WILLIAMS v. REINHARDT
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jose L. Linares on 2/1/17. (sr, )
*NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
SANFORD WILLIAMS, JR.,
Civil Action No. 15-121 (JLL)
LINARES, District Judge:
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Sanford Williams’s motion to amend this Court’s
Order granting Defendant Christopher Reinhardt summary judgment in this matter brought
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). (ECF No. 48). Defendant has filed a response
to the motion (ECF No. 49), to which Plaintiff replied. (ECF No. 52). Also before the Court are
Plaintiffs motion for leave to amend his complaint (ECF Nos. 50, 56) Plaintiffs motion requesting
Defendant be ordered to produce certain discovery (ECF No. 53), and Plaintiffs motion requesting
that his state criminal charges be transferred to this court (ECF No. 57).
For the following
reasons, this Court will deny Plaintiffs motion to amend judgment and will in turn deny Plaintiffs
This Court summarized the factual background of this matter as follows in its opinion
granting Defendant summary judgment:
In this action, Plaintiff, Sanford Williams, raises a claim for false
arrest/false imprisonment against Detective Christopher Reinhardt
arising out of Plaintiffs arrest for the theft of approximately forty
truck batteries. (ECF Nos. 7, 8). The documents submitted by the
parties in support of and in opposition to the current motion establish
the following factual background for that claim. On November 26,
2013, Detective Reinhardt was called to an open lot in Livingston,
New Jersey, to investigate the theft of some forty batteries from
dump trucks stored in that lot. (Document 3 attached to ECF No.
29 at 5). While investigating that incident, the detective found a
pair of brown work gloves one on the ground of the lot, and
another “inside the battery box of one of the trucks.” (Id.).
Although these gloves were dirty and could not be checked for
finger prints, they were not frozen to the ground or otherwise
indicative of having spent a significant period of time outside.
(Id.). Reinhardt also found a pair of vise grip pliers on the hood of
a truck parked by the street, though it wasn’t clear whether this was
actually used in the theft. (Id.). Following the placement of the
gloves and pliers into evidence, the gloves were shipped off to the
New Jersey State Police for DNA testing. (Id.).
Initial DNA testing, which was returned in January 2014,
indicated that the gloves both contained DNA from the same source
(see ECF No. 36 at 36), but that this DNA did not match any profile
that was then available in CODIS, the Combined DNA Index
System maintained by the FBI. (Document 3 attached to ECF No.
29 at 5). An official report produced by the lab in April 2014
likewise confirmed that the State Police could not identify the DNA
contained in the gloves at that time without being provided a sample
to test against the gloves. (ECF No. 36 at 34). The investigation
of the theft of the batteries apparently stalled at that point.
On August 6, 2014, however, Reinhardt received a letter
from a forensic scientist from the New Jersey State Police’s
laboratory. (ECF No. 36 at 32). In that letter, Reinhardt was
informed that during a new search of CODIS, “a match occurred
between [the glove DNA sample] and New Jersey convicted
offender Sanford Williams” and that the State Police had therefore
provided the letter as a possible lead in Reinhardt’s investigation.
(Id.; see also Document 3 attached to ECF No. 29 at 13). The letter
did present a caveat, however, which stated that although Plaintiffs
CODIS sample had matched the gloves, the State Police could not
definitively conclude that Plaintiff was the source of the DNA
without directly comparing the glove sample against a new buccal
sample from Plaintiff. (ECF No. 36 at 32).
Based on this letter, Reinhardt ran a search for Plaintiff and
discovered that Plaintiff had a criminal history “dating back to the
1 960s” including prior arrests for stealing batteries from vehicles.
