LLOYD v. NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Noel L. Hillman on 5/8/2017. (TH, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
GARRY D. LLOYD,
TROOPER MICHAEL C. MURRAY,
MICHAEL A. CAUDO
1500 WHITE HORSE PIKE
EGG HARBOR CITY, NJ 08215
On behalf of Plaintiff
ROBERT P. PREUSS
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
DIVISION OF LAW
P.O. BOX 112
25 MARKET STREET
TRENTON, NJ 08625-0112
On behalf of Defendant Trooper Michael C. Murray
HILLMAN, District Judge
Plaintiff, Garry D. Lloyd, was arrested on February 6, 2012
by Defendant, New Jersey State Trooper Michael C. Murray, for
receiving a stolen Bobcat excavator.
Presently before the Court
is the motion of Defendant for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s
claims that Defendant violated Plaintiff’s federal and state
constitutional rights by maliciously prosecuting him.
reasons expressed below, Defendant’s motion will be granted. 1
The Complaint alleged various allegations against
numerous defendants. All claims against all defendants have
In January 2012, Murray received a dispatch call indicating
that a mini excavator belonging to the Martin Corporation, with
the serial number 514016890, had been stolen from a work site.
Murray met with Thomas Martin, the owner of the stolen
excavator, who gave him a description of the excavator as well
its serial number.
On February 6, 2012, Murray received a phone call from
Martin told him that he had received a tip from an
informant in response to an offer of a reward, 3 which indicated
been dismissed, except for Plaintiff’s claim against Defendant
for malicious prosecution brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and N.J.S.A. 10:6-2.
The following facts are recited from Defendant’s Local
Civil Rule 56.1(a) statement of material facts not in dispute.
L. Civ. R. 56.1(a) (“On motions for summary judgment, the movant
shall furnish a statement which sets forth material facts as to
which there does not exist a genuine issue, in separately
numbered paragraphs citing to the affidavits and other documents
submitted in support of the motion. . . . .”). Because
Plaintiff did not file his opposition with “a responsive
statement of material facts, addressing each paragraph of the
movant's statement, indicating agreement or disagreement and, if
not agreed, stating each material fact in dispute and citing to
the affidavits and other documents submitted in connection with
the motion,” the Court deems Defendant’s Rule 56.1 statement as
“undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion.” Id.
(also explaining that “[e]ach statement of material facts shall
be a separate document (not part of a brief) and shall not
contain legal argument or conclusions of law”).
A local resident received $500 from Martin for his tip.
that the excavator had been seen at 1479 Coles Mill Road,
Murray went to 1479 Coles Road, and met with the property
owners, Gerry and Patricia Swain.
The Swains granted Murray
permission to enter onto their property to search for the
Murray did not find the excavator during his search
of the 1479 property, but the informant who gave the tip came to
the property and directed him to where the excavator was
Gerry Swain also told Murray that he had seen a man
named Garry, the boyfriend of the woman who owned the adjoining
property – 1497 Coles Mill Road - directing another man in using
an excavator fitting the description of the stolen excavator to
do work on the adjoining property.
1479 and 1497 were large,
adjacent lots on agricultural land that did not have clear
demarcations between them.
When Murray searched the indicated area on 1497 Coles Mill
Road, he found an excavator that matched the description
received from Martin between two trailers.
Although the serial
numbers had been removed from the main part of the excavator,
the number on the engine block matched the number for Martin’s
excavator, which definitively identified it as the one that had
been stolen from Martin.
Murray allowed Martin to retrieve his
Murray continued his investigation by checking the tax
records for 1497 Coles Mill Road, which showed that it was owned
by a woman named Gail Stadtler.
Murray traveled to 1332
Franklinville-Williamstown Road, where he was told Plaintiff and
He was not able to make contact at that time.
Murray returned to that address to following day and spoke with
Plaintiff agreed to come to the Bridgeton police
barracks to make a statement.
Once at the barracks, Murray
presented Plaintiff with a Miranda card.
card but refused to make a statement.
Plaintiff signed the
Murray then arrested
In March 2014, Murray testified before the grand jury.
Murray testified that Martin had reported a Bobcat excavator
stolen from his work site; that the Bobcat’s serial number was
514016890; that the Bobcat was found at 1497 Coles Mill Road, in
Monroe Township; that Martin identified the Bobcat as the one
that was stolen from him; that the 1497 property was owned by
Gail Stadtler, and that her boyfriend, Garry Lloyd, was
scrapping trailers on the property.
