Jakuttis v. Town of Dracut

Decision Date14 February 2023
Docket NumberCivil Action 16-12643-DPW
PartiesJOSEPH A. JAKUTTIS, Plaintiff, v. TOWN OF DRACUT, MASSACHUSETTS, DAVID J. CHARTRAND, JR., MICHAEL V. O'HANLON, DEMETRI MELLONAKOS, RICHARD P. POIRIER, JR., and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts

JOSEPH A. JAKUTTIS, Plaintiff,
v.

TOWN OF DRACUT, MASSACHUSETTS, DAVID J. CHARTRAND, JR., MICHAEL V. O'HANLON, DEMETRI MELLONAKOS, RICHARD P. POIRIER, JR., and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.

Civil Action No. 16-12643-DPW

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 14, 2023


MEMORANDUM AND ORDERS

DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. BACKGROUND ................................. 5

A. The Parties................................. 5

1. The Plaintiff................................. 5

2. The Defendants

a. The Dracut Defendants ................................. 5

i. The Town of Dracut (the “Town” or “Dracut”) ................................. 5

ii. David J. Chartrand, Jr................................. 5

iii. Demetri Mellonakos [John Doe 1] ................................. 5

b. The Federal Defendants ................................. 6

i. Michael V. O'Hanlon ................................. 6

ii. Richard P. Poirier, Jr. [John Doe 2] ................................. 6

iii. United States................................. 7

B. The Procedural Posture................................. 7

1. Travel of the Case................................. 7

2. Procedural Approach ................................. 10

a. The Doctrine of Qualified Immunity ................................. 11

b. Summary Judgment and Qualified Immunity ................................. 13

c. Motion to Dismiss and Qualified Immunity ................................. 14

d. District Court's Procedural Control over Discovery .. 16

C. Mr. Jakuttis's Professional Background................................. 17

D. Duties Associated with Dracut Police Department Roles Held by Mr. Jakuttis, and Information about the Dracut Police Department................................. 18

E. The 2002 Marijuana Theft................................. 21

F. 2006-2012: Mr. Jakuttis's Medical Leave and Return to Dracut Police Department................................. 22

G. Mr. Jakuttis at the DEA Task Force................................. 23

H. CS's Disclosure to Mr. Jakuttis and Related Circumstances................................. 24

I. Events Following Mr. Jakuttis's Report of CS's. Disclosure................................. 26

J. Mr. Jakuttis's Removal from the DEA Task Force and Return to Dracut Police Department Patrol Assignment................................. 28

K. Mr. Jakuttis's Departure from the Dracut Police Department................................. 29

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II. MOTION TO STRIKE................................. 30

A. Nature of Work During DEA Assignment................................. 31

B. Threats, Intimidation, and Coercion................................. 32

III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTIONS APART FROM RICO CLAIMS................................. 34

A. Count I: 42 U.S.C. § 1983, First Amendment Claim as to Dracut, Mr. Chartrand, and Mr. Mellonakos................................. 35

1. Matter of Public Concern................................. 37

2. Speaking as a Citizen................................. 38

B. Count II: MASS. GEN. LAWS ch. 12, §§ 11H and 11I, Massachusetts Civil Rights Act Free Speech Claim as to Mr. Chartrand and Mr. Mellonakos................................. 44

C. Count III: MASS. GEN. LAWS ch. 149, § 185, Massachusetts Whistleblower Act as to Dracut................................. 50

1. Section 185(b)(1) ................................. 52

2. Section 185(b)(3) ................................. 54

3. Section 185(b)(2) ................................. 55

D. Count IV: Intentional Interference with Advantageous Economic Relationship as to Mr. Chartrand and Mr. Mellonakos 60 ................................. 60

1. Mr. Jakuttis' Claim Against Mr. Chartrand................................. 61

2. Mr. Jakuttis' Claim Against Mr. Mellonakos................................. 63

E. Count VI: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress as to Mr. Chartrand and Mr. Mellonakos................................. 64

F. Count VII: Civil Conspiracy as to Mr. Chartrand and Mr. Mellonakos................................. 66

IV. FEDERAL RICO CLAIMS................................. 68

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard................................. 69

B. Count VIII: 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(c) and 1964(c), Civil RICO as to All Defendants Except Dracut................................. 71

