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Townsend v. Muckle

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 5, 2018



          Stefan R. Underhill, United States District Judge.

         On May 31, 2017, Timothy Townsend, Jr. (“Townsend”), currently incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, filed a pro se civil rights complaint against thirty-eight employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”). The complaint spanned seventy-one, single-spaced, type-written pages and consisted of six different sets of federal and state law claims for incidents that occurred at three different correctional facilities, which were unrelated to each other. See Initial Review Order, Doc. No. 9 at 5. As a result, I (1) dismissed the complaint with leave to amend because it did not comply with Rules 8 or 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and (2) instructed Townsend to file an amended complaint in this case addressing only one of the six sets of claims articulated in the initial complaint. Id. at 8.

         On December 12, 2017, Townsend filed an amended complaint against nine DOC employees in their individual capacities: Correction Officer S. Wales, Correction Officer Joshua Lorenzen, Correction Officer Steven Nemeth, Lieutenant Santiago Rangel, Correction Officer John Doe 1, Correction Officer John Doe 2, Lieutenant Congelos, Captain Dougherty, and District Administrator Angel Quiros. Am. Compl., Doc. No. 10. The amended complaint alleges violations of the United States Constitution, Connecticut Constitution, and Connecticut common law for events that occurred while Townsend was incarcerated at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution (“Corrigan”) in Uncasville, Connecticut. Id. Townsend seeks monetary and declaratory relief from all nine defendants and injunctive relief against defendants Congelos and Quiros. I conclude that Townsend's amended complaint has cured the deficiencies of the initial complaint and complies with Rules 8 and 20. For the following reasons, however, the amended complaint will be dismissed in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a plausible right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro 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).

         II. Factual Allegations

         Townsend alleges the following facts. On January 21, 2015, at about 11:00 a.m., Correction Officer Wales ordered Townsend to exit his cell in the B-Dorm at Corrigan and enter the main hallway. Wales was upset because Townsend had been talking during “count time.” Townsend exited his cell as ordered, but when he entered the main hallway, Wales began to “verbally disrespect” him. Townsend told Wales that he was not allowed to talk to him in that manner. Then, without warning, Wales shoved Townsend, causing him to stumble backwards and into the door. The force of the door caused Townsend to suffer back and neck pain for several weeks. Officers John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 witnessed the assault but never reported the incident. In his report on the incident, Wales wrote that “no force or technique” was used.

         Immediately after the assault, Townsend “beg[ged] [Wales] for mercy” and assured him that he would not tell anyone what he had done. Wales called Townsend a “punk, ” and, together with Doe 1 and Doe 2, escorted him to the “A/P room bullpen.” Once secured in the bullpen, Lieutenant Rangel approached Townsend with some other correction officers and asked him, “What you wanna do?” Townsend told Rangel that he did not want any problems and that he would not say anything about the assault. Rangel responded that Townsend was “smart” and then exited the A/P room. He returned a short time later and informed Townsend that he would be receiving a disciplinary ticket for “flagrant disobedience” because he had been talking during count time and that he would be transported to the restrictive housing unit (“RHU”) in Corrigan. Rangel never reported the incident involving Wales or ordered Wales, Doe 1, or Doe 2 to report the incident.

         Correctional staff escorted Townsend to the RHU building and, per protocol, brought him to the medical unit for a routine evaluation. During the medical evaluation, Townsend did not report the assault that caused his injuries out of fear of retaliation because, at the time, he was accompanied by a lieutenant and several correction officers.

         The next day, Townsend submitted a request to medical for further evaluation. He intentionally wrote a vague request so that he would not attract “any negative attention.” Medical staff issued him pain medication, but he continued to endure extreme pain in his neck and back for several weeks.

         On January 31, 2015, ten days after the assault, Townsend called one his relatives, Rameek Gordon, and told him that he had been assaulted by a correction officer. He asked Gordon to contact the state police so that he could pursue criminal charges and told him that he would call him back after he finished showering. When Townsend called Gordon a second time, Gordon told him that he had spoken with the state police, who informed him that they would come interview Townsend and record a statement.

         After his second phone call with Gordon, Correction Lieutenant Palmer called Townsend to his office and asked him if he had asked a family member to contact the state police about being assaulted by correction staff. Townsend told Palmer that he would explain everything to the state police when they came to interview him and then returned to his housing unit.

         When he reentered his housing unit, Townsend called Gordon a third time and requested that he contact the state police again and ask them when they were coming to Corrigan. Shortly thereafter, around 9:00 p.m., Townsend was called back to Palmer's office and placed in the RHU pending an investigation into the assault.

         Sometime thereafter, the state police contacted Corrigan staff requesting video footage of the incident on January 21. Captain Dougherty told State Trooper Rogers via e-mail that “there isn't a video, ” but he wrote in an incident report that there was video footage which did not show any inmate assault. Townsend filed a grievance based on Dougherty's refusal to provide video footage of the assault. He received a response from the deputy warden that the video footage was being preserved. Townsend later learned from Trooper Rogers that no criminal charges would be filed because of the lack of evidence or reported injuries.

         On February 1, at about 1:15 p.m., Correction Officer Lorenzen issued Townsend a Class A disciplinary ticket for threatening correctional staff over the telephone on January 27, 2015 while he was speaking with a family member. Lorenzen claimed that the following statements, made by Townsend, constituted threats:

(1) “Yo, I'm going back to the box. I'm going to jump the counter and going back to the box.”
(2) “If you don't hear it, that means I went back to the box. I done acted nasty.”
(3) “They gonna beat my black ass cuz I'm gonna act nasty.”

Compl. ΒΆ 38. Townsend denies that he intended these statements as threats and believes Lorenzen issued him the ticket because he had contacted the state police about ...

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