McCool is protected in the exercise of his prosecutorial duties by the doctrine of absolute immunity, and judgment must be entered in his favor.
Finally, defendant Metropolitan Police Department is a noncorporate department or body within the District of Columbia and is not suable as a separate entity. Fields v. District of Columbia Dep't of Corrections, 789 F. Supp. 20, 22 (D.D.C. 1992). Plaintiff's claim against the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia therefore must be dismissed because no relief could be obtained from this defendant under any set of facts.
B. Execution of Search Warrant on Mr. Aleotti's Home
Subsequent to plaintiff's arrest, Sergeant Hickey informed defendant Christopher J. Trainor, a Special Agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ("ATF"), that the MPDC had arrested plaintiff for malicious destruction of property, that the MPDC had determined that Mr. Aleotti had a criminal record in Italy for theft and "outrage," and that the MPDC had received information from a confidential informant that plaintiff had in his possession a number of firearms at his residence in Spencerville, Maryland. See Declaration of Christopher J. Trainor ("Trainor Decl.") at PP 4-5. A few months later, Special Agent Trainor received documentation, via the United States Department of Justice, Office of International Law Enforcement, verifying Mr. Aleotti's conviction in Italy for "outrage." Federal Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative for Summary Judgment ("Fed. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J.") at Attachment B. Thereafter, the confidential informant told Special Agent Trainor that the informant had been inside Mr. Aleotti's Spencerville residence approximately three weeks earlier and had seen four to five rifles in the residence. Trainor Decl. P 8.
Special Agent Trainor, concerned that Mr. Aleotti may have been a convicted felon illegally in possession of firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1), prepared an application and affidavit for a search warrant for Mr. Aleotti's Spencerville residence. Trainor Decl. P 10; Fed. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at Exhibit 7a. The application and affidavit were presented to United States Magistrate Judge James E. Kenkel who issued the search warrant. Fed. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at Exhibit 7a. Special Agent Trainor assisted Federal and local law enforcement officers in the execution of the search warrant at Mr. Aleotti's residence. During the course of the search, ATF seized 10 firearms and approximately 1000 rounds of assorted ammunition. Trainor Decl. P 13.
ATF subsequently determined that Mr. Aleotti's prior "outrage" conviction had been "extinguished" by operation of Italian law. Accordingly, because there is no federal firearms disability where the conviction has been "expunged" or the person "pardoned," see 18 U.S.C. § 922 (a)(20), the United States Attorney's Office declined to prosecute plaintiff and Mr. Aleotti's firearms and ammunition were returned to him. Trainor Decl. P 21.
Federal officials, such as Special Agent Trainor, are entitled to qualified immunity for civil damage claims for constitutional and statutory violations asserted against them unless their conduct violates "clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 102 S. Ct. 2727 (1982). With respect to the applicability of qualified immunity to police officers who are alleged to have executed an unconstitutional search, an "objective reasonableness" standard applies; the Court must determine "whether a reasonably well-trained officer would have known that the search was illegal despite the magistrate's authorization." Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 345, 89 L. Ed. 2d 271, 106 S. Ct. 1092 (1986) (quoting United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922 n.23, 82 L. Ed. 2d 677, 104 S. Ct. 3405 (1984)); see Ogden v. District of Columbia, 676 F. Supp. 324, 327 (D.D.C. 1987), aff'd, 274 U.S. App. D.C. 70, 861 F.2d 303 (D.C. Cir. 1988).
In this case, on their face the affidavit and search warrant satisfy the Fourth Amendment standard of probable cause. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 76 L. Ed. 2d 527, 103 S. Ct. 2317 (1983). The totality of the circumstances, including Special Agent Trainor's receipt of information from the Department of Justice that verified Mr. Aleotti's conviction in Italy and the information supplied by the informant, provided a "substantial basis" for Magistrate Judge Kenkel to conclude that probable cause existed that Mr. Aleotti was a convicted felon in possession of firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and that there were a number of firearms in his residence in Spencerville, Maryland. Id. at 239. The Court finds that Special Agent Trainor reasonably relied on the information before him to obtain the search warrant, that the search based on the warrant was objectively reasonable and that, absent other considerations, Special Agent Trainor is entitled to qualified immunity.
