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White v. Doe

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 13, 2017

ANTUAN WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN DOE, Acting District Administrator, Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Antuan White was incarcerated when he initiated this action, but he has since been paroled and now resides in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against numerous defendants for retaliation, cruel and unusual punishment, and violations of his right to due process. After an initial review, I will dismiss the complaint in part and otherwise allow the remainder to proceed.

         Background

         The following allegations as summarized from plaintiff's lengthy complaint are accepted as true only for purposes of the Court's initial review of the legal sufficiency of plaintiff's pleadings. On January 10, 2014, while incarcerated at Osborn Correctional Institution, plaintiff saw a male correctional officer massaging the shoulders of Correctional Officer Wendy Moriarty. Plaintiff told Moriarty that he intended to file a complaint against her to her supervisors for this behavior, to which Moriarty replied with a threat that reporting her would have consequences.

         Plaintiff alleges that he suffered Moriarty's consequences anyway: towards the end of the month, Moriarty approached plaintiff's cell and threatened to have him transferred to Northern Correctional Institution if he did not masturbate in front of her when she came by his cell during her next tour. Moriarty also asked plaintiff if he wanted to be in a relationship with her and, although he said no, he complied with her order to masturbate in front of her because he feared for his safety. After several incidents, plaintiff eventually told Moriarty that he would no longer masturbate in front of her. Moriarty became upset, slammed the plaintiff's door and stormed off.

         Moriarty issued plaintiff a disciplinary report for public indecency, and Lieutenant Torres escorted plaintiff to the restrictive housing unit. Plaintiff told Torres that Moriarty had threatened him with transfer if he did not expose himself to her; Torres replied that he would report the claim to his supervisors and agreed to be plaintiff's advocate during the disciplinary hearing. But the next day, Torres came back to plaintiff's cell and advised him not to repeat his claim against Moriarty to anyone else or otherwise Torres and his coworkers would physically beat plaintiff in his cell.

         On March 3, 2014, plaintiff attended his disciplinary hearing without Torres as an advocate.[1] Plaintiff was found guilty of public indecency and received a punishment of loss of commissary for 90 days, loss of phone privileges for 90 days, punitive segregation for 15 days, and loss of 10 days of risk reduction earned credits.

         On March 24, 2014, while plaintiff was still in the restrictive housing unit, he told Captain Colon about another alleged incident of sexual abuse by Moriarty-an allegation that Moriarty performed oral sex on plaintiff, see Doc. #1-1 at 24-and Colon reported this allegation to Duty Officer Barone and Deputy Warden Wright. That same day, Colon and Torres issued plaintiff a disciplinary report for falsely reporting this newly alleged incident against Moriarty. This disciplinary ticket was dismissed and expunged only days later, because it had been issued at a time when no investigation into plaintiff's allegations had been made.[2]

         After this ticket was expunged, plaintiff grieved Torres for retaliation. In response, Warden Maldonado put plaintiff on grievance restriction, prohibiting plaintiff from filing any grievances or appeals relating to Moriarty's original ticket against plaintiff for public indecency or any other allegation of sexual assault against Moriarty, because his claim was being independently investigated. See Doc. #1-1 at 54.

         This independent investigation was a PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) investigation through the Connecticut State Police. Several higher ups in the DOC were notified of the investigation, including District Administrator Quiros, former Deputy Commissioner Semple, and former Commissioner Dzurenda. Several Connecticut State Police troopers participated in the investigation of plaintiff's claim of sexual abuse by Moriarty, including Officer Mazza, who interviewed plaintiff.[3] Several other DOC officers in the PREA Unit, including Lieutenant Maldonado and David McNeil, also participated in the PREA investigation.

         By the end of August 2014, the Connecticut State Police closed the investigation into the Moriarty incident for lack of evidence. Doc. #1-1 at 80. As soon as Lieutenant Maldonado's portion of the PREA investigation concluded, and with the approval of McNeil, Maldonado issued plaintiff a disciplinary report almost identical to the one Torres had unsuccessfully filed against plaintiff: making a false report about Moriarty regarding sexual abuse. Plaintiff was again ushered to the restrictive housing unit to await disposition of his new disciplinary ticket.

         The hearing on this new disciplinary ticket was postponed several times at the behest of correctional officers Cote and Omara, who were tasked with the investigation. Eventually, Lieutenant Hayles found plaintiff guilty of falsely reporting the Moriarty incident, and imposed a punishment of loss of commissary for 90 days, loss of phone privileges for 60 days, punitive segregation for 15 days, and loss of 10 days of risk reduction earned credits.[4] Plaintiff appealed these sanctions, and his appeal was denied by District Administrator Quiros and later by Acting Deputy Commissioner Rinaldi.

         Meanwhile, in segregation between July 30, 2014, and August 13, 2014, plaintiff alleges that he was denied clean sheets and clothes, was subject to 24-hour-illumination, and was denied his one-hour-per-day of recreation. See Doc. #1-1 at 78. While in segregation, plaintiff verbally reported these conditions to Captain Gargullo, who verbally directed plaintiff to stop falsely reporting incidents. Doc. #1 at 28. Plaintiff was transferred in mid-October 2014 to Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution and then later to Enfield Correctional Institution.

         Plaintiff brought this action against the following defendants in their individual capacities: former Commissioner James Dzurenda, former Deputy Commissioner Scott Semple, former Acting Deputy Commissioner Monica Rinaldi, District Administrator Angel Quiros, Warden Edward Maldonado, Deputy Wardens Wright and Barone, PREA Director David McNeil, PREA Lieutenant J. Maldonado, Captain Luis Colon, former Captain Gargullo, Lieutenant Jose Torres, Lieutenant Hayles, Correctional Officers Wendy Moriarty, Cote, and Omara and Connecticut State Police Officer Scott Mazza.[5] He claims that he suffered embarrassment and emotional distress, and seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief in the form of expungement of plaintiff's disciplinary record.

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), 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. The Court must accept as true all factual matters alleged in a complaint, although a complaint may not survive unless its factual recitations state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014) (same). Nevertheless, it is well-established that “pro 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).

         Eighth ...


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