The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a New York man who is suing police for malicious prosecution, after officers raided his home without a warrant to conduct a fruitless child abuse investigation and held him in custody for two days on charges that were later dismissed.
In an unsigned March 8 order, the court agreed to review the case known as Thompson v. Clark, court file 20-659.
Pagiel Clark is one of four New York Police Department (NYPD) officers named in the lawsuit. The other officers are Paul Montefusco, Phillip Romano, and Gerard Bouwmans. The case is an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which rendered its opinion on Feb. 24, 2020.
The case goes back seven years.
Larry Thompson, a U.S. Navy veteran who has been a postal worker for 20 years, lives in the borough of Brooklyn with his wife. At the time of the incident, the couple—who were the proud parents of a one-week-old daughter—were caring for the wife’s sister, who has cognitive challenges. On Jan. 15, 2014, the sister dialed 911 to report that the baby cried when Thompson changed her diaper and mistakenly identified as signs of abuse “red rashes” that turned out to be diaper rash.
Emergency medical technicians arrived to find the wife sitting on the couch holding the baby safely. Unaware that his sister-in-law had called 911, Thompson asked the technicians to leave and they complied, according to his petition filed with the Supreme Court.
The four NYPD officers arrived and met with the technicians, who told them that the technicians would “get in trouble” if they didn’t make contact with and examine the baby. The police went to Thompson’s apartment and said they were investigating possible child abuse and needed to look at his child.
Thompson demanded to speak with the officers’ superior, a request they refused, and then asked if they had a warrant to enter his home. The police then entered the home over Thompson’s objections, threw him to the floor, handcuffed him, and conducted a search without seeking a warrant. The technicians found no signs of abuse on the infant’s body and took her to a hospital where the lack of abuse was confirmed.
The police escorted Thompson out of the apartment building and put him in jail for two days. According to the police, Thompson’s “mere refusal to let them into his home without a warrant to examine his child was sufficient basis to arrest and pursue charges for resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration,” the petition stated.
He refused offers to settle the case out of court, but prosecutors eventually unilaterally dismissed the charges against him, advising the court that the “people are dismissing the case in the interest of justice.”
Thompson filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights through their warrantless entry to his home and “by unreasonably seizing him pursuant to legal process.”
There are two issues before the court, according to court documents.
The first is whether the rule enshrined in legal precedent that a plaintiff must await “favorable termination” before bringing a federal civil rights action alleging unreasonable seizure pursuant to legal process requires the plaintiff to show that the criminal proceeding against him has “formally ended in a manner not inconsistent with his innocence,” or that the proceeding “ended in a manner that affirmatively indicates his innocence.”
The second deals with who bears the burden of proof as to the existence of exigent circumstances that allegedly justify the warrantless entry of a home. Federal appeals courts disagree. The 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeals have held that the burden to prove exigency lies with the government; the 2nd, 7th, and 8th Circuits have held that the burden to prove the absence of exigency is with the plaintiff.
The Epoch Times reached out to both sides for comment.
New York City Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci told The Epoch Times, “We’ll decline to comment.”
Amir Ali, counsel of record for Thompson, couldn’t be reached for comment.