This is an action for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and civil rights violations which stems from plaintiff’s arrest in the Village of Lake Placid, Essex County, on 2 November 1995 for rape and sodomy in the first degree.
The complainant was a woman that plaintiff had met at a party the previous evening. At approximately 3:30 A.M. on 2 November 1995, plaintiff arrived at the cottage where the complainant was staying—an encounter which he claims was prearranged—and was led to the complainant’s bedroom by her cousin, CS. After some small talk, according to plaintiff, they engaged in consensual oral sex and sexual intercourse which did not last for long because the complainant became sick. When she did not respond to his inquiries about “what was going on”, plaintiff got mad and left to drive JC, a friend who had accompanied him to the cottage, home. When plaintiff returned to the cottage shortly thereafter to check on the complainant, she was crying and had told CS that plaintiff raped her. After contacting the police, the complainant was taken to a local hospital by two Village of Lake Placid patrolmen for a rape kit examination. Thereafter, she was taken to the police station and interviewed by Village of Lake Placid Police Detective D. She gave him an oral statement accusing plaintiff of having nonconsensual sexual intercourse with her, which was later reduced to writing, albeit after plaintiff’s arrest.
Upon learning that the police were looking for him in connection with the complainant’s allegations of a sex crimes, plaintiff voluntarily presented himself to the police station between 8:45 and 9:00 A.M. on 2 November 1995. He too gave an oral statement to D, claiming that he engaged in consensual sexual relations with the complainant a few hours earlier. D’s questioning of plaintiff stopped when he requested the presence of an attorney. At approximately 9:50 A.M. that day, D placed plaintiff under arrest. After the complainant had second thoughts about pursuing the charges, the District Attorney ultimately decided not to prosecute the matter, finding insufficient credible evidence to support a prosecution. Plaintiff’s action against defendant followed. Supreme Court’s order denying defendant summary judgment has prompted this appeal.
The dispositive issue on appeal is whether there was probable cause, as a matter of law, to arrest plaintiff akin to Saunders v County of Washington. The presence or absence of probable cause—defined as such grounds as would induce an ordinarily prudent and cautious person, under the circumstances, to believe that plaintiff had committed the crimes as held in Smith v County of Nassau—can be decided as a matter of law where the facts leading up to an arrest and inferences to be drawn therefrom are not in dispute based on Parkin v Cornell Univ. Kramer v City of New York. The parties agree that the essential facts leading up to plaintiff’s arrest are not in dispute. Defendant claims that such facts establish as a matter of law that D had probable cause to arrest plaintiff, and plaintiff claims otherwise.
The court agrees with defendant and, accordingly, reverses the judgment.
In the case at bar, the complainant reported the alleged crime within hours of its occurrence, endured a rape kit examination at the local hospital and presented herself in such a way that D believed her accusations to be true. According to D, based on the demeanor of plaintiff, as well as the complainant’s demeanor, her state of mind, how she looked, how she acted, and what she told him and the fact that she said it was truthful, he believed that plaintiff had raped her and, accordingly, placed him under arrest.
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