1. Racketeering Activity................................. 73

2. Enterprise................................. 74

3. Conduct................................. 79

4. Requisite Injury................................. 82

5. Pattern of Activity................................. 83

C. Count IX: 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(d) and 1964(c) Civil RICO Conspiracy as to All Defendants Except Dracut................................. 88

V. PUBLIC DISCLOSURE................................. 90

VI. CONCLUSION................................. 95

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Joseph A. Jakuttis, a quondam member of the Dracut Police Department, says a confidential source made him aware of potential illegal theft and use of controlled substances by other members of the Dracut Police Department. Shortly after Mr. Jakuttis brought these allegations to the attention of members of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) and the Dracut Police Department itself, he was removed from the DEA Task Force to which he had been assigned and placed back in the Dracut Police Department patrol unit, despite years of experience with the detective unit. Mr. Jakuttis contends that his efforts to expose misconduct by those sworn to uphold the law resulted in harassment from fellow officers and a demotion. He has since taken an indefinite leave from the Department.

This case has been pleaded with a broad brush and in a less than rigorous fashion, but after discovery as to claims against certain of the Defendants and upon careful examination of the operative First Amended Complaint (the “operative Complaint”) in light of the summary judgment record developed, I am satisfied that no genuine issues as to material facts have been identified to prevent entry of final judgment for all remaining Defendants left after the travel of the case to date.

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I. BACKGROUND

A. The Parties

1. The Plaintiff

Joseph A. Jakuttis is a resident of Deerfield, New

Hampshire. At the time he filed this action, and as alleged in the operative Complaint in this matter, Mr. Jakuttis was a police officer for the Town of Dracut, Massachusetts.

2. The Defendants

a. The Dracut Defendants

i. The Town of Dracut (the “Town” or “Dracut”) is a municipal corporation duly incorporated under the laws of Massachusetts. During all relevant periods described in the operative Complaint, the Town was Mr. Jakuttis's employer.

ii. David J. Chartrand, Jr. is an individual residing in Dracut, Massachusetts. At all material times referenced in the operative Complaint, Mr. Chartrand was employed by the Dracut Police Department. He served as the Deputy Chief of the Dracut Police Department.

iii. Demetri Mellonakos [John Doe 1],[1]is an

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individual residing in Dracut, Massachusetts. At all times material to the operative Complaint, he was employed as a member of the Dracut Police Department.

b. The Federal Defendants[2]

i. Michael V. O'Hanlon is an individual residing in Andover, Massachusetts. At all times material to the operative Complaint, he was employed by the United States Department of Justice as a DEA agent.

ii. Richard P. Poirier, Jr. [John Doe 2],[3] is an

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individual residing in Lowell, Massachusetts. At all times material to the operative Complaint, he was formally employed by the Massachusetts State Police and also served on detail to the DEA Task Force.

iii. United States. As a result of certification pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2679(d) in connection with removal of the case to this Court [Dkt. No. 5], this lawsuit became in relevant part an action against the United States and the United States was substituted as the formal party defendant for the federal Defendants. Following the lead of counsel for the United States and in the interest of clarity, I have identified the claims against the United States as involving conduct of the individual named federal Defendants. Thus, the discussion of claims against the United States specifically addresses the actions of the relevant certified employees of the United States - Messrs. O'Hanlon and Poirier - whose conduct provides the basis for the claims against the United States.

B. The Procedural Posture

1. Travel of the Case

This litigation began its journey to this court after Mr.

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Jakuttis filed the operative Complaint on December 19, 2016 in Middlesex Superior Court and thereafter on December 30, 2016, the United States removed the case on the basis that certain of the claims concerned acts by federal employees acting within the scope of their employment as such. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1442(a)(1); 1443; 2679(d)(2). [Dkt. No. 5 at ¶¶ 8-10]

Following removal, Mr. Jakuttis voluntarily dismissed his Massachusetts state civil rights act claim, said to be “cognizable through the Federal Tort Claims Act,” as to the federal Defendants (included in Count II) and other Federal Tort Claims Act claims (included in Counts IV, V, VI, and VII) [Dkt. Nos. 48 and 49]. I, in turn, ordered [Dkt. No. 50] all such claims dismissed as to the federal Defendants (Counts II, IVVII) certified pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2679(d).

Messrs. O'Hanlon and Poirier, the individual certified federal Defendants, then moved to dismiss [Dkt. No. 51] Mr. Jakuttis's remaining civil rights claims and his civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act claims against them. I dismissed Mr. Jakuttis's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights and Bivens claims against the federal Defendants....

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