Mr. Aleotti also claims that Special Agent Trainor, in his affidavit supporting his application for a search warrant, relied on erroneous information regarding plaintiff's prior conviction that plaintiff avers Special Agent Trainor wrongly received from Ms. Baars. To succeed in holding an officer liable for a material misrepresentation or omission in an affidavit that supported a judge's issuance of a search warrant, however, a plaintiff must prove that the misrepresentation or omission was the product "of deliberate falsehood or of reckless disregard for the truth"; allegations of negligence are insufficient. Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 171, 57 L. Ed. 2d 667, 98 S. Ct. 2674(1978); see Magnotti v. Kuntz, 918 F.2d 364, 368 (2d Cir. 1990); Washington v. District of Columbia, 685 F. Supp. 264, 269-73 (D.D.C. 1988). of Columbia, 943 F.2d at 75. Plaintiff has failed to prove deliberate falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth by Special Agent Trainor. He has failed to provide evidence to show that Ms. Baars provided erroneous information or that Special Agent Trainor omitted any information he had in his possession or misled the magistrate judge in his affidavit.
Plaintiff also alleges a conspiracy between Special Agent Trainor, the MPDC defendants and Ms. Baars to search his home for illegal firearms, to entrap him and to cause him physical harm. Plaintiff bases his conspiracy claim on the fact that Sergeant Hickey, and the allegation that Ms. Baars, provided information to Special Agent Trainor. Plaintiff has provided no evidence other than speculation and inference, however, to suggest that the sharing of information by Sergeant Hickey with Special Agent Trainor was other than for valid purposes. Because plaintiff's allegations that defendant Trainor was encouraged to search his house for illegal firearms by improper motives and erroneous facts are supported only by his conclusory allegations of a conspiracy, plaintiff's claims against defendant Trainor must be dismissed. Cf. Martin v. Malhoyt, 265 U.S. App. D.C. 89, 830 F.2d 237, 258 (D.C. Cir. 1987). Plaintiff's conspiracy claim gives Mr. Aleotti's case "no more virtue than if he had proceeded against each defendant singly." Martin v. Metropolitan Police Dept., 812 F.2d at 1429 (citation omitted).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court enters judgment in favor of Special Agent Trainor on the claims relating to the execution of the search warrant on Mr. Aleotti's house.
Because the Court finds that Heck v. Humphrey precludes plaintiff from proceeding with his claims against each of the individual defendants except for defendant Trainor, the Court dismisses these claims. Because the Court also finds as a matter of law that plaintiff has failed to provide evidence showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial and that each defendant is entitled to either absolute or qualified immunity, the Court concludes that defendants Baars, Hickey, Hennessey, McCool and Trainor are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In addition, as defendant Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia is a nonsuable entity, the claims against this defendant shall be dismissed.
PAUL L. FRIEDMAN
United States District Judge
Upon consideration of the Federal Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, the Motion of Defendants Hickey, Hennessey and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department to Dismiss the Complaint and for Summary Judgment, Defendant Patricia S. Baars's Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment, Defendant Baars's Notice of Recent Decision, the opposing and supporting papers, and the entire record in this case, and for the reasons stated in the Court's accompanying Opinion issued this same date, it is hereby
ORDERED that the Federal Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, is GRANTED; it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the Motion of the Defendants Hickey, Hennessey and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department to Dismiss the Complaint and for Summary Judgment, is GRANTED; it is
FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Patricia S. Baars's Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment is GRANTED; it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the complaint against Defendants Baars, Hickey, Hennessey and McCool is DISMISSED with prejudice; it is
FURTHER ORDERED that judgment is entered for Defendants Baars, Hickey, Hennessey, McCool and Trainor; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the complaint against Defendant District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department is DISMISSED with prejudice.
PAUL L. FRIEDMAN
United States District Judge