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Amatucci v. O'Brien

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

August 5, 2016

Josephine Amatucci,
v.
James O'Brien et al.[2]

          Josephine Amatucci, Plaintiff, Pro Se.

          Town of Wolfeboro, NH, Defendant, represented by Garry R. Lane, Ransmeier & Spellman.

          Dave Owen, Defendant, represented by Garry R. Lane, Ransmeier & Spellman.

          Rob Houseman, Defendant, represented by Garry R. Lane, Ransmeier & Spellman.

          Stuart Chase, Defendant, represented by Garry R. Lane, Ransmeier & Spellman.

          Shane Emerson, Defendant, represented by Garry R. Lane, Ransmeier & Spellman.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ANDREA K. JOHNSTONE, Magistrate Judge.

         This civil rights action, filed, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, by plaintiff Josephine Amatucci, is before the court for preliminary review, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and LR 4.3(d)(2). Several cases filed by Amatucci have been consolidated into this case. See Order (doc. no. 27); Amatucci v. Dube, No. 16-cv-207-JD (D.N.H. July 25, 2016), ECF No. 5. All of the pleadings filed in the consolidated cases have been redocketed in this matter, as either motions or complaint addenda. Accordingly, before this court for preliminary review, in this case, are: the original complaint (doc. no. 1); the complaint addenda (doc. nos. 3-9, 12-16, 18-23, 25, 28-32, 34-41, 44, 45, 48, and 51); the factual assertions in Amatucci's motions (doc. nos. 17, 26, 33, 43, 49, and 50); and all of the attachments filed with any of the documents listed here, including a CD (doc. no. 6) and two DVDs (doc. nos. 31 and 36). Also before the court is Amatucci's motion for summary judgment (doc. no. 17).

         Background

         I. May 7, 2014, Incident

         A. Wolfeboro Police Department

         On May 7, 2014, Amatucci went to the Wolfeboro Police Department ("WPD"), in the Wolfeboro Public Safety Building ("PSB"). There, Amatucci complained to WPD Chief Stuart Chase about a "bogus" traffic violation filed against her in August 2013 by WPD Officer Dean Rondeau. Amatucci alleges that WPD policy mandates that, in response to her complaint, Chase initiate an investigation of her allegations. Instead, Amatucci alleges, Chase pointed his finger in her face and told her that he would "get" her and arrest her "on the spot" if she ever again accused any WPD officer of misconduct. Doc. No. 1, at 6. Amatucci asserts that Chase then physically pushed her out of the PSB.

         B. Wolfeboro Town Hall

         Amatucci states that she was frightened by Chase, and so left the WPD and went directly to the Town Hall for the Town of Wolfeboro ("Town") to report Chase's threat to the Town Board of Selectmen ("Board"), as she believed that the Board had disciplinary authority over Town employees, including WPD officers. At Town Hall, Amatucci spoke to Town employee Anne Marble, who told Amatucci that the Board had no jurisdiction to address issues of police misconduct, and that Amatucci should contact the Town Police Commission. Marble also told Amatucci that the members of the Board were not then at Town Hall, as they were in court in Concord, along with Town Manager Dave Owen, and could not be reached.

         Amatucci started to leave Town Hall. As she did so, the acting Town Manager, Town Planner Rob Houseman, approached Amatucci, "grabbed" her arm, and ordered her to go with him to an unused courtroom located away from Marble's office. Prior to grabbing Amatucci's arm, Houseman had directed a Town employee to call the police to report that Amatucci was creating a disturbance, which one of them did. Amatucci states that Houseman attempted to confine her to the courtroom until the police arrived.

         Amatucci asserts that she "was able to free herself from his hold and headed straight to Ms. Marble's office to tell her what Houseman had just done to her." Doc. No. 28, at 9. Houseman jumped in front of the door to Marble's office, stopping Amatucci from reporting her grievance. Amatucci states that any disturbance that occurred at Town Hall on May 7, 2014, was caused, not by her, but by Houseman's actions in trying to prevent Amatucci from lodging her complaints against Chase and Houseman. Amatucci then stated that she was leaving Town Hall and going to the Carroll County Sheriff's Department ("CCSD") to report the actions of Chase and Houseman that day.

