United States District Court, D. Maine
ANTHONY J. SINENI, III, ESQ., Plaintiff,
CUMBERLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION FOR SUMMARY
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the plaintiff in this civil rights claim failed to create a
genuine issue of material fact as to whether a sheriff's
office violated his civil rights as a matter of its policy
and custom, the Court grants the sheriff's office's
motion for summary judgment. The Court also denies the
plaintiff's request to dismiss his complaint without
prejudice instead of granting the motion for summary
September 27, 2016, Anthony J. Sineni, III, filed a complaint
in Cumberland County Superior Court against the Cumberland
County Sheriff's Office (the Sheriff's Office),
alleging that the Sheriff's Office engaged in malicious
prosecution when it illegally obtained a search and arrest
warrant against Mr. Sineni, falsely imprisoned him, and
violated his civil rights. State Court Record
Attach. 1 Compl. at 1-7 (ECF No. 3). The
Sheriff's Office removed the complaint to this Court on
October 12, 2016. Notice of Removal (ECF No. 1).
September 1, 2017, the Sheriff's Office filed a motion
for summary judgment together with a statement of undisputed
material facts. Def.'s Mot. for Summ.
J. (ECF No. 55) (Def.'s Mot.);
Def.'s Statement of Material Facts in Support of Mot.
for Summ. J. (ECF No. 56) (DSMF). On October 10, 2017,
Mr. Sineni filed his opposition to the motion for summary
judgment and in the alternative, he moved for a voluntary
dismissal without prejudice; he also filed a response to the
Sheriff's Office's statement of facts and posited
additional facts. Pl. Anthony J. Sineni's Opp'n
to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. or in the Alternative Mot.
for Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice (ECF No. 60)
(Pl.'s Opp'n) (Pl.'s Mot. to
Dismiss); Attach 5 Pl.'s Statement of Material
Facts in Support of Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ.
J. at 1-5 (PRDSMF); Attach 5 Pl.'s Additional
Facts at 5-11 (PSAMF). On October 24, 2017, the
Sheriff's Office filed a reply to Mr. Sineni's motion
for summary judgment with a response to Mr. Sineni's
statement of additional material facts as well as an
objection to Mr. Sineni's motion to dismiss. Reply in
Support of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 1-7
(Def.'s Reply); Obj. to Mot. to Dismiss
at 7-8 (Def.'s Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss)
(ECF No. 64); Resp. to Pl.'s Statement of Facts
(DRPSAMF) (ECF No. 65).
may grant summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56 if the record demonstrates that “there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). “A ‘material' fact is a
‘contested fact [that] has the potential to change the
outcome of the suit under the governing law if the dispute
over it is resolved favorably to the nonmovant, ' and a
‘genuine issue' means that ‘the evidence
about the fact is such that a reasonable jury could resolve
the point in favor of the nonmoving party.'”
McCarthy v. City of Newburyport, 252 Fed.Appx. 328,
332 (1st Cir. 2007) (quoting Navarro v. Pfizer
Corp., 261 F.3d 90, 93-94 (1st Cir. 2001)) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
Court must examine the record evidence “in the light
most favorable to [the nonmovant], and [must draw] all
reasonable inferences in . . . favor [of the nonmoving
party].” Foley v. Town of Randolf, 598 F.3d 1,
5 (1st Cir. 2010). At the same time, courts ignore
“conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and
unsupported speculation.” Cortés-Rivera v.
Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., 626 F.3d 21, 26 (1st
Cir. 2010) (quoting Sullivan v. City of Springfield,
561 F.3d 7, 24 (1st Cir. 2009)).
STATEMENT OF FACTS 
Anthony J. Sineni, III
J. Sineni, III has been self-employed as an attorney
practicing predominately in the Portland area and Southern
Maine for twenty-six years. PSAMF ¶ 1; DRPSAMF ¶ 1.
During his practice, Mr. Sineni has specialized in criminal
defense law and as a result has gained detailed, specific
knowledge about law enforcement practices including practices
by the Sheriff's Department pertaining to all criminal
matters, which include domestic violence crimes. PSAMF ¶
2; DRPSAMF ¶ 2.
The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office
Joyce has been the Sheriff of Cumberland County since January
2011. DSMF ¶ 1; PRDSMF ¶ 1. As Sheriff of
Cumberland County, Sheriff Joyce has final decision-making
authority with respect to all policy and operational matters
at the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. DSMF ¶ 2;
PRDSMF ¶ 2. At no time has Sheriff Joyce ever been aware
of occasions where Cumberland County officers have falsified
reports for the purpose of obtaining arrest or search
warrants. DSMF ¶ 3; PRDSMF ¶ 3. Sheriff Joyce is
not aware of any occasions when Cumberland County officers
provided misleading statements in support of arrest or search
warrants. DSMF ¶ 4; PRDSMF ¶ 4. Sheriff Joyce is
not aware of any occasions when Cumberland County officers
have intentionally or knowingly omitted relevant information
from applications in support of arrest or search warrants.
