Garcia v. Chapman

Decision Date28 November 2012
Docket NumberCase No. 12–21891–CIV.
Citation911 F.Supp.2d 1222
PartiesDanilo Curbelo GARCIA, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Aroldis CHAPMAN, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida


Kenia Bravo, Avelino Jose Gonzalez, Avelino J. Gonzalez, P.A., Miami, FL, for Plaintiffs.

Joseph D. Steinfield, Boston, MA, Manuel Antonio Garcia–Linares, Ethan Wall, Richman Greer, P.A., Miami, FL, for Defendants.


CECILIA M. ALTONAGA, District Judge.

THIS CAUSE came before the Court on three motions filed by Defendant Aroldis Chapman (Defendant or “Chapman”) on September 4, 2012: a Motion to Dismiss ... (Motion to Dismiss) [ECF No. 55]; 1 a Motion to Strike Portions of Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint (Motion to Strike) [ECF No. 56]; 2 and a Motion to Drop Carlos Rafael Mena Perdomo as a Party (“Motion to Drop”) [ECF No. 57].3 On October 31, 2012 the Court held a hearing (October 31 Hearing”) to address the three motions. ( See [ECF No. 80] ). The Court has carefully considered the parties' written submissions, oral arguments, and applicable law.

I. Background4

In their First Amended Complaint (“Amended Complaint”) [ECF No. 46], Plaintiffs Danilo Curbelo Garcia (Curbelo Garcia), Maylen Turruellas (“Turruellas”), Yunis Curbelo (Curbelo), and Carlos Rafael Mena Perdomo (“Perdomo”) (collectively Plaintiffs), allege officials of the Cuban government subjected Curbelo Garcia and Perdomo to prolonged arbitrary detentions and torture after Chapman and his father, Co–Defendant Juan Alberto Chapman Benett (“Benett”), falsely accused Curbelo Garcia and Perdomo of offering to help Chapman escape Cuba. ( See generally Am. Compl.). The Amended Complaint includes six counts.5 In Counts I and V, Curbelo Garcia and Perdomo, respectively, allege Chapman violated the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”). 6 ( See id. ¶¶ 326–35, 358–66). In Counts II and V I, Curbelo Garcia and Perdomo, respectively, allege Chapman violated the Torture Victim Protection Act (“TVPA”).7 ( See id. ¶¶ 336–43, 367–73). In Counts III and IV, Turruellas and Curbelo, respectively, present state claims for loss of consortium. ( See id. ¶¶ 344–57). The Amended Complaint additionally includes scores of allegations and exhibits regarding the Cuban justice system and detailing the human rights abuses commonly committed by the Cuban government. The Court now turns to the factual allegations underlying Plaintiffs' claims.

Chapman is a Cuban citizen and an “internationally acclaimed baseball player.” ( Id. ¶ 13). In March 2008, Chapman attempted to flee Cuba, but his attempt was thwarted when Cuban authorities uncovered his plan and stopped him. ( See id. ¶ 221). The usual punishment for athletes who attempt to flee Cuba is at least a two-year suspension from their sport's Cuban National Team and National Series, and some athletes are banned for life. ( See id. ¶ 219). Nevertheless, shortly after being caught attempting to flee Cuba, Chapman “was not prosecuted or imprisoned,” but was instead “taken to meet with President Raul Castro.” ( Id. ¶ 221). During his meeting with Castro, Chapman “became an informant for the state ( id.), and entered into a conspiracy with the Cuban government whereby Chapman falsely accused individuals who the Cuban authorities then arbitrarily detained and tortured ( see id. ¶¶ 301–10). Two such individuals who Chapman falsely accused are Curbelo Garcia and Perdomo. ( See id. ¶¶ 109, 123–24). The facts concerning Curbelo Garcia and Perdomo's encounters with Chapman and the Cuban government are as follows.

Curbelo Garcia, an expatriated Cuban citizen, traveled to Cuba to visit his family in July 2008. ( See id. ¶¶ 31–32). While in Cuba, Curbelo Garcia's friend offered to introduce him to Chapman, and Curbelo Garcia readily agreed. ( See id. ¶ 33). On July 29, 2012, Curbelo Garcia and his friend crossed paths with Chapman, and the men stopped to talk. ( See id. ¶¶ 38–39). After speaking for a few minutes, Curbelo Garcia “asked the famous baseball player when he would be leaving the country, to which, Chapman responded that he had learned his lesson from his earlier attempt to leave and that he never intended to leave Cuba.” ( Id. ¶ 40). Curbelo Garcia then expressed that, “in the United States major league baseball players, who were not as good as Chapman, were making millions of dollars,” and the conversation ended. ( Id.).

That night, Chapman called his contact in the Cuban government and reported that Curbelo Garcia and Curbelo Garcia's friend had offered to smuggle Chapman out of Cuba to play baseball in the United States. ( See id. ¶ 123). The following day, July 30, 2012, Chapman and Benett went to the police station and provided written accusations. ( See id. ¶ 124). Cuban authorities arrested Curbelo Garcia the same day. ( See id. ¶ 43). Over the following months, Curbelo Garcia was imprisoned without charges and interrogated. ( See id. ¶¶ 45–48). During his detention, Curbelo Garcia suffered many hardships, including random beatings, unsanitary conditions, spoiled food, and arbitrary prison transfers. ( See id. ¶¶ 74–76).