(Document 3 attached to ECF No. 29 at 13). Reinhardt’s search for
Plaintiff also turned up an April 2014 report from the Morris County
Prosecutor’s officer which listed Plaintiff as a fugitive from justice
(Document 3 attached at ECF No. 29 at 7), and a report from the
Ramapo Police Department regarding Plaintiffs having been
stopped along the Bergen County Border with New York on April
11, 2014. (Document 3 attached to ECF No. 29 at 9). In that
report, the Ramapo police stated that Plaintiff had been pulled over
by a Chester Township police officer on April 11, 2014. (Id.). At
that time, Plaintiff was already wanted by the Ramapo police for
“stealing truck/bus batteries in January 2014.” (Id.). The letter
further stated that, when Ramapo police took control of Plaintiffs
car, the car contained six such batteries. (Id.). The Ramapo report
also stated that Plaintiff was known to sell stolen batteries to auto
parts and salvage yards, and that batteries had previously been
recovered at an auto parts store in Newark. (Id.).
Based on the potential DNA match and the background
evidence suggesting that Plaintiff had a history of engaging in the
thefi of large vehicle batteries in the past, Reinhardt concluded that
he had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for the thefi of the batteries
in Livingston. (Document 3 attached to ECF No. 29 at 13).
Reinhardt therefore prepared a complaint arrest warrant, presented
the information he possessed to a municipal court
administrator/municipal judge named Walter Mollinueax, and
received a signed warrant for Plaintiffs arrest from the municipal
judge on August 25, 2014. (Id.). Reinhardt then attempted to
reach Plaintiff at a phone number he provided during his last arrest,
but met with no success, and therefore asked Plaintiffs federal
probation officer to set up a meeting so that Plaintiff could be taken
into custody on the warrant issued on August 25. (Id.). Plaintiff
was thereafler arrested at the probation officer’s office on
September 9, 2014, based on Reinhardt’s warrant. (Document 4
attached to ECF No. 29 at 3). Following Plaintiffs arrest, a further
DNA test confirmed that Plaintiff was, indeed, the source of the
DNA in the gloves (ECF No. 36 at 38), and Plaintiff was ultimately
indicted for the theft of the batteries in May 2015. (ECF No. 36 at
(ECF No. 46 at 1-3).
A. Legal Standard
The scope of a motion to amend a judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) is extremely limited.
See Blystone v. Horn, 664 F.3d 397, 415 (3d Cir. 2011). A Rule 59(e) motion may be employed
“only to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” Id.
“Accordingly, a judgment may be altered or amended [only] if the party seeking reconsideration
shows at least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2)
the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court [decided the motion], or (3)
the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.” Id. (quoting
Howard Hess Dental Labs., Inc. v. Dentsply Int’l Inc., 602 F.2d 237, 251 (3d Cir. 2010)). In this
context, manifest injustice “generally.
means that the Court overlooked some dispositive factual
or legal matter that was presented to it,” or that a “direct, obvious, and observable” error occurred.
See Brown v. Zickefoose, Civil Action No. 11-3330, 2011 WL 5007829, at *2, n. 3 (D.N.J. 2011)
(quotations and citations omitted).
In his Rule 59(e) motion, Plaintiff argues that this Court should reconsider its grant of
summary judgment in essence because Plaintiff alleges that Defendant did not have probable cause
to arrest Plaintiff for the theft of the truck batteries discussed above. In support of this argument,
Plaintiff offers his own subjective disagreement with this Court’s prior opinion and alternate
explanations for how gloves containing his DNA arrived at the scene of the battery theft Plaintiff
thus does not present any newly discovered evidence that was not previously available, nor does
he present any change in the case law, and as such his motion could only succeed if he were to
show that this Court made a clear error of fact or law, or that a manifest injustice would arise from
the grant of summary judgment. Blystone, 664 F.3d at 415. While Plaintiff may disagree with
this Court’s prior ruling, and may have alternate explanations for the evidence available to
Reinhardt when he arrested Plaintiff, none of the information in Plaintiffs motion to amend in any
way suggests that this Court made a mistake as to the facts or law or that a manifest injustice has
resulted from the grant of summary judgment.