         C. Motor Vehicle Pursuit and Arrest on May 7, 2014

         In response to the disturbance call to the police, WPD Officer James O'Brien went to Town Hall, but did not arrive until after Amatucci had left. After being advised that Amatucci was on her way to the CCSD, O'Brien called the CCSD and the WPD to ask for assistance in a pursuit of Amatucci. WPD Officer Shane Emerson responded and located Amatucci, who was in her car on her way to the CCSD. Emerson put on his lights and siren to attempt to pull Amatucci over for speeding. Amatucci did not pull over. Amatucci asserts that she was not speeding, and that she did not stop her car in response to Emerson's lights and siren because she believed the police had no probable cause to stop her. Amatucci further states that she could see Chase's cruiser following her, with lights and siren activated, and believed Chase was pursuing her to carry out his earlier threat to "get [her] and arrest [her] on the spot, " which frightened her, and she continued driving to try to reach the CCSD for her own protection.

         Before she arrived at the CCSD, Amatucci was signaled by hand, by CCSD employees Sgt. Timothy Thompson and Deputy Brian King to pull over, which she did. Amatucci got out of her car and immediately told Thompson and King that she was on her way to the CCSD because she needed help, and that she was in fear for her safety. Amatucci was arrested by Thompson, Emerson, and Chase, and placed into a WPD cruiser to be transported to jail for booking and processing. While in the WPD cruiser, Amatucci spoke to Thompson and told him of what had occurred that day, that she had done nothing wrong, and that she needed protection. Amatucci was then transported to the jail to be processed.

         After Amatucci's arrest, Chase had her car towed. Amatucci states that it took her three days to gather the money to get her car out of impound. Amatucci states that, without a car, she was unable to leave her home, and was thus "imprisoned" for three days.

         II. No Trespass Order

         A public Board meeting was held on May 21, 2014. At that time, Amatucci asked Owen to investigate the May 7, 2014, incident. Owen and the Board declined to investigate the May 7, 2014, incident, and instead, issued a "No Trespassing Order" ("NTO") to Amatucci. The NTO, which was approved and signed by Owen and the Board, largely prohibited her from entering the Town Hall, and entirely prevented her from entering the PSB. The NTO, issued May 21, 2014, stated as follows:

In light of the unfortunate incidents at the Public Safety Building and Town Hall on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, and in light of several other incidents during the past several years, I am hereby ordering you, on behalf of the Town and until further written notice, not to enter the Public Safety Building, at 251 South Main Street in Wolfeboro or the Town Hall at 84 South Main Street in Wolfeboro. Your course of conduct has caused great disturbance to the Town's employees and have caused some of them to fear for their personal safety.

         Doc. No. 28, at 19. The order concludes:

This order is issued pursuant to the Town Manager's and the Board of Selectmen's authority to regulate the use of Town property under RSA 37:5, RSA 41:11-a and any other applicable statute. It is also issued pursuant to the authority of the Town Manger and the Board of Selectmen to manage and supervise the affairs of the Town to ensure the safety and well-being of its employees.
Again, we regret having to take these steps with respect to any citizen, but believe that they are well justified in the interest of the efficiency of public employees and their safety and well-being.

         Doc. No. 28-1, at 21.

         In a letter dated May 23, 2014, advising Amatucci of the NTO, Owen stated:

Relative to the request you made to me at the Board of Selectmen's meeting on May 21, 2014, where you asked that I undertake an investigation of the incidents that occurred on May 7th which resulted in your arrest, I decline to undertake any such investigation.
Furthermore, the Board of Selectmen has approved and signed a "No Trespass" order which I am enclosing for your information. As you will see, you are now prohibited from entering either the Town Hall or Public Safety Building for any purpose except for attending public meetings. Any violation of this "No Trespass" order by you may result in your arrest and prosecution for criminal trespass.
I regret having to take this action against you, but your verbal abuse, intimidation, and harassment of Town employees has got to stop.