Following Murray’s testimony, the grand jury indicted
Plaintiff, charging him with one count of receiving stolen
property, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7(a).
Murray was never
called to appear in court as part of the prosecution of
Plaintiff and took no further part in the prosecution.
August 30, 2013, the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office
dismissed the indictment against Plaintiff.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Defendant removed Plaintiff’s Complaint to this Court.
Because Plaintiff has brought federal constitutional claims
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as a claim under New
Jersey law, this Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s federal
claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and may exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s related state law claim under 28
U.S.C. § 1367.
Standard for Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is
satisfied that the materials in the record, including
depositions, documents, electronically stored information,
affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, or
interrogatory answers, demonstrate that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
An issue is “genuine” if it is supported by evidence such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
A fact is “material” if, under the governing
substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the
outcome of the suit.
In considering a motion for summary
judgment, a district court may not make credibility
determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence;
instead, the non-moving party's evidence “is to be believed and
all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.”
Marino v. Industrial Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir.
2004)(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).
Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Once the moving party has
met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by
affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.
Thus, to withstand a properly
supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must
identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict
those offered by the moving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-
A party opposing summary judgment must do more than just
rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or vague
Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir.
Plaintiff claims that Murray violated his rights under the
federal and New Jersey constitution when he was arrested and
indicted by the grand jury for receiving stolen property.
prove malicious prosecution under the Fourth Amendment, 4 a
plaintiff must show that: (1) the defendant initiated a criminal
proceeding; (2) the criminal proceeding ended in his favor; (3)
the defendant initiated the proceeding without probable cause;
Because the analysis of claims under state constitutional
law is similar to the analysis under the Fourth Amendment, no
separate analysis will be undertaken for Plaintiff’s claims
arising under the New Jersey Constitution. See Hedges v. Musco,
204 F.3d 109, 121 (3d Cir. 2000) (granting defendants’ motion
for summary judgment on plaintiffs’ claims under Article I,
paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution, because it was
already established that there was no federal constitutional
violation) (citing Desilets v. Clearview Regional Bd. of Educ.,
627 A.2d 667, 673 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1993) (“We are not
persuaded that the New Jersey Constitution provides greater
protection under the circumstances of this case than its federal
counterpart. We note that in its T.L.O. opinion the New Jersey
Supreme Court analyzed the search and seizure issue under the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and did not
suggest that New Jersey's organic law imposed more stringent
(4) the defendant acted maliciously or for a purpose other than
bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) the plaintiff
suffered deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept of
seizure as a consequence of a legal proceeding.
Knorr, 477 F.3d 75, 81-82 (3d Cir. 2007) (footnote omitted).
Here, even finding that the first, second, and fifth
elements of a viable malicious prosecution claim are met,
Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate material issues of disputed
facts to survive summary judgment on the third and fourth
The first prong of Plaintiff’s malicious prosecution claim
is unclear – that is, even though Murray arrested Plaintiff, it
is unclear whether Murray “initiated a criminal proceeding”
against Plaintiff because it is not clear who made the decision
to present the charge to the grand jury. If Murray is not
considered to be the person who initiated the criminal
proceeding against Plaintiff, then Plaintiff’s claim against
Murray is more appropriately a claim for false arrest. See
James v. City of Wilkes-Barre, 700 F.3d 675, 680 (3d Cir. 2012)
(citations omitted) (“To state a claim for false arrest under
the Fourth Amendment, a plaintiff must establish: (1) that there
was an arrest; and (2) that the arrest was made without probable
cause.”); Morales v. Busbee, 972 F. Supp. 254, 266 (D.N.J 1997)
(quoting W. Page Keeton et al. at 885–86) (“‘So long as the
plaintiff has been detained by legal process, it cannot be said
that he has been falsely [arrested] and the claim, if there is
one, must be for malicious prosecution, where malice and a want
of probable cause must be shown. If there is no process issued
at all and the plaintiff is arrested without a warrant or any
other valid basis for an arrest, there is no malicious
prosecution but a false arrest. Where an unjustified detention
takes place, followed by an improper prosecution, the plaintiff
may be required to assert both false [arrest] and malicious
First, with regard to whether Plaintiff’s arrest was
supported by probable cause, “[p]robable cause to arrest
requires more than mere suspicion; however, it does not require
that the officer have evidence sufficient to prove guilt beyond
a reasonable doubt.