Almost six months after his arrest, Curbelo Garcia was put on trial for human trafficking. ( See id. ¶¶ 51, 54). During the trial, Chapman and Benett were the Cuban government's only witnesses, and their testimony contradicted their earlier sworn statements as well as each other's testimony. ( See id. ¶¶ 56, 67). Despite the government's dearth of evidence, Chapman's conflicting testimony, Curbelo Garcia's own testimony, and other witnesses' testimony in Curbelo Garcia's favor, the tribunal convicted Curbelo Garcia of human trafficking and he was sentenced to ten years in prison. ( See id. ¶¶ 55–70). Curbelo Garcia's appeal was denied on December 9, 2009, and no further appeal or other legal recourse is available to Curbelo Garcia inside Cuba. ( See id. ¶¶ 72–73).

Perdomo is a citizen of the Dominican Republic. ( See id. ¶ 82). On July 7, 2008, Perdomo traveled to Cuba to visit his former in-laws and conduct business. ( See id. ¶ 85). On July 15, 2012, Chapman filed a victim's denunciation against Perdomo and Perdomo's former brother-in-law, stating the two had offered to smuggle Chapman out of Cuba to play baseball in the Dominican Republic. ( See id. ¶ 109). The following day, Perdomo was arrested, questioned, and detained for months without proper medical attention. ( See id. ¶¶ 87–98). Perdomo's “deprivations were not as sever [sic] as that [sic] of Curbelo Garcia, but they were sever [sic] enough to be categorized as torture.” ( Id. ¶ 117).

It was not until March or April 2009 that Perdomo learned he was being detained as a result of Chapman's accusations. ( See id. ¶¶ 102–104). Perdomo was surprised by the accusations because he had never “met, seen, or spoken to Chapman.” ( Id. ¶ 104). Then, on June 3, 2009, Perdomo was tried for human trafficking. ( See id. ¶¶ 107–8). Chapman testified—despite admitting to never having seen, met or talked to Perdomo—that Perdomo's former brother-in-law was working as Perdomo's intermediary and the two had offered to smuggle Chapman out of the country. ( See id. ¶¶ 110–11). Perdomo was convicted based on Chapman's false accusations and was sentenced to nine years in prison, but was released in April 2012 for humanitarian reasons. ( See id. ¶¶ 116, 120). Because Perdomo is diabetic and did not receive proper medical attention, he is now “a cripple with multiple organ failure [sic], who has had to slowly amputate parts of his body in an attempt to save his life.” ( Id. ¶ 121).

Plaintiffs allege Chapman is liable for Curbelo Garcia and Perdomo's prolonged arbitrary detentions and torture, not because Chapman was personally involved in detaining or torturing Plaintiffs, but because he provided the Cuban government with the false accusations in the first instance. This furnishing of false accusations, Plaintiffs allege, was part of a conspiracy between Chapman and the Cuban government that Chapman entered into on the day he met Raul Castro. ( See id. ¶¶ 301–10). When Chapman agreed to the conspiracy, he became part of a pervasive “snitch network of athletes.” ( Id. ¶ 216). This network included “athletes in every team in Cuba,” and was so widespread that [t]here was a special unit of security officials that were in charge of connecting directly with the athletes to seek out reliable informants.” (Aff. of Gregorio Miguel Calleiro (“Calleiro Aff.”) ¶¶ 8–9 [ECF No. 48–5] ). Athletes who voluntarily became government informants reported “suspicious” behavior to their individual handlers in the Department of State Security (“DCSE”). ( Id. ¶¶ 10–12; see Am. Compl. ¶ 216). In return for providing “actionable information for the state,” the informants received benefits from the Cuban government, such as the ability to travel with a national team. (Calleiro Aff. ¶ 14). Chapman sought the opportunity to travel with the National Baseball Team as a means of defecting. ( See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 218, 221).

Moreover, Chapman knew that prisoners in Cuba are regularly subjected to prolonged arbitrary detentions and torture. ( See id. ¶¶ 314, 317). With this knowledge, Chapman conspired with and aided and abetted the Cuban government to secure the arbitrary and prolonged detentions and torture of Curbelo Garcia and Perdomo, and did so with the “intent or purpose of facilitating” ( id. ¶¶ 322, 323), and “advancing [the Cuban] government's illegal goals” ( id. ¶¶ 324, 325). Due to Chapman's “willing[ ] and “indispensable” assistance, the Cuban government subjected Cubelo Garcia and Perdomo to prolonged arbitrary detentions and torture. ( Id.). As a result of the conspiracy, Chapman accomplished the “miraculous feat” of being banned from baseball for a mere five months. ( Id. ¶ 220). Shortly after his reinstatement on the national team, Chapman successfully defected and currently lives and plays baseball in the United States. ( See id. ¶ 13).

Chapman now moves the Court to...

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