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Reed v. Roberts

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 6, 2018

TYJUAN REED, Plaintiff,
v.
LIEUTENANT ROBERTS, et al., Defendants.

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

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff TyJuan Reed was a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction at the time of the filing of his complaint. He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Lieutenants Roberts and Wojcik and Correctional Officers Aiello, Lis, Carey, Herbert, Wright, Pascarella, and Dejackome. After an initial review, I conclude that the complaint should proceed against all defendants on plaintiff's claim of excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         Background

         The following facts are alleged in the complaint and are accepted as true only for purposes of this initial ruling. On August 11, 2015, plaintiff was confined at the Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire, Connecticut. That day, correctional officials informed him that he was being transferred to another Department of Correction (DOC) facility. At approximately 4:45 p.m., Correctional Officer Fernandez (not a defendant) came to plaintiff's cell and removed all of his personal items. The majority of the property was stored in the facility's property room. Doc. #1 at 4-5 (¶¶ 14-17).

         At approximately 8:30 p.m., plaintiff was escorted to the Admitting and Processing Room. There, a correctional transport unit driver placed him in transport restraints, including wrist restraints, leg irons, and a tether chain with a lock. After being placed in the restraints, plaintiff began looking for the boxes that contained his property. He found only one, half-filled box, which he believed could not possibly contain all of his property. When plaintiff asked the officers in the room where the rest of his property was located, they were unable to tell him. Plaintiff then requested to speak with a supervisor before he was transferred. Correctional Officer Schulz called Lieutenant Roberts. Id. at 5 (¶¶ 18-23).

         When Roberts arrived, plaintiff tried to explain the situation to her, but she said that she “did not want nor need to talk to [plaintiff], because regardless of what [he] said, [he] was still going to be transferred.” While plaintiff was attempting to explain the problem, Roberts ordered Correctional Officers Schulz and Aiello to transfer plaintiff to the transport van. Schulz grabbed plaintiff's right arm, Aiello grabbed his left arm, and the two officers escorted plaintiff to the van. While en route, Aiello tightly squeezed plaintiff's arm, which prompted an exchange of words between him and plaintiff. When they reached the “sallyport, ” the area just inside the door leading to the transport van, Aiello grabbed plaintiff's head and slammed it against the window, stating, “I'll put you through this window you little mother (expletive)!” Roberts witnessed Aiello's actions but did not intervene. Schulz and Aiello then pinned plaintiff against the wall with the intent to hurt him, as Roberts called an emergency code. Plaintiff was then escorted back inside and placed in a restrictive housing unit (“RHU”). Id. at 6-7 (¶¶ 24-35).

         While plaintiff was housed in the RHU, Lieutenant Wojcik asked him if he was going to comply with orders. Plaintiff did not respond because he was in a lot of pain due to the actions of Aiello and Schulz. Wojcik then stated, “I'm going to take your non-response as a yes, ” and instructed plaintiff to kneel on the floor. But plaintiff was unable to comply with the instruction because of the restraints he had on. Consequently, Correctional Officers Carey and Lis physically forced plaintiff to kneel. While Carey and Lis pinned plaintiff's knees to the floor and chest to the bed, Wojcik tried to spray mace in plaintiff's face. Plaintiff turned his head such that that Wojcik sprayed him in the back of his head instead. Carey and Lis then held plaintiff's body and head in a fixed position while Wojcik sprayed plaintiff directly in his eyes, nose, and mouth. The chemical agent caused plaintiff to vomit and lose his breath. When he finally caught his breath, he said, “I couldn't breathe and I'm hurt!” Id. at 7-8 (¶¶ 36-47).

         With the restraints still on, plaintiff was escorted to a shower area by Correctional Officers Herbert and Wright. While flushing the chemicals out of plaintiff's eyes, Herbert starting choking him while Wright held his head under water. The two officers yelled, “Get some water!” and plaintiff stated that he “was being choked!” Officers Herbert, Wright, Pascarella, and Dejackome then escorted plaintiff to another RHU cell. Once again, the officers forced plaintiff to kneel and then began hurting him by pulling and twisting his arms and legs. This caused the restraints to cut into plaintiff's skin on his wrists and ankles. Id. at 8 (¶¶ 48-54).

         Afterward, the officers removed the transport restraints that plaintiff had on and placed him in in-cell restraints. Plaintiff was in a lot of pain and was unable to see. The officers removed the transportation jumper and T-shirt that plaintiff was wearing and left him in the RHU cell wearing only wet boxer shorts. Id. at 9 (¶¶ 56-59).

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se, the allegations of the complaint must be read liberally to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010).

         In recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold “plausibility” pleading standard for courts to evaluate the adequacy of allegations in 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).

         Plaintiff has brought his claims against each of the defendants in their individual capacities for money damages and in their official capacities for injunctive relief. Plaintiff has since been released from prison. Doc. #9. Accordingly, his request for injunctive relief is moot. All that remains for me to consider are his claims for money damages against defendants in their individual capacities.

         Plaintiff alleges that the actions of the various defendants constituted excessive force, racial bias/discrimination, physical assault, physical injuries, cruel and unusual punishment, retaliation, and due process ...


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