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Moore v. Town of Norwalk

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 15, 2017

CHAUNCEY MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF NORWALK, Defendants.

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

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Chauncey Moore is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed a civil rights complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was subject to excessive force during an arrest in April of 2014. After an initial review, the Court concludes that the complaint will proceed in part, and will be dismissed in part with leave to amend.

         Background

         The following allegations from plaintiff's complaint are accepted as true solely for purposes of the Court's initial review. Plaintiff names seven defendants: the Town of Norwalk, Norwalk Police Officers John Does #1 through #5, and Norwalk Police Officer Supervisor John Doe #6.

         On April 24, 2014, a supervisor with the Norwalk Police Department, Supervisor Doe #6, told plaintiff to leave Norwalk immediately or he would be arrested if seen in Norwalk again. Plaintiff had previously been arrested in Norwalk, but on the date he was told to leave Norwalk, he was not committing any crimes.

         Two days later, on the morning of April 26, 2014, plaintiff was approached by Officers Doe #1 and Doe #2 as he was leaving a convenience store with his nephew and his nephew's friend. Officers Doe #1 and Doe #2 exited their vehicles and attempted to handcuff plaintiff. Afraid that he would be arrested, plaintiff tried to run away. After he went a short distance, plaintiff was tased by Officer Doe #1 and, while being tased, he heard the officers making racially derogatory remarks. Plaintiff attempted to cooperate with the officers after he was tased, begging them to stop, but the officers continued to tase, kick, and stomp him. After about five to ten minutes of abuse, during which time plaintiff never fully lost consciousness, defendant Supervisor Doe #6 ordered plaintiff to apologize for running from the officers. Plaintiff observed about six officers standing around him and bragging about the abuse they had inflicted.

         Officers Doe #1 and Doe #2 told Supervisor Doe #6 that plaintiff had swallowed what appeared to be drugs during the encounter. Supervisor Doe #6 ordered Officers Doe #3 and Doe #4 to take plaintiff to Norwalk Hospital to have plaintiff's stomach pumped and its contents tested for drugs. On the way to the hospital, Officers Doe #3 and Doe #4 continued the verbal racial abuse and, at one point, Officer Doe #3 told plaintiff to lean forward, and then slammed on the brakes, causing plaintiff to smash his face against the divider between the seats.

         The officers repeatedly tried to get plaintiff to confess to swallowing narcotics but plaintiff denied doing so. At the hospital, Officers Doe #3 and Doe #4 told nurses that they were there to have plaintiff's stomach pumped and tested for drugs. The officers made plaintiff undress and, even though he was cooperating, they told the nurses to put plaintiff under anesthesia so they could pump his stomach. Plaintiff did not consent to the procedure. The contents of plaintiff's stomach were removed, and nothing was found.

         While in the hospital, an x-ray of plaintiff's foot showed a fractured heel. He also had injuries to his hand, neck, and temple. Plaintiff later learned from his injuries that the officers had used a taser on him three times and that Officer Doe #5 used a stun gun on plaintiff twice while other officers had been using tasers. Officer Doe #5 admitted to using the stun gun once while another officer was using a taser. But plaintiff believes that the police reports were falsified to show only one use of the taser to conceal the excessive force used against him. Plaintiff's injuries, photographed by his defense attorney, were consistent with three uses of a taser and two uses of a stun gun. Plaintiff is African-American, and none of the defendant officers are African-American.

         As a result of the encounter with the police on April 26, 2014, plaintiff was charged with assault on a police officer. Those charges were nolled in exchange for a guilty plea for resisting arrest.

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), 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).

         In recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold “plausibility” pleading standard for courts to evaluate the adequacy of federal court complaints. A complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct from legal conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds for relief. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Notwithstanding the rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint, a pro se complaint may not survive dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet the basic plausibility standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).

         Excessive ...


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