U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York
Nash v. Village of Endicott
Background: The plaintiff, Lester Nash, is now incarcerated and was arrested twice by officers of the Village of Endicott Police Department in the fall of 2005 for charges involving violations of the state Vehicle and Traffic Law, drug violations and endangering the welfare of a child. The plaintiff brought action under 42 U.S.C. §1983, arguing the defendants, all police officers employed by the Village of Endicott, executed his arrests in violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1 §§6, 8 11 and 12 of the state Constitution.
The plaintiff asserts he was arrested because of his race and searched unlawfully searched, that his vehicle was seized unlawfully, that he was detained without probable cause, that he is a victim of abuse of process, that the defendants conspired to violate his rights, that he was arrested falsely, prosecuted maliciously and was retaliated against. The defendants moved for summary judgment.
In 2005, the plaintiff was stopped by police because the headlights on his car were off after sunset. After charging the plaintiff with traffic offenses for unlicensed operation, the officer advised Nash that an inventory of the vehicle’s contents would be made at the impound lot. The plaintiff was asked whether he wanted to retrieve anything from the vehicle before it was towed. Nash indicated he did not, but appeared at that point “to become nervous.” Officer Smith then asked Nash whether anything dangerous or illegal was in the vehicle, to which Mr. Nash replied, in sum and substance, that a lot of marijuana was between the center console and the driver’s seat.
Another officer who was assisting found a white rock substance, prompting Officer Smith to ask Nash whether it was cocaine, to which Nash replied “Yes.” As a result of the traffic stop, Nash was cited for violations of the Vehicle and Traffic Law as well as state Penal Law §§220.16 and 221.05 concerning crack cocaine and marijuana.
Ruling: Since the plaintiff failed to oppose the defendants’ motion and the mere allegation of race discrimination in his complaint is not sufficient to defeat the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, his claim for alleged race discrimination by Officer Smith must be dismissed. The court finds the “municipal policy” claim does not meet the criteria because Nash does not establish any incidents of substantive fact outside of his arrest and prosecution to demonstrate a municipal policy or custom of racial profiling that resulted in alleged constitutional violations.
The plaintiff’s claim of an alleged illegal search is belied by the fact that he provided the officers with probable cause to search his vehicle by admitting there was a large quantity of marijuana inside, prior to Officer Quinn’s impound inventory. The only cause of action that survives is Nash’s claim of abuse of process and false arrest. When police searched the plaintiff’s home, a quantity of drugs divided into individual packets, consistent with intent to sell, was found. The court observes that those police reports were unsworn, however, and not in admissible form. Defendant Kaminsky submitted an affidavit in support of the search warrant application, which indicated the plaintiff’s girlfriend, Nikeya Elliot, had been involved in a number of controlled drug buys involving the state police and the Johnson City Police Department. No allegation was made that there was an intent to sell as opposed to mere possession, however. The motion for summary judgment dismissing that cause of action is denied.
Lester Nash, pro se; M. Randolph Belkin for the Endicott municipal defendants