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DeAngelis v. Cowels

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 18, 2016



          Michael P. Shea United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Jeffrey DeAngelis, is incarcerated at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut. He has filed a complaint naming Property Officer Cowels, Property Supervisor John Doe, and Counselor Michelle King as defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint is dismissed.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must review prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors and “dismiss ... any portion of [a] complaint [that] is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or that “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         Although detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A complaint that includes only “‘labels and conclusions, ’ ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action’ or ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement, ’” does not meet the facial plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). Although courts still have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally, ” the complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         The plaintiff claims that on November 14, 2014, officials at Garner Correctional Institution transferred him to Enfield Correctional Institution. During his admission to Enfield, Property Officer Cowels confiscated the plaintiff’s religious gold cross and gold necklace as unauthorized property. Property Officer Cowels gave the plaintiff receipts indicating the items would be stored in a safe by the Department of Correction.

         Three days later, medical officials at Enfield issued an order to transfer the plaintiff to Osborn Correctional Institution. When the officers inventoried the plaintiff’s property at Enfield prior to his transfer and then again upon his arrival at Osborn, the plaintiff’s gold cross and necklace were not found and were not listed on the plaintiff’s property inventory. The plaintiff believes that Officer Cowels stole his gold chain and cross.

         The plaintiff alleges that he submitted requests and letters to Property Supervisor John Doe regarding the theft of his religious chain and artifact by Officer Cowels. On or about December 6, 2014, a property officer at Osborn notified Property Supervisor John Doe regarding the plaintiff’s missing property.

         On June 28, 2015, the plaintiff filed a lost property form and attached one of the receipts that he had received from Officer Cowels indicating his necklace and cross had been confiscated and stored on November 14, 2014. Counselor King assigned the plaintiff’s property claim a number and provided him with an administrative remedy receipt. Counselor King informed the plaintiff that she spoke to Property Officer Cowels and Supervisor John Doe about his missing necklace and chain.

         On August 20, 2015, Counselor King informed the plaintiff that she had lost the receipt documenting the confiscation of his necklace and chain. On September 4, 2015, Counselor King denied the plaintiff’s property claim because there was no proof of the chain or cross. The plaintiff claims that Officer Cowels stole his cross and chain, Supervisor John Doe failed to remedy the loss or theft of his property, and Counselor King conspired with Officer Cowels to misplace the receipt for his lost items and to deny his claim.

         I. Official Capacity Claims

         For relief, the plaintiff seeks monetary damages as well as injunctive relief. He claims to sue the defendants in their individual capacities only. To the extent that the plaintiff seeks injunctive relief in the form of an order that Officer Cowels be prosecuted for larceny and that a warrant be issued to search the home of defendant Cowels, the relief requested is denied. “The law is clear that inmates do not enjoy a constitutional right to an investigation of any kind by government officials.” Banks v. Annuci, 48 F.Supp.3d 394, 414 (N.D.N.Y. 2014) (citations omitted). Nor is a victim of allegedly criminal conduct entitled to a criminal investigation or the prosecution of the alleged perpetrator of the crime. See Leeke v. Timmerman, 454 U.S. 83, (1981) (inmates alleging beating by prison guards lack standing to challenge prison officials’ request to magistrate not to issue arrest warrants); Linda R. S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973) (“in American jurisprudence at least, a private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or nonprosecution of another”); McCrary v. County of Nassau, 493 F.Supp.2d 581, 588 (E.D.N.Y. 2007) (“A private citizen does not have a constitutional right to compel government officials to arrest or prosecute another person.”); Osuch v. Gregory, 303 F.Supp.2d 189, 194 (D. Conn. 2004) (“An alleged victim of a crime does not have a right to have the alleged perpetrator investigated or criminally prosecuted.”). Thus, the plaintiff does not have the right to have Officer Cowels prosecuted for theft or larceny or to have a judge issue a warrant to search Officer Cowels’ home. The requests for injunctive relief seeking the prosecution of Officer Cowels and the search of his home are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

         The plaintiff’s claims for injunctive relief seeking an order to remove Counselor King from her position as an Administrative Remedies Coordinator at Corrigan and to direct the defendants not to retaliate against him are moot. The plaintiff is now confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. “The hallmark of a moot case or controversy is that the relief sought can no longer be given or is no longer needed.” Martin-Trigona v. Shiff, 702 F.2d 380, 386 (2d Cir. 1983). Thus, an inmate’s requests for injunctive and declaratory relief against correctional staff or conditions of confinement at a particular correctional institution become moot when the inmate is discharged or transferred to a different correctional institution. See Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 272 (2d Cir. 2011) (“In this circuit, an inmate’s transfer from a prison facility generally moots claims for declaratory and injunctive relief”) (citing Prins v. Coughlin, 76 F.3d 504, 506 (2d Cir. 1996) (per curiam); Young v. Coughlin, 866 F.2d 567, 568 n.1 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 492 U.S. 909 (1989); Mawhinney v. Henderson, 542 F.2d 1, 2 (2d Cir. 1976). The claims seeking injunctive relief with regard to possible retaliation by the defendants who are employees at Corrigan and Enfield and the removal of defendant King from her job at Corrigan are dismissed as moot.

         II. Property Claims

         The plaintiff alleges that Officer Cowels deprived him of his religious items and Property Supervisor Doe failed to facilitate the return of the items in violation of his constitutional rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Supreme Court has found that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not violated when a prison inmate loses personal belongings due to the negligent or intentional actions of correctional officers if the state provides an adequate post-deprivation compensatory remedy. See Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 543 (1981). The holding in Hudson is also applicable to claims that the defendants deprived an inmate of his or ...

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