As this Court explained in relevant part in the summary judgment opinion,
To establish a false arrest/false imprisonment claim under § 1983, a
plaintiff must establish that he was arrested by a state actor without
probable cause. Sharrar v. felsing, 12$ F.3d $10, $27 (3d Cir.
1997), abrogated on other grounds, Curley v. Klein, 499 f.3d 199
(3d Cir. 2007); Paszkowski v. Roxbtt;y Tip. Police Dep ‘t, 581 F.
App’x 149, 152 (3d Cir. 2014) (the proper inquiry in a § 1983 false
arrest is whether “the arresting officers had probable cause to
believe the person arrested had committed the offense.”). “[A]n
arrest warrant issued by a magistrate or judge does not, in itself,
shelter an officer from liability for false arrest.” Wilson v. Russo,
212 F.3d 781, 786 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Sherwood v. Midvihill, 113
F.3d 396, 399 (3d Cir. 1997)). As the Third Circuit explained in
Wilson, “a plaintiff may succeed in a § 1983 action for false arrest
made pursuant to a warrant if the plaintiff shows, by a
preponderance of the evidence: (1) that the police officer
‘knowingly and deliberately, or with a reckless disregard for the
truth, made false statements or omissions that create a falsehood in
applying for a warrant,’ and (2) that ‘such statements or omissions
are material, or necessary to the finding of probable cause.” Id.
(quoting Sherwood, 113 F.3d at 399); see also Dempsev v. Bucknell
2016 WL 4434400, at *6 (3d Cir. 2016).
Thus, an officer must present to the neutral magistrate accurate and
materially complete information or “the protection afforded by the
magistrate’s review is lost.” Dempsey, 2016 WL 4434400 at *6.
Thus, Defendant’s argument that he is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law merely because he received a warrant is inaccurate,
and that argument provides no basis for the granting of his motion
at this time. As Defendant does not provide copies of any affidavit
he presented to the municipal court in this matter, this Court is
unable to address whether he made any material omissions in that
presentation. F or the reasons explained below, however, this Court
need not address that question to resolve Plaintiff’s claim.
Defendant, in his moving papers, also asserts factually that,
given all available facts in his possession on August 25, 2014, he
possessed probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, and is thus entitled to
summary judgrnent. As this Court previously explained to
Plaintiff, probable cause exists “whenever reasonably trustworthy
information or circumstances within a police officer’s knowledge
are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution to conclude
that an offense has been committed by the person being arrested.”
Paszkowsld, 581 F. App’x at 152 (quoting United States v. Myers,
308 F.3d 251, 255 (3d Cir. 2002)). A finding of probable cause
therefore only requires that there be a “fair probability” that the
plaintiff committed the crime for which he is to be arrested.
Wilson, 212 F.3d at 789. Given this requirement, courts both
within this federal circuit and in New Jersey have concluded that a
preliminary CODIS DNA match can itself be sufficient to support a
finding of probable cause where the DNA sample being tested came
from evidence reasonably connected to the alleged crime. See
United States v. McNeil, No. 06-373, 2007 WL 2234516, at *7.$
(W.D. Pa. Aug. 2, 2007) (finding that a preliminary DNA CODIS
match between the defendant and a freshly smoked cigarette found
outside a crime scene where a witness stated that her robber had
smelled like cigarette smoke sufficient for probable cause); see also
State v. Stevenson, 2011 WL 4444478, at *4 (N.J. App. Div. Sept.
27, 2011) (preliminary DNA match between the defendant’s CODIS
sample and blood stains found at a burglary scene where the victim
did not know Defendant sufficient to establish probable cause).