DSMF ¶ 5; PRDSMF ¶ 5. Sheriff Joyce is not aware of
any occasions, including any complaints, claims, or
allegations, that Cumberland County officers have unlawfully
interfered with a parent's right to the care and custody
of his or her children. DSMF ¶ 6; PRDSMF ¶ 6.
Cumberland County Arrests Anthony J. Sineni, III
September 26, 2014,  the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office
for Assault, Tampering with a Witness, and
Receiving/Possessing Stolen Property. PSAMF ¶¶ 3-4;
DRPSAMF ¶¶ 3-4. The arrest was a result of a
combined effort by Sheriff's Department Detectives and
the mother of Mr. Sineni's children, Winona
Hichborn. PSAMF ¶ 5; DRPSAMF ¶
Detective John Fournier of the Sheriff's Office presented
information in the affidavit in support of the arrest warrant
that predominately relied on false statements made by Winona
Hichborn, knowing that Ms. Hichborn was documented in several
sheriff reports to be unreliable, unstable and always
intoxicated when encountering the sheriffs, whether she
called the Sheriff's Office to respond or whether they
had responded based on other reports as to Ms. Hichborn's
drunken behavior. PSAMF ¶ 7; DRPSAFM ¶ 7.
Detective Fournier was familiar with several recent domestic
violence/disturbance reports in which Winona and Anthony
(Tony) Sineni were involved. PSAMF ¶ 8; DRPSAMF ¶ 8.
Detective Fournier failed to inform the Judge in his arrest
warrant affidavit or by any means of his knowledge that Ms.
Hichborn is unreliable and has in the past been removed from
the household due to violent behavior while
intoxicated. PSAMF ¶ 9; DRPSAMF ¶ 9.
paragraph five of his affidavit in support of Mr.
Sineni's arrest, Detective Fournier included statements
that Ms. Hichborn told him about what her
then-thirteen-year-old son had told her that Mr. Sineni had
said to the son about the presence of firearms in their
basement; Mr. Sineni believes that the statements by Ms.
Hichborn's son were false and that Detective Fournier
recklessly relied upon them as true in including them in his
affidavit in support of the arrest warrant.PSAMF ¶ 10;
DRPSAMF ¶ 10. Detective Fournier failed to inform the
Judge that Ms. Hichborn was physically removed from the
household in March of 2014 due to domestic
violence. PSAMF ¶ 11; DRPSAMF ¶ 11.
Detective Fournier failed to inform the Judge that Ms.
Hichborn was found at the residence on several occasions in
July and August of 2014 in violation of an existing
restraining order. PSAMF ¶ 12; DRPSAMF ¶ 12.
Sineni has personally reviewed a tape recording made by
Detective Jill Potvin where she is conversing with Ms.
Hichborn at Mr. Sineni's residence during which Detective
Potvin tells Ms. Hichborn that “[w]e are sticking our
necks out” for not arresting her for being in violation
of the protection order that was in place. PSAMF ¶ 13;
DRPSAMF ¶ 13. In the tape, Mr. Sineni heard Detective
Potvin continue to coach Ms. Hichborn with an agenda that
consisted of the use of false and unethical statements to
promote an agenda to color Ms. Hichborn as a victim and not a
perpetrator of criminal activity. PSAMF ¶ 14; DRPSAMF
to Mr. Sineni's arrest in September 2014, Ms. Hichborn
informed Mr. Sineni that with the help of Detective Fournier
and Detective Potvin, a plan had been formulated to arrest
him so that Ms. Hichborn could take possession of his house
and belongings, regain custody of his children, and be
provided with financial support. PSAMF ¶ 15; DRPSAMF
¶ 15. At that time, Ms. Hichborn had been evicted from
her apartment and Mr. Sineni had been awarded sole parental
rights over their two children and his stepson who was Ms.
Hichborn's biological child. PSAMF ¶ 16; DRPSAMF
affidavit in support of Mr. Sineni's arrest, Detective
Fournier referred to statements of Amer Radhi about
allegedly stolen firearms. PSAMF ¶ 17; DRPSAMF ¶
17. However, Detective Fournier failed to inform the Judge
that Mr. Rahdi was also a known unreliable witness and that
Mr. Rahdi himself had a prior conviction for possession of a
firearm by a prohibited person. Id. Detective
Fournier failed to inform the Judge that both Mr. Rahdi and
Ms. Hichborn had continued access to the residence where the
guns were stolen and the location where the guns were found.
