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Dettelis v. Sharbaugh

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

March 20, 2019

John Dettelis Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Michael R. Sharbaugh, Cattaraugus County Department of Probation Supervisor, Denise Longarvsky, Cattaraugus County Department of Probation Officer, Gerald Zimmerman, Cattaraugus County Department of Probation Director, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: November 8, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of New York No.17-cv-407, Geraci, Chief Judge.

          Matthew A. Albert, Law Offices of Matthew Albert, Buffalo, NY, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Sean W. Costello, Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham LLC, Buffalo, NY, for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Raggi, Hall, and Sullivan, Circuit Judges.

          Per Curiam.

         Plaintiff-Appellant John Dettelis appeals the district court's dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint. Dettelis claimed malicious prosecution, alleging that Appellees falsely charged him with violating a condition of his probation. The district court concluded that Dettelis's conviction for that violation, though overturned on appeal, still gave rise to a presumption of probable cause that Dettelis failed to overcome. We refrain from deciding whether that presumption applies and, instead, conclude that Appellees were entitled to qualified immunity.

         Affirmed.

         Plaintiff-Appellant John Dettelis appeals from a judgment of dismissal entered, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), on November 30, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York (Geraci, C.J.). Dettelis was serving a term of probation, a condition of which required him to report certain police contact. When he failed to report an incident with a police officer, he was charged with violating the terms of his probation. His resulting conviction was overturned on appeal, and Dettelis then brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against County Probation Director Gerald Zimmerman, Probation Supervisor Michael Sharbaugh, and Probation Officer Denise Lengvarsky ("Appellees"), claiming malicious prosecution. The district court granted Appellees' motion to dismiss, concluding in part that Dettelis failed to overcome a presumption of probable cause that arose from the facts underlying his subsequently vacated conviction. This appeal follows.

         We affirm the challenged dismissal without delineating the contours of a presumption of probable cause here because we conclude that Appellees are, in any event, entitled to qualified immunity.

         I.

         In April 2011, Dettelis was convicted by state court of driving while intoxicated and sentenced to three years' probation.[1] A condition of his probation required him to contact his probation officer "upon arrest or questioning" by law enforcement officials. App. 15, ¶ 54. In November 2012, Dettelis went to the town courthouse in Yorkshire, New York, demanding unrelated records but was asked to leave when he became loud and unruly. At the request of the court clerk, a state police officer went to Dettelis's home and told him not to go to the court for the records but instead to have his lawyer collect those documents.

         In December 2013, Dettelis became aware of a Violation of Probation ("VOP") report charging him with having violated the terms of his probation by not reporting the November 2012 police contact. Although the report was dated and notarized in November 2012, Dettelis believed that it had been fabricated by Appellees at the behest of the district attorney. This was done, Dettelis alleged, because county personnel wanted to "imprison [him] by any means possible." App. 17, ¶ 65. The county court nevertheless determined by a preponderance of the evidence that Dettelis had violated his probation and sentenced him to 90 days in jail. The Fourth Department reversed, concluding that "the evidence at the hearing [did] not establish that the interaction between defendant and the police officer ...


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