Based on the facts known to Reinhardt at the time he sought
the arrest warrant for Plaintiff, it is clear that Reinhardt possessed
probable cause to suspect that Plaintiff had stolen the truck batteries
That conclusion is warranted here because
Reinhardt possessed not only the preliminary CODIS match which
strongly suggested that Plaintiff had worn the gloves found at the
crime scene including the glove found in one of the battery boxes of
the trucks, but also because that match led Reinhardt to reports that
Plaintiff had a history of engaging in similar incidents stealing
batteries out of large vehicles and reselling them to junk yards and
auto parts stores. Given this information, which this Court
concludes is at least reasonably trustworthy, a reasonably cautious
officer in Reinhardt’s position would certainly conclude that it is
quite likely that Plaintiff was responsible for the theft of the truck
batteries in Livingston. As such, it was more than fairly probable
that Plaintiff was responsible based on the facts at hand, and
Reinhardt was correct to conclude that probable cause existed for
Plaintiffs arrest at the time Reinhardt sought the warrant. Wilson,
212 F.3d at 789; Faszkowski, 581 F. App’x at 152. Thus, even
putting aside the warrant which Reinhardt ultimately obtained, it is
clear that Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiffs
false arrest/false imprisonment claims because Reinhardt possessed
probable cause to arrest him at the time of the arrest. Wilson, 212
F.3d at 786-87; Faszkowski, 581 F. App’x at 152 (a false arrest claim
requires that the plaintiff show he was arrested without probable
cause); see also Sharrar, 128 f.3d at 827; Groman V. Twp. Of
Manalapan, 47 F.3d 62$, 636 (3d Cir. 1995). Defendant’s motion
must therefore be granted, and judgment entered in Defendant’s
favor as to Plaintiffs false arrest/false imprisomrient claim.
(ECF No. 46 at 6-9).
As explained above, the key question in this matter was whether Reinhardt had probable
cause to arrest Plaintiff. If Reinhardt had probable cause, Plaintiffs false arrest and imprisonment
claims catmot stand, regardless of the existence of the warrant in this matter and regardless of
whether proper procedure was followed in obtaining that warrant. Faszkowsld, 581 F. App’x at
152. For the reasons this Court set forth in its summary judgment opinion which are recounted
above, Reinhardt clearly possessed probable cause to suspect that Plaintiff committed the truck
battery theft based on the preliminary DNA match, the records of Plaintiffs apparent history of
Plaintiff hinges his arguments for amendment on two points: that the DNA match was
preliminary and would need to be confirmed with a direct test, which did not occur until after he
was arrested, and that Plaintiff can provide alternative explanations for both how his gloves arrived
at the scene of the truck robbery and for his history of similar past offenses. Plaintiff contends
that this Court’s grant of judgernent in turn amounts to a credibility determination in favor of
Reinhardt over Plaintiffs version of events. Plaintiff, however, is mistaken. This Court need
not judge credibility to determine that Reinhardt had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff.
discussed above, many courts including those in New Jersey have held that a preliminary DNA
match with evidence reasonably connected to an alleged crime is sufficient in and of itself to
warrant a finding of probable cause. See, e.g., McNeil, 2007 WL 2234516 at *7..$; Stevenson,
2011 WL 444447$ at *4 Combined with Plaintiffs apparent criminal history, there can be no
doubt that Reinhardt had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for the reasons discussed above. That
there may be alternative explanations for how the gloves arrived on scene, or for how the events
involved in Plaintiffs criminal history unfolded, while certainly relevant to Plaintiffs underlying
criminal prosecution, is immaterial to the sole question that was before this Court
Reinhardt possessed probable cause.
Based on the preliminary DNA match and Plaintiffs criminal history, Reinhardt clearly
possessed probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, and Plaintiff has presented nothing in his motion to
amend judgment or responses to the summary judgment motion which would create a genuine
issue of material fact as to whether Reinhardt did possess probable cause. As such, Reinhardt was
entitled to summary judgment. Plaintiffs subjective disagreement with that conclusion in no way
warrants reconsideration of that grant ofjudgment. As such, this Court made no mistake of law
or fact, let alone a clear mistake, and nothing Plaintiff has presented in any way suggests that a
manifest injustice has resulted from the grant of summary judgment.
