973 F.2d 980 (1st Cir. 1992), 91-1703, Hoffman v. Reali

Docket Nº:91-1703.
Citation:973 F.2d 980
Party Name:Robert L. HOFFMAN, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. Luigi A. REALI, Defendant, Appellee.
Case Date:August 27, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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973 F.2d 980 (1st Cir. 1992)

Robert L. HOFFMAN, Plaintiff, Appellant,


Luigi A. REALI, Defendant, Appellee.

No. 91-1703.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 27, 1992

Heard Dec. 6, 1991.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Arthur E. Chatfield, III, Providence, R.I., for plaintiff, appellant.

Robin E. Feder, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom James E. O'Neil, Atty. Gen., Providence, R.I., was on brief, for defendant, appellee.

Before CAMPBELL and TORRUELLA, Circuit Judges, and POLLAK, [*] Senior District Judge.

LEVIN H. CAMPBELL, Senior Circuit Judge.

Robert L. Hoffman, a former corrections officer at a Rhode Island prison, sued Luigi A. Reali, a Rhode Island state police officer, in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He complained that Reali had obtained a warrant for his arrest, and caused him to be arrested, without probable cause, in violation of the United States and Rhode Island constitutions, and state law. The district court granted Reali's motion for summary judgment, holding that he was protected by qualified immunity. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

I. Background

Hoffman was employed by the State of Rhode Island as a correctional officer at the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI) in Cranston, Rhode Island. On July 5, 1986, he was injured when assaulted by an inmate and became disabled. He was out of work and received workers' compensation through August 31, 1987.

Roughly two months after the assault upon Hoffman, on September 4, 1986, when Hoffman was no longer working there, a convicted murderer, James Silvia, escaped from ACI. The Rhode Island State Police began an investigation, and came to suspect Hoffman of aiding and abetting Silvia's escape. Almost two years later, on June 2, 1988, Reali sought a warrant for Hoffman's arrest from Chief Judge Albert DeRobbio of the Rhode Island state district court. In applying for the warrant, Reali tendered his own affidavit which stated in relevant part,

. . . . .

Since June of 1987 your affiant [Reali] has been conducting an extensive investigation regarding the criminal activities of one particular criminal entity. As a result of this investigation your affiant has developed a number of informants who for the purposes of this affidavit will remain unnamed. These informants however have been placed in R.I. State Police custody either by their own volition or by an act of their own volition and pursuant to court order. Each of these informants referred to in this affidavit have indicated that they will testify in court or in any other legal proceeding which requires their testimony. As a result of de-briefing sessions with three of the aforementioned informants information and statements have been obtained regarding the escape of inmate James Silvia from Supermax/A.C.I. which took place on September 4th, 1986.

Statements taken from the aforementioned informants/witnesses by your affiant and other members of the R.I. State Police Intelligence Unit directly link corectinal [sic] officer Robert L. Hoffman, DOB: 11/8/45 of 43 New Britain Drive, Warwick, R.I. as aiding and abetting and assisting in the escape of inmate James Silvia on Sept. 4th, 1986. Correctional officer Robert L. Hoffman while dressed in his uniform picked up and later delivered several hacksaw blades and cold chisels which were later used by Silvia to make good his escape from Supermax on Sept. 4, 1986.

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In a statement taken from one of the aforementioned informants/witnesses Hoffman's payment for conveying the hacksaw blades and cold chisels into the A.C.I. was 1/2 gram of cocaine which was placed in the same bag containing the above items and later given to Hoffman by said informants/witness. Your affiant informant/witness has positively identified Hoffman from a photo line-up as being the same individual who received said hacksaw blades and cold chisels from her/him which were later smuggled into the High Security Center (Supermax) of the A.C.I. Evidence obtained at the scene of the escape on 9/4/86 was consistent with the use of hacksaw blades and/or chisels being used to make good the escape.

Accordingly your affiant requests that arrest warrant/s issue for Robert L. Hoffman ...

