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Aguiar v. Carter

United States District Court, D. Vermont

August 21, 2019

STEPHEN AGUIAR, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD CARTER, JUSTIN COUTURE, JARED HATCH, ANDREW LAUDATE, MICHAEL MORRIS, JOHN LEWIS, UNKNOWN U.S. DOJ GPS CONTRACTOR, UNKNOWN GOVERNMENT AGENTS, UNKNOWN GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, VERIZON WIRELESS, TRACFONE, UNKNOWN COURT CLERKS, UNKNOWN LEGAL ASSISTANTS, EUGENIA A.P. COWLES, WENDY FULLER, TIMOTHY DOHERTY, PAUL J. VAN DE GRAAF, KATHERINE MYRICK, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM K. SESSIONS III DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Stephen Aguiar, proceeding pro se, is currently serving a 30-year prison term as a result of his 2011 conviction for drug distribution and conspiracy. In the instant civil action, Aguiar claims that various parties who were involved in the investigation and prosecution of his criminal case violated his federal rights. The Court previously granted motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Richard Carter, Justin Couture, Jared Hatch, Andrew Laudate, Eugenia Cowles, Wendy Fuller, Timothy Doherty, Paul Van de Graaf, and Katherine Myrick (collectively the “Federal Defendants”). Aguiar now moves for reconsideration of portions of those rulings. Specifically, Aguiar contests the dismissal of various claims on the basis of collateral estoppel, Heck v. Humphrey, and timeliness. For the reasons set forth below, the motion for reconsideration is denied.

         Factual Background

         The facts underlying dismissal of the Federal Defendants are set forth in the Court's prior Opinion and Order, and the parties' familiarity with those facts is presumed. Briefly stated, Aguiar has been convicted of federal drug and/or firearm offenses three times in the District of Vermont, most recently in 2011. The 2011 conviction was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

         Aguiar now claims constitutional and statutory violations related to his 2011 conviction. Several of the claims asserted in this case were raised previously either in Aguiar's direct appeal, or in his Section 2255 motion for collateral relief, or both. Accordingly, upon motions from the Federal Defendants, the Court dismissed certain claims on the basis of collateral estoppel. The Court dismissed other claims on the basis of the Supreme Court's ruling in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994), which held that a prisoner cannot bring a civil complaint where judgment in his favor would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction. Finally, the Court found that certain claims are untimely. Aguiar now moves for reconsideration of those rulings.

         Discussion

         I. Legal Standard

         The accepted standard for granting a motion for reconsideration “is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked.” Analytical Surveys, Inc. v. Tonga Partners, L.P., 684 F.3d 36, 52 (2d Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). Reconsideration may also be granted if the movant demonstrates an “intervening change in controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Kolel Beth Yechiel Mechil of Tartikov, Inc. v. YLL Irrevocable Trust, 729 F.3d 99, 104 (2d Cir. 2013) (citing Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245 (2d Cir. 1992)). A motion for reconsideration “is neither an occasion for repeating old arguments previously rejected nor an opportunity for making new arguments that could have been previously advanced.” Assoc. Press v. U.S. Dep't of Def., 395 F.Supp.2d 17, 19 (S.D.N.Y. 2005).

         II. Claims Against Assistant United States Attorneys

         Aguiar first contends that the Court should not have dismissed his claim, set forth in Count 8 of the Complaint, that AUSAs Van De Graaf and Fuller falsified a court stamp on a July 2, 2009 wiretap application. The Court dismissed the claims in Count 8 on the basis of collateral estoppel, finding that the Second Circuit had already determined the propriety of the application. Aguiar now submits that while the matter of authorization was presented previously, the question of falsification has not been addressed.

         Aguiar's reconsideration motion cites paragraphs 68 and 76 of his Complaint. Paragraph 68 claims that the July 2, 2009 Title III warrant was filed with the Court on July 6, 2009. As explained in the prior Paragraph, and in documents submitted previously by the government, the warrant was signed after hours on July 2, July 3 was a holiday, and filing therefore did not occur until July 6. Accordingly, the document was stamped as received on July 6, 2009. Paragraph 76 alleges that when defense counsel moved to suppress the wiretap application as incomplete, AUSAs Fuller and Doherty submitted to the Court a copy of the July 2, 2009 wiretap application. Neither paragraph presents a clear claim of falsification. Moreover, Aguiar's reconsideration motion cites an exhibit from his criminal case (No. 2:09-cr-90, ECF No. 215-5) which is entirely consistent with the explanation of events offered by both the government and Aguiar's Complaint. Upon reconsideration, the Court finds no reason to alter the determination that this claim is barred.

         Aguiar next argues that Heck should not apply to his claims of fabricated GPS evidence, unlawfully obtained MySpace evidence, and falsification of the July 2, 2009 date stamp. With respect to the GPS evidence, this Court previously determined that such evidence was one of the key components of the government's case against him. Aguiar's reconsideration motion relies upon his Brady challenge to the GPS, though this Court found previously that his Brady claim was without merit. Id. (ECF No. 767 at 73-75). Consequently, even assuming that the GPS evidence alone was not critical to Aguiar's conviction, he is estopped from raising that claim again.

         Aguiar similarly claims that evidence obtained from his MySpace account, which included photographs of his vehicle and messages sent from his user number, was previously held to be non-prejudicial. In its ruling on Aguiar's ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the Magistrate Judge determined that Aguiar had not carried his burden of proof with respect to prejudice because the amount of evidence against him was overwhelming. Here, the Court considered the role of the challenged evidence in the aggregate. In that context, and given the role of such evidence in helping law enforcement accumulate other evidence, Aguiar's challenges would undermine the validity of his conviction.

         Furthermore, as the Court held previously, there is no basis for an inference that the AUSA Defendants were involved in any wrongdoing with respect to the evidence in question. As alleged in the Complaint, the MySpace information was pursued by means of a DEA subpoena. GPS evidence was allegedly fabricated by DEA agents and contractors. While Aguiar argues that the AUSA Defendants “lied before and during trial” about the authenticity and origin of the GPS evidence, the cited paragraphs of the Complaint (paragraphs 79-80) merely recount DEA agent trial testimony. Prosecutorial introduction of such testimony is insufficient for a plausible claim of unconstitutional conduct. ...


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