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Alston v. Lindsey

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 7, 2017

IRA ALSTON, plaintiff,
ALFONSO LINDSEY, ET AL., defendants.


          Alfred V. Covello United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Ira Alston, confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, filed this case pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On January 22, 2016, Court, Haight, D.J., noted that Alston failed to identify any federal rights violated by the defendants and permitted him to amend his complaint to do so. Alston has filed an amended complaint setting forth the same factual allegations and identifying various federal and state claims. He names the same defendants: lieutenants Alfonso Lindsey, David Josefiak and Sean Guimond, captains Tuttle, Gregio Robles and Brian Jackson, warden Anne Cournoyer, nurses Lisa Mosier, Kristin Carabine and Victoria Scruggs, and correctional officers Mihaliak, Kimber, Hafner, Feliz, Cassidy, Cichocki, Munson and Boudreau. All of the defendants are named in their individual and official capacities.

         Under section 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, the court must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that 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. In reviewing a pro se complaint, the court must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them liberally to “raise the strongest arguments [they] suggest[].” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007).

         Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro se complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).


         The amended complaint alleges the following facts. The plaintiff is currently confined at the Northern Correctional Institution, where the incident giving rise to the amended complaint occurred. On April 21, 2015, the defendants, Feliz and Munson, escorted Alston to the shower. While he was showering, the defendants, Feliz, Munson, Boudreau, Kimber, Cichocki, Mihaliak, Cassidy and Hafner, entered Alston's cell, destroying personal and legal property and disorganizing all of his legal materials. When Alston returned to his cell, he asked Feliz what caused the destruction in his cell. Feliz stated that "this is how we feel about jailhouse lawyers."

         Alston asked Munson and Feliz to summon a shift supervisor, which they refused to do. Alston, in an attempt to "get the attention of the shift supervisor, " then refused to permit Munson and Feliz to remove his handcuffs. During this standoff, Mihaliak told Alston that the correctional officers would not get in trouble for what they did to his cell because the cell was not visible on the surveillance cameras. Kimber eventually summoned a shift supervisor.

         When the defendants, lieutenants Lindsey and Guimond, arrived at the cell, Alston informed them of what the correctional officers had done to his cell, but they refused to look into the cell to view the destruction. Instead, they demanded that Alston place his hands through the trap in the cell door to have the handcuffs removed. Lindsey and Guimond refused to document the damage to Alston's belongings, stating that they saw nothing to document. Alston asked Lindsey and Guimond to record the state of his cell on a handheld camera. Lindsey refused and stated that a handheld camera would only be used to document Alston's placement on in-cell restraint status if he failed to return the handcuffs.

         Lindsey ordered Munson to get a handheld video camera and called for a mental health staff member to come to Alston's cell for verbal intervention. Mental health worker Patrick Ward, a non-party, arrived and spoke with Alston, a conversation that was recorded on the video camera operated by Munson. When Ward looked into Alston's cell, he stated that he had seen worse. Ward agreed to Alston's request that he be a witness to the damage, which led the plaintiff to agree to return the handcuffs.

         When Alston turned around to place his hands through the trap, Lindsey directed him to lay face-down on the bottom bunk for application of restraints so that the plaintiff could be placed on in-cell restraint status. Munson, who was operating the video camera, purposefully failed to capture the damage to Alston's cell pursuant to Lindsey's order. According to the complaint, Munson “strategically maneuver[ed] the camera footage”. The defendants, Lindsey, Cassidy, Hafner and Boudreau, applied shackles and a tether chain and escorted Alston to another housing unit where he remained on in-cell restraints for three days.[1]

         These defendants intentionally made use of a tether chain shorter than that normally used, which caused Alston to remain bent over at the waist. Despite knowing that the plaintiff's handcuffs were already too tight at this point, Lindsey directed Cassidy to tighten them even more and Cassidy tightened them. The handcuffs caused Alston pain, and left a bruise and scar on his wrists that were still visible as of the date he filed the complaint. Alston complained about the pain and suffering caused by the restraints and requested that they be adjusted. The restraints were used "solely to punish and harass" Alston. Lindsey and Guimond, "who had opportunity and authority to adjust the restraints[, ] did nothing, " nor did those defendants or the defendants, Boudreau, Hafner, or Cassidy, investigate the plaintiff's alleged pain and suffering. Further, the defendants, Cournoyer, Robles, Guimond, Lindsey, and Tuttle, all "approved of the in-cell restraint placement and the type of restraints used."

         At the direction of the defendants, Cournoyer, Josefiak, Robles, Guimond, Bradley, Lindsey, and Tuttle, Alston remained on in-cell restraints for three days. At all times, he was compliant with all rules and regulations and was never disruptive and did not misbehave. The defendants, Cournoyer, Jackson, Robles, Tuttle, Josefiak, Lindsey, and Bradley, "continued plaintiff on in-cell restraint status for three (3) days without need or valid penological justification." During his confinement, Alston spoke with the defendants, Cournoyer, Robles, Tuttle, Josefiak, Jackson, Guimond, Lindsey, and Bradley, and showed them how tight the restraints were and that they were "causing pain, bruising and unnecessary suffering." Despite these conversations, and that they were aware of the plaintiff's pain and suffering, at no time did any of these defendants investigate Alston's claims or take any corrective action, nor did they take him off in-cell restraint status. The plaintiff also spoke with defendants, nurses Mosier, Carabine, and Scruggs, during his confinement. He informed each nurse that his restraints were too tight and were causing pain and suffering. None of them properly checked the restraints, or investigated or reported any of his claims. The complaint alleges that they “did nothing” “despite first hand knowledge that the restraints were much too tight.” Rather, the nurse defendants created false reports that they checked the restraints, that they were appropriate, and that Alston did not voice a complaint of harm. These false reports were part of "a calculated, intentional design to prevent the plaintiff from proving the extent and cause of his injuries in a court of law." The defendants, Cournoyer, Jackson, Robles, Tuttle, Josefiak, Lindsey, and Guimond, told the defendants, Mosier, Carabine, and Scruggs, "to create false reports to prevent the plaintiff from proving the extent and cause of his pain, suffering, and injuries."

         When he was removed from in-cell restraint status, Alston informed the defendant, Bradley, of his injuries. Bradley then stated that the defendant, Scruggs, would document Alston's injuries. However, Scruggs never did so. Instead, she "created reports indicating the plaintiff had no injuries and voiced no complaints of harm, pain and suffering."

         In light of the above allegations, Alston seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief ...

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