Nicoletti Gonson Spinner

Thomas Pacicca v. James Stead, Brian Robbins, LaValle Larrier, Andrew Black and the City of White Plains; USDC, Southern District, New York, CV-06-4347

In February, 2010 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Partner Joe Gulino engaged in a ten day trial defending James Stead against a civil rights and malicious prosecution claim.

On July 28, 2004, plaintiff Thomas Pacicca, 58, unemployed, was arrested by White Plains police officer Brian Robbins, and charged with criminal mischief, criminal tampering and stalking. The arrest resulted from Pacicca’s across-the–street neighbor, retired White Plains police captain Stead, contacting the police with video evidence of Pacicca vandalizing adjoining public property which he cared for. Due to the nature of the charge, Stead received an unsolicited Order of Protection from the Court.

In December 23, 2004, Stead presented video evidence to the police department of Pacicca cursing at him, while he went out at night to retrieve his mail. Pacicca was arrested by Police Officer LaValle Larrier and Detective Andrew Black on the charge of criminal contempt for violating the Order of Protection. While the charges were still pending, Pacicca was again arrested for violating Order of Protection Pacicca in August of 2005, after Stead claimed Pacicca had his son play loud rap music on his front deck to disturb an outdoor gathering he was having.

All the charges against Pacicca were dismissed after a trial in front of Judge Frias of the White Plains City Court in February of 2006.

Pacicca sued Stead, Robbins, Larrier, Black and the City of White Plain alleging they acted in concert to violate his civil rights pursuant to USCA 1983 on the arrests and unlawful electronic surveillance. He also sued him for malicious prosecution. As to the Police and the City of White Plains, Robbins was charged with USCA 1983 for the July 28, 2004 arrest, while Larrier and Black were charged with the same for the December 23, 2004 arrest. All the officers were also sued for New York State malicious prosecution, while the City of White Plains was sued under the theory of vicarious liability.

Prior to trial, we successfully moved to dismiss the 1983 and unlawful electronic surveillance claims against our client. Stead went to trial for all three arrests for malicious prosecution under New York State law.

At the close of Pacicca’s case in chief, Judge Cathy Seibel dismissed the claims against Larrier and Black. Stead and Robbins’ cases went to the jury,

Pacicca sought damages for expenses defending the criminal charges, emotional distress, psychological injuries and damage to the relationship with his children, as a result of the arrests made against him. His attorney asked the jury to award him $285,000.

We claimed Pacicca’s family life was in shambles before the arrests, and that he set out to purposely intimidate and harass Stead and his wife, due to their continued friendship with Pacicca’s former wife, prior to her death from cancer. We were able to prove that: Pacicca repeatedly used County and City property without paying for it, had previous orders of protection against him filed by his former wife, and that his daughter while a teenager, had written to a family court judge complaining about his abusive behavior and alcohol use.

The jury rendered a unanimous defense verdict.