United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
King Knowledge Born Allah a/k/a Philipe Colon 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
Commissioner Scott Semple, Deputy Commissioner Monica
Rinaldi, District Administrator Angel Quiros, Warden Carol
Chapdelaine, Director of Security Christine Whidden, District
Administrator Peter Murphy, Security Risk Group Coordinator
John Aldi, Correction Officer Kelly, Correction Officer
Cossette, Correction Officer Pacelli, and Lieutenant Bare.
After an initial review, I conclude that plaintiff's due
process and retaliation claims may proceed as to some
defendants, but the remaining claims and defendants will be
following facts are alleged in the complaint and are accepted
as true only for purposes of this initial ruling. Plaintiff
is a devout member of the Nation of Gods and Earths
(“NOGE”) religion, commonly referred to as the
Five Percenters. In a previous lawsuit brought by plaintiff,
Colon v. Dzurenda, No. 3:14-cv-461, the Department
of Correction (“DOC”) agreed to recognize the
NOGE as a religious group and remove it from its list of
Disruptive Groups. Doc. #1-1 at 26-43 (settlement agreement).
September 20, 2015, while confined at Cheshire Correctional
Institution, plaintiff was involved in a physical fight with
other inmates. He was subsequently placed in a restrictive
housing unit on administrative segregation status and issued
a disciplinary report for fighting. Two days later, plaintiff
pled guilty to the disciplinary charge and received
sanctions. Docs. #1 at 7- 9 (¶¶ 20-27); #1-2 at
September 25, 2015, plaintiff received a separate
disciplinary report for Security Risk Group
(“SRG”) affiliation and was placed in restrictive
housing on administrative segregation status pending the
outcome of the disciplinary proceeding. The report alleged
that the fight on September 20 was a gang-related dispute
between the Crips and the Latin Kings. The report stated that
plaintiff participated in behaviors that were “clearly
and uniquely associated” with the Latin Kings. Docs. #1
at 9 (¶ 28); #1-4 at 1.
September 26, 2015, plaintiff wrote a statement arguing that
he was a NOGE member, that he was not affiliated with either
prison gang, and that the fight on September 20 was not gang
related. Plaintiff also requested to interview several DOC
officials in order to prepare his defense to the disciplinary
charge. Although plaintiff acknowledged that he was
affiliated with the Latin Kings a decade ago, he contended
that the reporting officer had no evidence that he was an
active Latin Kings member or that the fight on September 20
was gang-related. Docs. #1 at 10-15 (¶¶ 30-31);
#1-5 at 1-8.
September 30, 2015, Correction Officer Kelly interviewed
plaintiff as part of the disciplinary investigation. During
the interview, plaintiff gave Kelly his written statement and
requested interviews with several DOC officials who could
testify as witnesses in his defense. When asked why plaintiff
was being charged with SRG affiliation, Kelly stated that he
had nothing to do with the charge and that it was coming from
Director Whidden and SRG Coordinator Aldi. Both Aldi and
Whidden were defendants in plaintiff's previous lawsuit,
Colon v. Dzurenda, No. 3:14-cv-461. At the
conclusion of the interview, Kelly checked off a box on his
form indicating that plaintiff had not requested witnesses,
even though the report also notes that plaintiff had clearly
stated his intention to present witnesses in his defense.
Later that day, plaintiff met with Correction Officer
Pacelli, who was assigned as plaintiff's advocate for the
disciplinary charge. Plaintiff gave Pacelli his written
statement. Docs. #1 at 15-16 (¶¶ 32-36); #1-6 at 1
(Kelly interview); #1-7 at 1 (Pacelli interview).
disciplinary hearing for the SRG affiliation report took
place on October 8, 2015. Contrary to plaintiff's
request, Pacelli did not take statements from any of his
potential witnesses or advocate on his behalf. Lieutenant
Bare and Correction Officer Cossette, who were also present
at the hearing, did not interview or take statements from any
of plaintiff's requested witnesses. The officials only
permitted plaintiff to read his own written statement in
defense of the charge. Plaintiff was subsequently found
guilty of the disciplinary charge and classified as a Latin
King. As punishment, he received twenty days of punitive
segregation, sixty days loss of commissary, ten days loss of
good time credit, and was assigned to a level-5 security SRG
unit for two years. Docs. #1 at 17-18 (¶¶ 37-39);
#1-8 at 1-2.
appealed the decision and claimed that he was denied due
process at his disciplinary hearing because the officers
refused to let him present witness testimony. He reiterated
that he was a member of the NOGE and was not in any way
affiliated with the Latin Kings. Docs. #1 at 18-20 (¶
40); #1-9 at 1-9.
October 24, 2015, plaintiff was transferred out of Cheshire
and placed in the level-5 SRG unit at MacDougall-Walker
Correctional Institution (“MWCI”). At MWCI,
plaintiff filed a series of requests to his unit manager
Captain Rivera regarding conditions of confinement. The
requests complained about the unit's continuous use of
handcuff restraints, which was causing shoulder pain, and
about the small size of the recreation cages in the unit.
Plaintiff also wrote a request to the medical unit
complaining about his shoulder pain. Doc. #1 at 20
November 9, 2015, plaintiff sent a lengthy letter to
Commissioner Semple detailing his prior lawsuit, his NOGE
membership, and the SRG disciplinary charge. Plaintiff argued
that officials had wrongfully accused him of being a Latin
Kings member, that the fight on September 20 was not gang
related, and that he believed the disciplinary charge was
retaliation for his previous lawsuit. Doc. #1 at 21-28
(¶¶ 44, 46).
November 11, 2015, plaintiff filed a level 2 grievance
appealing the SRG designation. In the grievance he alleged
that he had never received a response to his original appeal.
Docs. #1 at 28-29 (¶ 47); #1-14 at 1-3 (level 2
November 20, 2015, plaintiff received a letter from District
Administrator Murphy denying his original appeal of the SRG
designation. Murphy's letter stated that the SRG
designation was based on information and documentation that
supported the guilty finding and that there was no
“significant due process failure.” Docs. #1 at
29-30 (¶ 48); #1-9 at 11 (Murphy letter).
November 23, 2015, plaintiff filed several grievances
regarding the conditions of his confinement, including the
hand restraint policy and the small recreation cages.
Plaintiff also submitted a request to Captain Rivera asking
to be placed on “recreation alone status” because
he was not affiliated with the Latin King inmates in his
unit. Weeks later, plaintiff received a written denial of his
grievance regarding the handcuff restraint policy. The denial
stated that the policy was in place “for the safety and
security of inmates and staff.” Doc. #1 at 30-31, 33-34
(¶¶ 49-50, 53).
November 30, 2015, plaintiff sent a letter to an attorney in
the Inmate Legal Aid Program (“ILAP”) detailing
his complaints about the disciplinary hearing and SRG
affiliation. But when he spoke to the attorney a month later,
the attorney notified him that she had not received any mail
from him. Plaintiff wrote to several officials at MWCI
regarding the missing legal mail. An investigation determined
that the mail was logged as having been sent on December 22,
although the ILAP attorney never received the material. Doc.
#1 at 31 (¶ 51); 34- 37 (¶ 54-61).
December 9, 2015, plaintiff wrote a letter to Deputy Warden
Chapdelaine addressing conditions of confinement and
protesting his designated Latin Kings affiliation. Doc. #1 at
31-33 (¶ 52)
December 30, 2015, plaintiff received a written letter from
Deputy Commissioner Rinaldi responding to his letter to
Semple. The letter reaffirmed the finding of ...