, JAMES FARRELL, and )
BERNARD D. MCCREVAN,
Civil Action No.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS
In 1998, plaintiff George Watkins was convicted in the Massachusetts Superior Court of
stalking, assault and battery, and threats. (Compl. ¶ 22; Def. Ex. 1 at 2-3). The conviction arose
out of an alleged altercation between Watkins and his former girlfriend, Rose Withers. (Compl.
¶¶ 2, 8(a)). His conviction was later upheld by the Massachusetts Appeals Court. (Def. Ex. 1 at
On July 1, 2009, Watkins filed a complaint in this Court alleging various constitutional
violations arising out of his arrest and conviction. (Def. Ex. 3). The Commonwealth of
Massachusetts was the only named defendant, but the complaint alleged, among other things,
that (1) Boston Police Detective James Farrell omitted information from the application for a
criminal complaint that resulted in Watkins’s arrest and (2) Boston Police Officer Samil Silta
presented false information to the grand jury for the purpose of obtaining an indictment. (Def.
Ex. 3 at 9-14, ¶ 5(a)). On October 13, 2009, the complaint was dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
On August 18, 2016, Watkins filed the complaint in this action.1 The complaint again
alleges that Detective Farrell omitted or withheld information from the application for a criminal
complaint and that Officer Silta presented false information to the grand jury. (Compl. ¶¶ 23,
8(a)). It also alleges that Boston Police Detective Bernard McCrevan gave perjured testimony at
Watkins’s trial. (Compl. ¶ 36). It alleges that the defendants’ conduct violated the Fourth, Fifth,
and Fourteenth Amendments by depriving plaintiff of due process of law.
On September 20, 2016, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons stated below, that motion will be
To the extent that plaintiff’s filing is a motion for reconsideration, that motion will be
denied as time-barred. Motions for reconsideration are generally governed by either Fed. R. Civ.
P. 59(e) or Rule 60. See Fisher v. Kadant, Inc., 589 F.3d 505, 511 (1st Cir. 2009). Rule 59(e)
motions to alter or amend a judgment “must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the
judgment.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e). Rule 60 motions for relief from a judgment “must be made
within a reasonable time.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(1).2 “What constitutes a reasonable time
depends on the facts of each case,” including factors such as “finality, the reason for delay, the
practical ability for the litigant to learn of the grounds relied upon earlier, and potential prejudice
The complaint is titled “Plaintiff’s Amended Motion for Reconsideration of Denial of Previous Motion
for Failure to State a Claim for Relief Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).” However, it begins by stating
“[t]his is a complaint . . . .” It is unclear whether plaintiff intended this to be a motion for reconsideration of the
Court’s prior order dismissing his 2009 complaint or a new complaint altogether. The Court will analyze it as both.
For the sake of clarity, it will be referred to as a complaint.
Rule 60(c)(1) specifies that where the grounds for reconsideration is either (1) mistake, inadvertence,
surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; or (3) fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct by an
opposing party, the “reasonable time” may not exceed one year from the date of the judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P.
60(c)(1). It is unclear on what grounds plaintiff bases his motion for reconsideration.
to other parties.” Johnson v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 626 F. App’x 379, 383 (3d Cir. 2015)
(unpublished opinion). Plaintiff’s prior complaint was dismissed on October 13, 2009. Plaintiff
filed the motion for reconsideration on September 20, 2016, nearly seven years later. His motion
is clearly time-barred under Rule 59(e), and, because he has provided no explanation whatsoever
for the seven-year delay, it was not filed within a reasonable time and is therefore also timebarred under Rule 60.
To the extent the filing is a new complaint, it will be dismissed for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. At a minimum, the claims as to defendants Silta and Farrell
are precluded under the doctrine of claim preclusion, or res judicata, and all of his claims are
barred by the favorable termination rule set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
Under the doctrine of claim preclusion, “‘a final judgment on the merits of an action
precludes the parties [to that action] or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could
have been raised in that action.’” Gonzalez v. Banco Cent. Corp., 27 F.3d 751, 755 (1st Cir.
1994) (quoting Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980)). The doctrine applies where there is
“(1) a final judgment on the merits in an earlier suit, (2) sufficient identicality between the causes
of action asserted in the earlier and later suits, and (3) sufficient identicality between the parties
in the two suits.” Id.
The first element is satisfied here, as the 2009 complaint was dismissed on the merits for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. As to the second element, there is
“sufficient identicality” between the causes of action asserted in both suits, because they arise
out of the same “transaction, or series of connected transactions” and “derive from a common
nucleus of operative facts.” Id. Both actions arise out plaintiff’s arrest and conviction in 1998.
The third element, identicality between the parties, is satisfied as to defendants Silta and Farrell,
but not defendant McCrevan. While the caption of the 2009 complaint listed the Commonwealth
as the only defendant, paragraphs five and six clearly identified Officer Silta and Detective
Farrell as intended defendants. (Def. Ex. 3 at ¶¶ 5-6). As to McCrevan, who was not named in
the 2009 complaint, it is likely that he is also bound by the Court’s prior ruling under the theory
of “adequate representation.” See Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 900 (2008) (stating that “[a]
party’s representation of a nonparty is ‘adequate’ for preclusion purposes only if, at a minimum:
(1) The interests of the nonparty and her representative are aligned; and (2) either the party
understood herself to be acting in a representative capacity or the original court took care to
protect the interests of the nonparty.”) (internal citations omitted). However, there are not
sufficient facts in the record to determine whether the Commonwealth understood itself to be
acting as a representative for other officers and detectives involved in plaintiff’s arrest and
conviction, nor did the Court specifically take action to protect the interests of nonparties.
Therefore, the doctrine of claim preclusion applies to bar plaintiff’s claims against defendants
Silta and Farrell, but it is unclear whether his claims against defendant McCrevan should also be
In any event, all of plaintiff’s claims are barred by the favorable termination rule of Heck
v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the Supreme Court held that
in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or
imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would
render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the
conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive
order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination,
or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.
Id. at 486-87. Here, plaintiff asserts that he was unconstitutionally arrested and convicted
as a result of defendants’ false statements and omissions. He has not, however,
established that his conviction was reversed, expunged, declared invalid, or called into
question. In fact, his conviction was upheld by the Massachusetts Appeals Court. See
Watkins, 2003 WL 940801 at *5. Plaintiff is therefore precluded from seeking damages
based on the alleged unconstitutionality of his arrest and conviction.3
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration is DENIED and
defendants’ motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
/s/ F. Dennis Saylor IV
F. Dennis Saylor IV
Dated: January 26, 2017
In addition to monetary damages, plaintiff also seeks to have his mother’s remains exhumed and
reinterred at a different location at the Commonwealth’s expense because, due to his incarceration, he was forced to
miss her funeral. However, the Commonwealth is not a named defendant in this action. Even if it were, any claim
against the Commonwealth arising out of plaintiff’s 1998 arrest and conviction is precluded, as the Commonwealth
was the named defendant in plaintiff’s 2009 complaint.
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