Plaintiff has therefore
presented no valid basis for amendment or reconsideration of this Court’s grant of summary
judgment, and his motion to amend judgment is therefore denied. Because this Court is denying
Plaintiffs motion to amend judgment, Plaintiff therefore has no entitlement to further discovery
in this matter, and his motion to produce certain documents (ECF No. 53) must therefore also be
denied as moot.
Plaintiff has also filed motions for leave to file an amended complaint and to have his
criminal case transferred to this Court from the Superior Court of New Jersey. (ECF Nos. 50, 5657).
In his motions for leave to amend his complaint, Plaintiff essentially seeks to file a
supplemental complaint after a final grant of judgment on his original complaint to raise claims
unrelated to his false arrest claims
specifically claims that the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office
denied him due process and his rights to a speedy trial by delaying his prosecution until after he is
released from county jail in Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 56 at 2-5; Document 1 ECF No. 57 at 1-5).
As one court in this District has explained,
Under Rule 15(d), on motion and reasonable notice, “the court may,
on just terms, permit a party to serve a supplemental pleading setting
out any transaction, occurrence, or event that happened after the date
of the pleading to be supplemented. The Court may permit
supplementation even though the original pleading is defective in
stating a claim or defense.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(d). Motions to
supplement a pleading “are left to the sound discretion of the Court.”
fancaster, Inc. v. Comcast Corp., No. 08-2922, 2010 WL 4320422,
at *3 (D.N.J. Oct. 26, 2010) (quoting Glensiäe West Corp. v. Exxon
Co., US.A., 761 F. Supp. 1118, 1134 (D.N.J. 1991)). Under most
circumstances, a motion to file a supplemental pleading should be
denied “only where there is undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory
motive on the part of the movant, undue prejudice to the opposing
party, or futility of amendment.” Albanian Assoc. Fund v. Twp. Of
Wayne, No. 06-3217, 2007 WL 4232966, at *1 (D.N.J. Nov. 29,
2007). The Court may also deny a supplemental complaint “when
it would raise new issues and unduly delay resolution of the case.”
Courts have therefore properly denied requests to
supplement a complaint where the supplemental pleading “relates
only indirectly, if at all, to the original complaint and the alleged
cause of action arose out [of] an entirely unrelated set of facts and
related to a defendant not implicated in the original complaint.”
Bohm v. Straw, No. 12-16J, 2013 WL 100441, at *14 (W.D. Pa. Jan.
8, 2013) (quoting Nottingham v. Peoria, 709 F. Supp. 542, 544
(M.D. Pa. 198$)); see also Dockeiy v. Wetzel, No. 11-1368, 2013
WE 664931, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 22, 2013); Seymottr/Jones v.
Lefebvre, No. 90-2267, 1991 WE 165203 at *1 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 22,
1991); Corp. Comm. Consultants v. Dubner Comp. Syst., 1982 WL
1879 at *4 (D.N.J. May 27, 1982); 6A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur
R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND
PROCEDURE § 1510 (3d ed. 2004). As one court has recently
observed, permitting a prisoner to file a supplemental complaint
containing claims only tangentially related to those in the initial
complaint would “defeat the purpose of Rule 15(d), as well as the
intention behind the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
unrelated claims in a single lawsuit and avoid
prisoners] to tack on
the payment of the required filing fee in a new action.” Dockeiy,
2013 WL 664931 at *3
Love v. New Jersey Dep’t of Corr., No. 14-5629, 2015 WL 2226015, at *67 (D.N.J. May 12,
In his motion for leave to file an amended complaint, Plaintiff essentially seeks to file a
supplement to his original complaint raising a new claim arising after his original false arrest claim
which is only tangentially related to his original complaint on which this Court has already entered
judgment in favor of Defendant. To permit Plaintiff to file such a supplement would “defeat the
purpose of Rule 15(d), as well as the intention behind the Prison Litigation Reform Act” by
permitting Plaintiff to “tack on unrelated claims in a single lawsuit and avoid the payment of the
required filing fee in a new action.” Id. (quoting Dockery, 2013 WE 664931 at *3). As such, to
grant such a motion for leave would be improper, especially after judgment has been entered on
the original complaint. Plaintiffs motions for leave to file an amended/supplemental complaint
(ECF Nos. 50, 56) are therefore denied. Id. The Court additionally notes that the only Defendant
Plaintiff names in his motions for leave to amend, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, is
immune from suit under
§ 1983 at any rate, and that Plaintiffs proposed supplement would
therefore be futile, providing a further reason for the denial of his motions. See, e.g. Beightier v.