PSAMF ¶ 18; DRPSAMF ¶ 18. Detective Fournier failed
to inform the Judge that Amer Radhi gave false and misleading
statements, and specifically failed to indicate that Mr.
Radhi and Ms. Hichborn were both alternative suspects in the
case. PSAMF ¶ 19; DRPSAMF ¶ 19.
Sineni had advised Mark Rankin, the owner of the firearms, to
make the report to the police that his guns had been stolen.
PSAMF ¶ 39; DRPSAMF ¶ 39. Detective Fournier
interviewed Mark Rankin and failed to inform the Judge that
Mr. Rankin stated that even if Mr. Sineni had possession of
the guns, it would have been authorized with Mr. Rankin's
consent. PSAMF ¶¶ 20, 40; DRPSAMF
¶¶ 20, 40.
Sineni is personally aware of other situations where
Detectives from the Sheriff's Office have recklessly
and/or intentionally omitted highly probative information
from arrest and search warrants to effectuate their own
agendas.PSAMF ¶ 33; DRPSAMF ¶ 33.
Events at Cumberland County Jail after the Sineni
arrested, Mr. Sineni was transported to and held at the
Cumberland County Jail intake. PSAMF ¶ 21; DRPSAMF
¶ 21. Mr. Sineni was asked by personnel to take two
phone calls from Detective Jill Potvin. PSAMF ¶ 22;
DRPSAMF ¶ 22. Detective Potvin was requesting that Mr.
Sineni give her information as to the whereabouts of his
stepson. PSAMF ¶ 23; DRPSAMF ¶ 23. Soon after the
phone call with Detective Potvin, Mr. Sineni was informed by
the Deputies that both the bail commissioner and the person
posting his bail were at the jail to coordinate his release.
PSAMF ¶ 24; DRPSAMF ¶ 24. At that time, Mr. Sineni
saw one of the intake personnel, Jason Hendrickson, on the
phone, and Mr. Hendrickson brought the phone over to the desk
and asked Mr. Sineni to speak with Detective Potvin. PSAMF
¶ 25; DRPSAMF ¶ 25. Detective Potvin asked Mr.
Sineni to get the phone number for the family friends that
his son was with and told the Deputy to retrieve the phone.
Id. Mr. Sineni cooperated and gave Detective Potvin
the number. Id.
the phone call ended, Deputy Hendrickson informed Mr. Sineni
and several other Deputies that Detective Potvin had
instructed them to turn the bail commissioner away so that
Mr. Sineni could not be bailed out at that
time. PSAMF ¶¶ 26, 42; DRPSAMF
¶¶ 26, 42. This was confirmed through a phone call
to the individual who was at the jail with the cash bail and
who had shown and counted out the cash to verify the amount
before the bail commissioner left. PSAMF ¶ 27; DRPSAMF
¶ 27. Mr. Sineni was then held at the Cumberland County
Jail for six to eight hours. PSAMF ¶¶ 28, 41;
DRPSAMF ¶¶ 28, 41. Mr. Sineni is personally aware
of many criminal cases where the Cumberland County Jail
administration illegally held inmates who were due to be
released. PSAMF ¶ 32; DRPSAMF ¶ 32.
Anthony Sineni's “No Contact” Bail
Sheriff's Office requested bail conditions that included
a provision that Mr. Sineni could have no contact with his
three children. PSAMF ¶ 29; DRPSAMF ¶ 29. The
basis for the no contact request was fraudulent statements
that were uncorroborated and uninvestigated by any detective
or deputy from the Sheriff's Office. PSAMF ¶
30; DRPSAMF ¶ 30. Mr. Sineni is personally aware of many
face-to-face encounters that both Detective Fournier and
Detective Potvin had with Ms. Hichborn where she was
intoxicated and irrational. PSAMF ¶ 31; DRPSAMF ¶
31. During the course of the criminal proceedings, bail was
modified to allow Mr. Sineni to have contact with his
children. PSAMF ¶ 37; DRPSAMF ¶ 37.