         Doc. No. 28-1, at 9.

         Amatucci alleges that by virtue of the NTO, the employees of both buildings were improperly advised that Amatucci had done something wrong that was serious enough to warrant denying her access to those buildings. Amatucci alleges that her reputation was thus damaged by the NTO, and was further damaged by a local newspaper story about the issuance of the NTO.

         Amatucci states that she was not afforded a hearing or any other opportunity to oppose the NTO prior to its issuance. On November 7, 2014, almost five months after the NTO was issued, Owen sent Amatucci a letter stating that the Board would afford her an opportunity to be heard in opposition to the NTO. That letter stated:

Relative to the "No Trespass" order that the Board of Selectmen approved at their May 21, 2014 meeting, and which was issued to you on May 23, 2014, they would like to provide you with the opportunity to state any reason that you may have for opposing the order. Once the Board of Selectmen receives your written reasons for opposing the "No Trespass" order, the Board of Selectmen will carefully consider your reasons for opposing the order in deciding whether it should continue to be in force. The Board of Selectmen can then either: (1) continue the "No Trespass" order as is; (2) revoke the "No Trespass" order; or (3) amend the order in some fashion, such as allowing you to set forth your reasons in advance for needing to visit the Public Safety Building or the Interim Town Offices location on a case-by-case basis, which could then be reviewed based on your need to conduct business with Town Departments.
As we have seen since the issuance of the "No Trespass" order to you, it already allows you to attend public meetings, and you have made liberal use of that ability. And in the case in which you needed to register a vehicle at the Town Clerk's office, we made an appointment for you with the Town Clerk, and waived the "No Trespass" order for the duration of your visit to her office. Further, you have been involved in no further disturbances at the Town Offices requiring the calls to the Police Department for assistance. So, from the Town's perspective, the "No Trespass" order has been effective and has served its purpose. However, if you have reasons for opposing the "No Trespass" order or believe that it could be improved, the Board of Selectmen is soliciting your input with this request.

         Doc. No. 28-1, at 23. Amatucci's filings are silent as to whether or how she responded to the November 7, 2014, letter, although the record indicates that the NTO remains in effect.

         III. October 2014 Harassment Complaint

         On October 1, 2014, Amatucci submitted a harassment complaint against Houseman, based on the events of May 7, 2014. On October 9, 2014, Owen and Board Chairperson Linda Murray wrote a letter to Amatucci stating as follows:

Relative to your demand for an investigation to be performed on the role of Rob Houseman during the disturbance that you created at Town Hall on May 7, 2014, I have previously communicated to you that I decline to undertake any such investigation. In fact, I support and applaud Mr. Houseman's actions during the incident to protect frightened employees from your abusive behavior.
Your recent attempts to portray yourself as the person that was harassed, rather than the Town employees that you were abusing with your out-of-control behavior, is bizarre to say the least, but given your long history of unfounded accusations and litigation with the town, not totally unexpected. We will not be party to your attempts to rewrite history and make other persons responsible for the results of your own behaviors.

         Doc. No. 28-1, at 7.

         IV. October 1, 2015, and July 11, 2016, Incidents

         In September 2014, Owen advised Amatucci that the prohibitions of the NTO would be waived for the duration of an appointment at Town Hall, on September 8, 2014, at 8:00 a.m., to allow Amatucci to register her car. The following year, Amatucci states that she received permission from a Town Clerk's office employee to go to Town Hall to register her car on October 1, 2015. Amatucci states that when she arrived at Town Hall to register her car, however, Owen called the police and then started to scream at Amatucci in front of members of the public. Amatucci claims that Owen called the police and yelled at her in retaliation for her previous accusations of misconduct against the Town and WPD employees. Amatucci does not allege that she was arrested or had any further interaction with any of the defendants on that date.

         On July 11, 2016, Amatucci went to Town Hall to pay her property taxes pursuant to an appointment she had made with the Town Clerk. Amatucci asserts that when she arrived at Town Hall Houseman was "standing over" her in an effort to intimidate ...


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