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Nino v. Doenges

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 29, 2017

LUDYS NINO, Plaintiff,
v.
OLIVER DOENGES and ANDRES SANCHEZ, Defendants.

          BENCH TRIAL RULING

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is an action brought by plaintiff Ludys Nino (“Nino”) pursuant to sections 1983 and 1988 of title 42 of the United States Code against defendants Oliver Doenges and Andres Sanchez, both officers in the Greenwich, Connecticut, Police Department. Nino alleges that Officers Doenges and Sanchez entered her home without a warrant and conducted a search, without consent and in the absence of exigent circumstances, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         The case was tried to the court on September 25, 2017.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         On August 15, 2012, Ludys Nino called the Greenwich Police Department and requested to speak with the chief of police about the FBI planting probes in her house and watching her. Nino was told that someone would call her back. Captain Pamela Gustovich was told of Nino's call. Captain Gustovich called Nino twice. Both times, someone picked up. Captain Gustovich could hear breathing on the line, but no one spoke. Captain Gustovich performed a records check on Nino and discovered that this was not Nino's first contact with the Greenwich Police. In the months preceding August 15, Nino had voiced a range of complaints to the police, including a complaint in April that someone had put poison in her juice; complaints in May and July that someone was putting radiation in her house that was making her feel sick; and another complaint in July that her roommate had inserted a microchip in her body.

         Captain Gustovich dispatched Greenwich Police Officers Oliver Doenges and Andres Sanchez to Nino's address at 25 Alexander Street, Greenwich, Connecticut, to check on Nino's welfare.[1] The dispatcher who called Officer Sanchez told him to contact the desk officer, Sergeant Reeves, for background on the visit to Nino. Sergeant Reeves told Officer Sanchez that Nino had called the police, described Nino's response to Captain Gustovich's calls, and explained that Captain Gustovich wanted Officer Sanchez to check on Nino's wellbeing.

         Officer Sanchez had met Nino twice before. The first time, she had come to the police station to file a report about her phones being tapped and the FBI's unresponsiveness when she had contacted them. She had also complained of an unjustified foreclosure on her house. The second time, a little over a month before the visit at issue in this case, Officer Sanchez went to Nino's residence with another officer in response to a call Nino had placed to the police department. At that time, Nino complained that someone was shooting radiation into her home and referred to a microchip in her body.

         Upon arriving at Nino's address, Officer Sanchez waited for Officer Doenges to arrive and then knocked on Nino's door. When Nino opened the door, the defendants, who were wearing police uniforms, identified themselves as police officers. Officer Sanchez asked if they could come in and speak to her. Nino said yes and invited the officers in. She walked down the hallway and the defendants followed her, eventually arriving in the kitchen area. When they reached the kitchen, Officer Sanchez told Nino that Captain Gustovich had been trying to reach her and that the defendants had come on a welfare check. Nino became insulted because she understood Officer Sanchez to be saying that she was on welfare. Officer Sanchez clarified that he meant that he and Officer Doenges had come on a welfare check to make sure Nino was okay, not that she was on welfare payments, and asked if there was any way he could help her.

         Nino told the defendants that people were shooting radiation through the house during the night and that her phones were tapped. She also said she was being physically assaulted at night. She said she did not go to the hospital because people following her could hack the systems and see her information. Officer Sanchez observed tin foil wrapped around the chandelier around her bed, which Nino had explained during Officer Sanchez's visit the previous month was to prevent radiation from reaching her. Officer Sanchez asked Nino if she would like him to call medics for her, but she declined. While they were in Nino's home, the defendants observed the condition of rooms visible from the hallway as they walked to and from the kitchen, and the state of the kitchen. Noting the absence of any visible food in the kitchen, Officer Doenges opened the refrigerator to see if Nino had basic provisions, which he observed she did. The defendants concluded that Nino was not a threat to herself based on the orderliness of her home and the food in the refrigerator. They provided her with service cards and left the residence. After departing, the defendants documented their visit and attempted to contact Nino's son and social services.

         Both the defendants and Nino spoke calmly throughout the interaction, beginning at the front door and while in Nino's house. The only exception was Nino's aggravation when she thought she had been mistaken as being on welfare. At no time did the defendants raise their voices or intimidate Nino. Nino did not ask the defendants to leave at any point or to stop what they were doing. The visit lasted for approximately 20 minutes.

         III. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         Section 1983 of Title 42 is a mechanism to seek damages for the deprivation of constitutional rights by state actors. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To prove a claim under section 1983, the conduct complained of “must have been committed by a person acting under color of state law” and “must have deprived a person of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Cornejo v. Bell, 592 F.3d 121, 127 (2d Cir. 2010).

         There is no dispute that defendants were acting under color of state law as members of the Greenwich, Connecticut Police Department. Thus, the inquiry centers on ...


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