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Whipper v. Erfe

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 25, 2018

ALPHONSO WHIPPER, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT ERFE, et al., Defendants.

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

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Alphonso Whipper is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warden Scott Erfe, District Administrator Angel Quiros, Deputy Warden Amanda Hannah, [1] Grievance Coordinator Selena Rious, Captain James Watson, and Intelligence Officers Anna Verdura and James Wright. After an initial review, I conclude that the complaint should be dismissed as to defendants Erfe, Hannah, Quiros, and Rious but proceed against defendants Verdura, Wright, and Watson on plaintiff's claim of unlawful retaliation in violation of his constitutional right to maintain his innocence of a disciplinary charge.

         Background

         The following facts are alleged in the complaint and are accepted as true only for purposes of this initial ruling. On November 21, 2016, plaintiff was summoned to the lieutenants' office and informed by Lieutenant Correia of allegations that he was involved in a physical altercation with another inmate, Edwin Snelgrove. Plaintiff was also informed that as the result of the allegations he was being placed in restrictive housing. Plaintiff denied that he had been involved in such an altercation. Doc. #1 at 3-4 (¶¶ 12-16).

         Officer Wright, who had escorted plaintiff to the office, began recording the meeting with a camera. Wright instructed plaintiff to remove his shirt, and plaintiff complied. Plaintiff again denied being involved in the fight. Officer Wright requested that plaintiff turn his right shoulder toward the camera, and plaintiff stated that he believed Wright was fabricating evidence. Wright replied, “I know you were in a fight last week you're not going to get away with it.” Plaintiff indicated that he had played basketball twice in the previous week and that any marks on his body likely resulted from his athletic activities. Lieutenant Correia proceeded to place plaintiff in a restrictive housing unit. Id. at 4 (¶¶ 17-21)

         Later that day, medical personnel evaluated plaintiff and did not note any injuries on his body. During the examination, neither Lieutenant Correia nor Officer Wright informed the medical personnel of any perceived injuries to plaintiff. Ibid. (¶ 22).

         Plaintiff was asked to write a statement about the alleged physical altercation. Plaintiff complied and wrote that he had no knowledge of the incident. To plaintiff's knowledge, both he and Snelgrove were placed in restrictive housing on administrative detention status pending the investigation. Ibid. (¶¶ 23-24).

         On November 22, 2016, plaintiff met with disciplinary report investigator Officer Cossette. Officers Verdura and Perrachio were also present at the meeting. Officer Cossette expressed surprise that plaintiff wanted to meet with him. When Officer Cossette inquired about the altercation with Snelgrove, plaintiff again denied any involvement. Officer Cossette stated that both plaintiff and Snelgrove sustained eye injuries. Plaintiff countered that his eyes always appear the way they were shown in the photographs, and he requested that Officer Cossette retrieve his ID photo, which he believed would confirm his claim about the ordinary appearance of his eyes. Id. at 5 (¶¶ 26-29).

         Officer Verdura told plaintiff that she knew about the fight and that Warden Erfe was upset that no officer had reported the fight. Plaintiff stated that there were no reports because the fight had never occurred. Officer Perrachio stated that regardless of whether there had in fact been a fight, plaintiff would remain in administrative detention for 15 days. Officer Verdura then showed plaintiff a picture of Snelgrove's alleged eye injury, which plaintiff believes was inconsistent with a punch to the eye area. Id. at 5-6 (¶¶ 30-33)

         On November 28, 2016, plaintiff received a disciplinary report from Verdura for fighting. The report contained inaccurate information, including: (1) a statement that the investigation commenced on November 16, 2017, and (2) a photo that allegedly depicts plaintiff's eye injury but in fact depicts his typical appearance. Snelgrove also received a disciplinary report for fighting, and both inmates pleaded not guilty. Id. at 6 (¶¶ 34-36).

         On December 5, 2016, plaintiff received a summary report dismissing the disciplinary report for a “lack of evidence.” Snelgrove received the same dismissal notification. Despite the dismissal, neither inmate was released from their restrictive housing cells. Ibid. (¶¶ 37-38).

         On December 6, 2016, Captain Watson asked plaintiff to submit a written statement expressing that he and Snelgrove were not a threat to one another, and plaintiff complied. That same day, Snelgrove was released back into general population, but plaintiff was kept in restrictive housing pending an investigation into his “submitted profile request.” Id. at 6-7 (¶¶ 37-40).

         Plaintiff complained to Watson that it was unfair to release Snelgrove back into the general population while keeping him in restrictive housing. Watson explained that plaintiff had to remain in segregated housing due to the premature submission of a “profile request” that was based on the assumption that both prisoners were going to plead guilty. To correct this error, a new profile request had to be submitted while plaintiff remained in restrictive housing. Plaintiff explained that he would lose a semester of the college program he was enrolled in to which Watson replied, “Next time, keep your hands to yourself.” Id. at 6-7 (¶¶ 40-43).

         While in restrictive housing, plaintiff submitted multiple written requests to various senior officials at Cheshire Correctional, including Warden Erfe, Deputy Warden Hannah, and Grievance Coordinator Rious. He also informed Watson that he intended to ...


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