Rather, probable cause to arrest exists
when the facts and circumstances within the arresting officer’s
knowledge are sufficient in themselves to warrant a reasonable
prosecution.”); Blenman v. Dover Police Department, --- F. Supp.
3d. --- 2016 WL 5955519, at *4 (D. Del. October 12, 2016)
(citing Sershen v. Cholish, 2007 WL 3146357, at *10 (M.D. Pa.
2007) (citing Gallo v. City of Phila., 161 F.3d 217, 222 (3d
Cir. 1998)) (“A plaintiff's claim for malicious prosecution
begins not with an arrest, which is not pursuant to legal
process, but with the indictment.”); Mawuyrayrassuna Emmanuel
Noviho v. Lancaster County Of Pennsylvania, --- F. App’x ---,
2017 WL 1048062, at *4 (March 20, 2017) (“Arrests made pursuant
to a validly issued—if not validly supported—arrest warrant
generally occur after the institution of legal process and,
thus, sound in malicious prosecution rather than false arrest or
imprisonment.”); In re Grand Jury Appearance Request by Loigman,
870 A.2d 249, 255 (N.J. 2005) (“Both the county prosecutors and
the Attorney General are invested with the responsibility of
seeking “the detection, arrest, indictment and conviction of
offenders against the laws.” N.J.S.A. 2A:158–5.).
Because (1) both a false arrest claim and a malicious
prosecution claim depend on the assessment of probable cause,
(2) Plaintiff’s complaint could be read to assert both claims,
as it generally asserts a count for depravation of his various
constitutional rights arising out of his arrest and indictment,
and (3) Murray has not challenged the applicability of the
malicious prosecution claim over a false arrest claim, and
indeed has stipulated to that claim as the sole claim to proceed
against him, the Court will only consider the merits of
Plaintiff’s sole remaining claim against Murray.
person to believe that an offense has been or is being committed
by the person to be arrested.”
Orsatti v. New Jersey State
Police, 71 F.3d 480, 482-83 (3d Cir. 1995) (citations omitted).
As the U.S. Supreme Court has summarized:
The probable cause standard is a practical, nontechnical
conception that deals with the factual and practical
considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and
prudent men, not legal technicians, act. Probable cause is
a fluid concept - turning on the assessment of
probabilities in particular factual contexts - not readily,
or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules. To
determine whether an officer had probable cause to arrest
an individual, we examine the events leading up to the
arrest, and then decide whether these historical facts,
viewed from the standpoint of an objectively reasonable
police officer, amount to probable cause.
Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 371 (2003) (internal
quotations and citations omitted).
In this case, Plaintiff argues that probable cause was
lacking based on the following:
(1) When the Prosecutor asked Murray at the grand jury
proceeding whether the excavator was stolen from the Martin
Corporation in Monroe Township, Murray answered affirmatively,
even though the Martin Corporation is located in Fairfield
When the Prosecutor asked Murray at the grand jury
proceeding whether he learned that the excavator was found at
1497 Coles Mill Road (Plaintiff’s girlfriend’s property), Murray
said yes, even though the informant’s tip initially indicated
that the excavator was at 1479 Coles Mill Road (the Swain’s
(3) Genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the
excavator was actually found on 4606 Coles Mill Road owned by
another person, and not 1479, 1497, or 4623 Coles Mill Road
(owned by Plaintiff or his girlfriend);
(4) Murray’s police report does not mention that the
informant came to the Swain’s property and directed Murray to
(5) The serial number on the engine block is not a unique
(6) Murray failed to investigate the excavator for
evidence, including failing to check for fingerprints or DNA,
and did not establish a chain of custody for the evidence,
instead allowing Martin to come onto the property and retrieve
(7) At some point, Plaintiff told Murray that he saw an
excavator on the other property not owned by him or his
(8) At some point, Plaintiff told Murray there were no
scrapped trailers on the 1497 property;
(9) After Plaintiff was Mirandized, Murray said, “You are
under arrest you piece of shit. Stand up.”;
(10) After Plaintiff’s arrest, a person working in
Stadtler’s property, Michael Rambone, gave a statement to
Plaintiff’s investigator that he found a rusted old excavator
that appeared to be abandoned, but he was able to start it.