Based upon the above, Judge DeRobbio issued the warrant for Hoffman's arrest. The next day, Hoffman was arrested, booked, and detained for several hours. Subsequently, he was charged with four felony counts, namely, accessory before the fact in violation of R.I.G.L. 11-1-3; conspiracy to aid and abet the escape of an inmate in violation of R.I.G.L. 11-1-6; acceptance of a bribe by a public official in violation of R.I.G.L. 11-7-3 and conveyance of instruments for escape in violation of R.I.G.L. 11-25-8. The Rhode Island attorney general, thereafter, declined to prosecute for lack of corroborating evidence, and the charges were thrown out by a Rhode Island judge on July 14, 1988.

On April 6, 1990, Hoffman brought the present federal action alleging deprivation of rights, privileges and immunities secured to him by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and by Article I, Sections 2, 3, 8, 10, 14, and 21 of the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island. He invoked jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and 1988; and pendent and ancillary jurisdiction of the federal court over the state claims. Named defendants were Luigi A. Reali, individually and in his capacity as a state police officer; Walter E. Stone, individually and in his capacity as Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police; John Does 1-10, individually and in their capacity as Rhode Island state police officers; and the state of Rhode Island.

On September 11, 1990, Hoffman voluntarily dismissed the complaint against Stone in his individual capacity. On January 24, 1991, after a hearing, the district court dismissed all claims against the state of Rhode Island, and against Stone and Reali in their official capacities. The district court also dismissed various other counts. What remained were claims against Reali individually under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of Hoffman's Fourth Amendment rights, and state law claims of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and infliction of emotional distress.

In the meantime, the parties had engaged in discovery. Hoffman sought production of state police records and to depose the police informants mentioned in Reali's affidavit. In addition, Hoffman sought to compel Reali to answer several questions he had asked during his deposition concerning the identity of the police informants and the contents of their statements. Reali was instructed by his attorney not to answer any questions which might identify the informants. Reali, in turn, filed motions for protective orders allowing him to produce documents or answer deposition questions that would not disclose the identities of the police informants. The district court did not rule on these motions prior to granting of summary judgment. However, at the hearing to consider defendant's motion to dismiss on January 24, 1991, the district court requested defendants to produce for in camera inspection all the documents which defendants contended identified the informants. 1 Also on that day, Hoffman filed a motion to compel deposition answers from

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Reali. The district court granted this motion for Reali's failure to timely object. Believing he had objected, Reali moved to vacate the order compelling deposition answers. The district court did not rule on this motion prior to its grant of summary judgment. Discovery was closed as of January 31, 1991.

On January 31, 1991, Reali moved for summary judgment on the § 1983 claim, accompanying his motion with the same affidavit he had submitted to the state judge to obtain the arrest warrant. In addition, he submitted two other affidavits. An affidavit from Detective John M. LaCross confirmed that LaCross and others in the Rhode Island State Police Intelligence Unit had been investigating Hoffman's connection with Silvia's escape, and that they had taken statements from informant witnesses implicating Hoffman in the escape. LaCross identified these statements "as the basis of the probable cause used which subsequently led" to Hoffman's arrest. LaCross also stated that these "informants/witnesses have provided other information and statements pertaining to various crimes, some of which have been disposed of with the convictions of various people along with other criminal cases presently being investigated...."

The movant's remaining affidavit was from the Chief of the Criminal Division for the Department of the Attorney General for the State of Rhode Island, James W. Ryan. Ryan swore to having reviewed Hoffman's arrest file and the informants' statements referred to in Reali's affidavit. Ryan declared that these witnesses "have provided information relating to other crimes which ultimately led to several arrests and guilty pleas." He opined that there existed probable cause to arrest Hoffman for participating in Silvia's escape and that "it was reasonable for Detective Reali or any other law enforcement officer to believe there existed probable cause to arrest Mr. Hoffman." Ryan asserted, however, that his office "chose not to seek an indictment due to lack of corroborating evidence."

Hoffman submitted an objection to Reali's motion for summary judgment on February 19, 1991 but offered no affidavits, depositions or other materials in support of his objection....

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