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November 23, 2020

Suing For A False Criminal Complaint Filed Against You | Cup of Joe

Suing For A False Criminal Complaint Filed Against You

It really doesn’t take much to get someone arrested.

One way, is to go to the police station and file a complaint against someone. You sign a form that says that everything in the complaint is true; and, if the facts add up to a crime, the police will be knocking on someone’s door to make an arrest.

But if the complaint is untrue, then the person who went to the police and filed it can be sued for money damages. The legal action is called, “Malicious Prosecution.”  (Also, if the complaint is false, the person who filed that complaint will be arrested themselves.).

So, let’s see what this looks like in real life.

This week, we head to Mount Vernon in Westchester County. Memorial Field in Mount Vernon was used to film the classic "Mean Joe Greene" Coca-Cola commercial in 1979. It is also the birthplace of author E.B. White. Remember that little book in high school called, The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White? 

1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's

Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write, Charles's friend

Burns's poems

the witch's malice             

Well, E.B. was the White. We have a copy of that book close by at all times.

Enough grammar. On with the case about malicious prosecution.


Enter:

Shaera Martin, a Mandela High School security officer.

Donna Bailey, mother of a child who attended  Mandela High School.

Background:

Shaera,  the Mandela High security guard, filed a complaint with the police against Donna. Shaera, said that Donna had harassed her by pushing, striking, scratching and threatening her on June 22, 2018. Donna was arrested and charged. But the criminal case against Donna was dismissed after a non-jury trial. The Court found that the People had failed to meet their burden and dismissed the harassment charge from the bench. 

After that, Donna filed a civil action against the security guard for malicious prosecution. Here is testimony from the civil trial. 


Testimony Of Donna

Q: How do you know Shaera?

A: She was a security officer at my son's high school. 

Q: Did something happen between you and Shaera on June 22?

A: Yes. While I was attending my son's high school graduation ceremony in the school's auditorium, Shaera repeatedly blocked my way and attempted to prevent me from taking my son's picture. 

Q: Did Shaera do anything else?

A: Yes. She cursed at me and harassed me until someone pulled Shaera away.

Q: Did anything else happen with Shaera?

A: As I was leaving the auditorium I saw a commotion and saw my son upset as he was running to the back of the school. 

Q: Did you do anything at that point?

A: Well, I followed him; and when I turned the corner of the building I saw my son and daughter in handcuffs. My children were arrested. So I went to go get them, and after I arrived at the courthouse for their arraignment, I WAS ARRESTED!

Q: Did your criminal case go to trial?

A: Yeah. Judge threw it out.

Q: Were you damaged because of that criminal case?

A: Yes, sir! I was was unable to work when the charges were pending against me and as a result I lost wages.


Testimony of Shaera - The Security Guard

Q: How are you employed?

A: I work as a security guard for Mandela High School.

Q: Do you know Donna?

A: Yes. Donna always caused a problem at the school because she refused to present her identification to get into the school. Donna was actually banned from the school for that reason. 

Q: What happened with Donna on June 22?

A: I was instructed by my supervisor to stand in the front of the auditorium and to keep the parents from getting past me. While I was doing my job, Donna yelled in my face that she was not having this today and then Donna pushed me in the back. 

Q: Did anything else happen?

A: While Donna was on her way out of the building, Donna's daughter sprayed me with water and her son began to punch me. I was hurt. I was helped to an ambulance by another teacher and the custodian. I was taken to the hospital. I brought that harassment complaint in good faith based upon her assault and harassment of me.


Judge's Decision

Shaera's claim is for malicious prosecution. Under New York law in order to make out a claim for malicious prosecution a plaintiff is required to show that:

  1. The defendant initiated a prosecution against the defendant/
  2. The proceeding ended in the plaintiff's favor.
  3. Defendant lacked probable cause to believe the plaintiff was guilty of the crime charged.
  4. The defendant acted with malice.

Number one and two of the elements are in Shaera’s favor. Shaera won the criminal case.

But numbers three and four? No. 

Based upon the testimony of both parties, it is clear that Shaera, the security guard, could have had probable cause to believe that Donna was guilty of harassing her.  And, Donna also failed to establish by any evidence that the defendant acted with malice when filing the criminal complaint with the police.

Therefore, Shaera’s case is DISMISSED.

SHAERA’S COUNTERCLAIM AGAINST DONNA


Judge's Decision

After reviewing all the testimony and evidence presented, the Court finds that Shaera did not meet her burden of proof with respect to her claim for assault and battery. Simply stated, Shaera did not prove that Donna assaulted her and caused her physical injury that has prevented her from working. Shaera failed to produce any evidence from another witness to substantiate her claim that Donna assaulted her. 

Donna’s counterclaim is also, DISMISSED.


Click HERE for the full case.

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