United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION (DKS, #9, #12)
RICHARD J. LION, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Claudia Patricia Cruz-Roldan ("plaintiff or
"Cruz-Roldan"), a childcare provider at a local day
care facility, was the subject of a criminal investigation
into child abuse. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the
District of Columbia ("the Government") charged her
in Superior Court with second degree cruelty to children and
simple assault, but ended up voluntarily dismissing the
cases. Cruz-Roldan maintains her innocence and claims the
investigation and criminal cases went too far. She brings
this action against Greg Nagurka ("defendant" or
"Nagurka"), who was the lead detective on the case
for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. She alleges
several tort claims, brought under D.C. law (Counts I-V and
VII), as well as several constitutional violations, brought
under § 1983 (Count VI). Am. Compl. [Dkt. #5]. Nagurka
moves for partial dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. Def.'s Mot. for Partial Dismissal
of the Am. Compl. ("Def s Mot.") 1 [Dkt. #9].
Specifically, Nagurka moves to dismiss Cruz-Roldan's tort
and § 1983 claims that rely on the prosecution (Count V
and part of Count VI), her tort and § 1983 claims based
on false arrest (Count IV and the other part of Count VI),
and her slander claim (Count VII). Nagurka argues that the
Complaint fails to allege the required elements for an injury
sustained as part of a criminal prosecution or for a
prima facie case of slander. He next argues that
Cruz-Roldan has not alleged sufficient facts to sustain her
false arrest claims. For the reasons described herein,
Nagurka's motion for partial dismissal is GRANTED with
respect to the claims that rely on the prosecution (Count V
and part of Count VI). The motion is DENIED, however, with
respect to the slander claim (Count VII) and the false arrest
claims (Count IV and the remaining part of Count VI).
case arises out of Nagurka's investigation into an
incident of alleged child abuse involving J.S., a young boy
enrolled at Kiddie Academy, the D.C. daycare center where
plaintiff Cruz-Roldan worked. Am. Compl. ¶ 4. On May 18,
2015, bruises were discovered on J.S.'s legs, arm, and
back. Id. In conducting the investigation, Nagurka
obtained Kiddie Academy video footage from that day showing
Cruz-Roldan patting a crying J.S. on the back until he
stopped crying. Id. Nagurka sent a two minute clip
of that video to a specialist at the Freddie Mac Foundation
Child & Adolescent Protection Center, who responded that
"while [plaintiff] is patting [J.S.] quite vigorously, I
don't think this clip shows enough to explain
[J.S.'s] injuries." Id.
Nagurka called Cruz-Roldan and her co-worker, Mayra Lopez,
into the police station to give a statement. Id. He
interviewed Lopez first. Id. Initially, Lopez denied
witnessing any abuse at Kiddie Academy. Id. Nagurka
then informed Lopez that if she did not tell the police what
she knew, she could get herself in trouble, possibly lose her
job, and possibly go to jail where she would not be able to
see her family. Id. Lopez, who was crying by this
time, then changed her story. She said that Cruz-Roldan had
"pinched" children on eight occasions over a four
month period. Id. Nagurka then interviewed
Cruz-Roldan who denied any allegations of intentional abuse,
saying "if she hurt any children it had been
unintentional." Id. Nevertheless, Nagurka
arrested Cruz-Roldan and told her she would be charged with
first degree cruelty to children. Id. On June 4,
2015, the Government ultimately filed a one-count information
charging Cruz-Roldan with attempted second degree cruelty to
children in D.C. Superior Court (2016-CMD-7619). See
Def.'s Mot., Ex. 1, at 5-8 [Dkt. #9-1].
further investigation gave rise to an additional charge
against Cruz-Roldan. Relying on a video from April 2015,
Nagurka claimed that she had pinched another child's
right cheek. Am. Compl. ¶ 4. However, the video
allegedly shows Cruz-Roldan incidentally touching the
child's left cheek. Id. On July 21,
2015, the Government filed an information against Cruz-Roldan
in this second case, charging second degree cruelty to
children (2015-CMD-9806). See Def.'s Mot., Ex.
1, at 1-4. In April 2016, the Government filed a superseding
information adding a second count of simple assault.
23, 2015, Nagurka allegedly told the owner of Kiddie Academy,
Milena Mattingly, that Cruz-Roldan was guilty of child abuse.
Am. Compl. ¶ 33. Mattingly gave a press conference that
same day in which she stated, "once we found she was
guilty by the investigators, we had to terminate her."
Id. at ¶¶ 4. According to plaintiff,
Nagurka's communication to Mattingly was the proximate
cause of her firing. Id. at ¶ 36. The
communication also allegedly caused her name to be added to a
registry that made it difficult for her to get child care
work and caused her great humiliation and emotional distress.
Id. at ¶¶4, 36.
trials in Cruz-Roldan's criminal cases were originally
set for November 2015. Id. at ¶ 4. When the
Government disclosed a large amount of evidence a week and a
half before trial, the court continued the trials, eventually
setting them for May 2016. Id. About a month before
trial, the Government turned over to Cruz-Roldan's
defense attorney the video footage of Nagurka's interview
with Lopez and also the email exchange with the specialist
who concluded "I don't think this clip shows enough
to explain [J.S.'s] injuries." Id. A few
weeks later, about a week before trial, the Government turned
over a report indicating that Nagurka had visited Kiddie
Academy the day before he had called Lopez and Cruz-Roldan
down to the station. Id. On this visit, Lopez and
another employee both apparently indicated that nothing
inappropriate had happened on the day J.S.'s injuries
were discovered. Id.
on this and other alleged failures to turn over exculpatory
evidence, Cruz-Roldan's defense counsel filed a motion to
dismiss the charges against her on May 4, 2016. Id.
The Government dismissed both cases on May 6, 2016, entering
a nolle prosequi for all charges. Id.
initially filed this lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on June
2, 2016. Defendant removed to federal court. Notice of
Removal [Dkt. #1]; id. at Ex. A [Dkt. #1-1].
Plaintiff amended her complaint on June 29, 2016. Am. Compl.
[Dkt. #5]. Defendant responded by filing a partial answer and
this Motion for Partial Dismissal of the Amended Complaint
challenging the claims based on plaintiffs criminal
prosecution, the slander claim, and the false arrest claims
[Dkt. #9]. Plaintiff opposed and also requested to further
amend her complaint by adding one paragraph that would allege
Nagurka's communication to Mattingly was not privileged
and, therefore, met the elements of slander. PL's Mot.
for Leave to Am. the Compl. [Dkt. #12].
deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court
must ascertain whether the complaint contains
"sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face." As
her oft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). Although the Court
must read the complaint's factual allegations in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, Bell Atlantic Co
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), the Court is not
required to accept legal conclusions cast in the form of
factual assertions, Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d
235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). For the following reasons, I agree
with defendant that plaintiffs criminal prosecutions are an
insufficient injury on which to base her tort and
constitutional claims. I disagree with defendant as to his
arguments for dismissing the slander and false arrest claims.
Plaintiff May Not Bring Claims Based on Her Criminal
Prosecutions (Count IV and Part of Count VI)
has three theories that she was injured in the course of the
criminal prosecutions against her. She has a tort claim for
malicious prosecution (Count IV); a constitutional claim that
having to face an unnecessary criminal prosecution
constituted a clear Fifth Amendment violation (part of Count
VI), see PL's Opp'n 7 [Dkt. #13]; and a
constitutional claim that the Government's failure to
turn over exculpatory material during trial prep constituted
a clear Brady violation (part of Count VI), see
Id. at 8-9. None of these claims survive defendant's