The Victim's Advocates and Detective Jill Potvin
Jill Potvin has an office in the Cumberland County District
Attorney's Office in a separate physical portion of the
District Attorney's Office and Detective Potvin regularly
conducts official Sheriff's Office business out of that
office. PSAMF ¶ 34; DRPSAMF ¶ 34. Detective
Potvin's office is down the hall from the Domestic
Violence Victims' Advocates office. PSAMF ¶ 43;
DRPSAMF ¶ 43. Due to the close proximity of open doors,
Detective Potvin has access to the Cumberland County District
Attorney's Office's Victims' Advocates and
potentially privileged information. Id. Detective
Potvin is the sister of Kevin Joyce, the Sheriff of
Cumberland County. PSAMF ¶ 35; DRPSAMF ¶ 35. One of
the Domestic Violence Victims' Advocates, Jill Merrick,
has discussions with Detective Potvin on a daily basis. PSAMF
¶ 44; DRPSAMF ¶ 44. The Victim's Advocates in
the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office promote
personal agendas when aiding in the prosecution of domestic
violence crimes. PSAMF ¶ 36; DRPSAMF ¶ 36. This
agenda includes unfounded attempts to leverage defendants by
creating no contact provisions of bail with their children.
The Sheriff's Office's Policies
Sheriff's Office has a set of standard operating
procedures which are the official policies and procedures of
the Sheriff's Office and are available for staff to
review on the computer. DSMF ¶ 13; PRDSMF ¶ 13. The
Sheriff's Office's Standard Operating Procedure 2-28
is the official policy and procedure of the Sheriff's
Office regarding search warrants and was in effect on the
date of the incidents in this lawsuit. DSMF ¶ 14; PRDSMF
¶ 14. The Sheriff's Office Standard Operating
Procedure A-9 is the official policy and procedure of the
Sheriff's Office regarding Code of Conduct and was in
effect on the date of the incidents in this lawsuit. DSMF
¶ 15; PRDSMF ¶ 15.
The Criminal Charges
charges contained in the complaint that led to Mr.
Sineni's arrest on September 26, 2014 were dismissed in
January 2015. DSMF ¶ 7; PRDSMF ¶ 7; PSAMF
¶ 38; DRPSAMF ¶ 38.
The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office's Insurance
Coverage and Notice of Claim
Maine County Commissioners Association Self-Funded Risk
Management Pool (Risk Pool) is a public, self-funded pool
established pursuant to 30A M.R.S. ch. 117. DSMF ¶
8; PRDSMF ¶ 8. Cumberland County is a Named Member of
the Risk Pool and is provided with insurance-type coverage
pursuant to a document entitled “Maine County
Commissioners Association Self-Funded Risk Management Pool
Coverage Document.” DSMF ¶ 9; PRDSMF ¶ 9. The
Coverage Document specifically excludes any coverage for any
cause of action seeking tort damages for which the County is
immune pursuant to the Tort Claims Act, and limits coverage
to those areas for which governmental immunity is expressly
waived by the Tort Claims Act. DSMF ¶ 10; PRDSMF ¶
10. Other than the insurance-type coverage provided to
Cumberland County under the Risk Pool's Coverage
Document, Cumberland County has not procured insurance
against liability for any claim against the County or its
employees for which immunity is not otherwise waived under
the Maine Tort Claims Act. DSMF ¶ 11; PRDSMF ¶ 11.
Cumberland County did not receive a Notice of Claim against
the County or any County employees regarding the actions
discussed in the Complaint dated September 27, 2016, until
the County received a copy of the Complaint in September of
2016. DSMF ¶ 12; PRDSMF ¶ 12.
THE MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
The Sheriff's Office's Position
The State Law Claims
Sheriff's Office first addresses the two state law claims
in Mr. Sineni's Complaint: Count I - malicious
prosecution, and Count II - false imprisonment.
Def.'s Mot. at 5. The Sheriff's Office says
that these claims are governed by the Maine Tort Claims Act
(MTCA), and the Sheriff's Office maintains that it is
entitled to summary judgment on these claims because Mr.
Sineni failed to comply with the notice requirement of the
MTCA and in any event the Sheriff's Office is protected
by immunity from both claims. Id. at 5-6.
the notice defense, the Sheriff's Office cites 14 M.R.S.
§ 8107 for the statutory requirement that a claimant
under the MTCA must give written notice of the claim within
180 days of its accrual. Id. at 6. Citing
Cushman v. Tilton, 652 A.2d 650, 651-52 (Me. 1995),
the Sheriff's Office argues that Mr. Sineni's failure
to comply with the notice provision bars his MTCA claims.
citing 14 M.R.S. § 8103(1), the Sheriff's Office
contends that it is immune from the state tort claims.
Id. at 6-8. Acknowledging that the MTCA provides for
four exceptions to governmental immunity, the Sheriff's
Office argues that Mr. Sineni's claims do not fall within
any of the exceptions to statutory immunity. Id. at
7-8. Noting that it is insured through the Maine County
Commissioners Association ...