Office of Essex Cnty. Prosecutor, 342 F. App’x 829, 832-33 (3d Cir. 2009) (noting that
Prosecutor’s office is entitled to sovereign immunity for law enforcement functions, such as its
actions in conducting and pursuing a prosecution).
Finally, this Court turns to Plaintiffs motion seeking to have his state criminal charges
transferred to this Court. As Plaintiff himself admits, he is currently facing theft related charges
in the New Jersey state courts arising out of New Jersey state law. State criminal prosecutions
may be removed from the state courts to federal court only under limited circumstances, such as
where the criminal defendant was acting as an officer of the United States or is being denied equal
protection by the state courts. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C.
1455; In re Piskanin, 408 F. App’x
563, 564-65 (3d Cir. 2010); see also Pennsylvania v. Brown-Bep, 637 F. App’x 686, 688-89 (3d
Cir. 2016). Even where those limited circumstances exist, the notice of removal or request to
remove must be filed “not later than 30 days after the arraignment in the State Court, or at any
time before trial, whichever is earlier” unless Plaintiff can show good cause for his failure to file
within time. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1455(b)(1) (emphasis added). Likewise, such a request or notice of
removal must include all grounds for removal, and where a criminal defendant wishes to state that
he is being denied equal protection under
§ 1443, he must specify what statute or law is denying
him equal protection or “demonstrate that the [state] courts would not afford him the full protection
of the law.” Brown-Bev, 637 F. App’x at 682-89.
Such an equal protection based removal,
however, can be granted only where the criminal defendant can show that he is either being
deprived of his federal rights under “a federal law ‘providing for specific civil rights stated in terms
of racial equality” or where his “civil rights ‘would inevitably be denied by the very act of being
brought to trial in state court.” Pennsylvania v. Randolph, 464 F. App’x 46, 46 (3d Cir. 2012)
(quotingDavis v. Glanton, 107 F.3d 1044, 1047, 1049 (3d Cir. 1997)).
Here, Plaintiff seeks to have his criminal matter transferred to this Court more than a year
after his arraigment and release on bail by the Essex County Superior Court in October 2015.
(See Document 1 attached to ECF No. 57 at 3). Clearly, Plaintiffs request is being made far more
than thirty days after his arraignment, and Plaintiff has failed to set forth good cause for his delay
in requesting the transfer of his case to this Court. Plaintiffs request must therefore be denied as
untimely. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1455(b)(1). Similarly, Plaintiff has failed to set forth any valid basis for
the transfer or removal of his criminal case to this court in so much as his request is based solely
on alleged delay in his prosecution while he has been held in jail in Pennsylvania and ineffective
assistance of counsel.
See Randolph, 464 F. App’x at 46.
Plaintiffs motion requesting the
transfer of his criminal prosecution to this Court must therefore be denied.
For the reasons stated above, this Court will deny Plaintiffs motion to alter or amend this
Court’s grant of summary judgment (ECF No. 4$), will deny as moot Plaintiffs motion to produce
certain discovery (ECF No. 53), will deny Plaintiffs motions for leave to amend (ECF Nos. 50,
56), and will deny Plaintiffs motion requesting the transfer of his underlying criminal matter (ECF
No. 57). An appropriate order follows.
inited States District Judge
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