Plaintiff walked up and asked Rambone where the excavator came
from, and Rambone said that he discovered it while moving a
Rambone said that Plaintiff told him that he knew
nothing about it and to put it back where he found it near the
(11) Murray never interviewed Rambone, or who Rambone was
working for, Mr. Bailey; he never took a recorded statement from
the Swains; he did not record any information on the informant;
he never returned to the property or attempted to differentiate
between the properties; he never attended court other than the
grand jury despite being the lead investigator, never made any
inquiries or calls as to the status of the criminal case, and
did not make any requests to the prosecutor to reinstate the
case after it had been voluntarily dismissed upon the motion of
Even accepting as true all of these assertions, none refute
the information Murray had on February 6, 2012 that served as a
basis to support Plaintiff’s arrest.
An informant pointed
Murray to the area where he saw an excavator matching the
description of Martin’s stolen excavator.
Even though it was
not on the Swain’s property, Swain told Murray that he had seen
Plaintiff directing another man to do work on the 1497 property,
which was owned by Plaintiff’s girlfriend.
The property lines
were not readily decipherable, and Murray found the excavator on
what appeared to be the 1497 property.
The number on the engine
block of the found excavator matched the number of the stolen
Murray confirmed that the 1497 property was owned by
These events, as Murray was aware at
the time he arrested Plaintiff, are sufficient for a reasonable
person to believe that Plaintiff was involved in the theft of
That Murray did not conduct a full-blown
investigation by fingerprinting or testing the excavator for
DNA, or surveying the adjoining properties to precisely
determine the boundary lines prior to Plaintiff’s arrest, does
not negate the evidence that existed to connect Plaintiff to the
Additionally, the events following Plaintiff’s arrest and
indictment are immaterial to the existence of probable cause for
Murray’s failure to include a note about
the informant returning to the property in his police report,
the misstatement that Martin’s company was in Monroe Township
instead of Fairfield Township, or even Murray calling Plaintiff
a “piece of shit,” do not undermine Murray’s otherwise
reasonable determination that probable cause existed at the time
of Plaintiff’s arrest.
It is therefore apparent that Plaintiff’s arrest, and the
presentment of Plaintiff’s charge to the grand jury a month
later, was based on probable cause.
Once the grand jury
indicted Plaintiff, probable cause existed to continue with the
See Trabal v. Wells Fargo Armored Service Corp.,
269 F.3d 243, 251 (3d Cir. 2001) (explaining that an “indictment
establishes probable cause by definition, and it does not
evaporate simply because the prosecutor later decided that
subsequent events compromised Rodriguez's value as a witness”);
King v. Deputy Atty. Gen. Del., 616 F. App’x 491, 495 (3d Cir.
2015) (“A grand jury indictment is prima facie evidence of
probable cause to prosecute.”); Trabal v. Wells Fargo Armored
Serv. Corp., 269 F.3d 243, 251 (3d Cir. 2001) (noting that an
indictment establishes probable cause “by definition”); Woodyard
v. County of Essex, 514 F. App’x 177, 183 (3d Cir. 2013)
(quoting Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 353 (3d Cir. 1989)) (“A
presumption that probable cause exists will only be overcome by
evidence that the indictment was ‘procured by fraud, perjury or
other corrupt means.’”).
Similarly, Plaintiff has not articulated any facts that
would show that Murray acted with malice.
“Actual malice in the
context of malicious prosecution is defined as either ill will
in the sense of spite, lack of belief by the actor himself in
the propriety of the prosecution, or its use for an extraneous
Morales v. Busbee, 972 F. Supp. 254, 261
(D.N.J. 1997) (citation omitted) (also explaining that the
element of malice may also be inferred from a lack of probable
Even accepting as true that Murray called Plaintiff “a
piece of shit,” that statement does not, without more, evidence
the level of malice required for a malicious prosecution claim,
particularly where probable cause existed for Plaintiff’s
See Geissler v. City of Atlantic City, 198 F. Supp. 3d
389, 399 (D.N.J. 2016) (citations and quotations omitted) (“In
an appropriate case, malice may be inferred from a lack of
But conversely, and similar to a claim for
false arrest, the existence of probable cause defeats a
malicious prosecution claim. Simply put, if [the officer] had
probable cause to believe that Plaintiff committed the offense
with which she was charged, then he did not violate Plaintiff's
right to be free from malicious prosecution.”).
Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff has failed to proffer
sufficient evidence from which a jury could conclude the
defendant lacked probable cause for Plaintiff’s arrest and acted
In the absence of a constitutional violation,
defendant is entitled to qualified immunity.
Murray is entitled to summary judgment in his favor.
consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: May 8, 2017
At Camden, New Jersey
s/ Noel L. Hillman
NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
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