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Williams v. Hartford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 2, 2019

HARTFORD, et al. Defendants.



         Preliminary Statement of the Case

         On December 18, 2017, the plaintiff, Charles C. Williams, a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”), filed a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the city of Hartford, Hartford Police Detective Cheryl Gogins, and DOC Correction Officer Nancy Quiros. He filed an amended complaint on July 9, 2018. After initial review, the Court, Thompson, J., permitted the plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim to proceed against Gogins and his Fourth Amendment unreasonable search claim to proceed against Gogins and Quiros. Initial Review Order at 11-13. The Court dismissed the claim against the city of Hartford. Id. at 6.

         On October 15 and 24, 2018, Gogins and Quiros filed separate motions to dismiss the claims against them under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The plaintiff filed memoranda in opposition to both motions. For the following reasons, the Gogins Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED. The Quiros Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED in part.

         Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when . . . [the] plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the [C]ourt to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant[s] [are] liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The plausibility standard is not a probability requirement; the complaint must show, not merely allege, that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See id.

         “Although all allegations contained in the complaint are assumed to be true, this tenet is ‘inapplicable to legal conclusions.'” LaMagna v. Brown, 474 Fed.Appx. 788, 789 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678). See also Amaker v. New York State Dept. of Corr. Servs., 435 Fed.Appx. 52, 54 (2d Cir. 2011) (same). Accordingly, the Court is not “bound to accept conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions.” Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Rolon v. Henneman, 517 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Consequently, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This is true whether the plaintiff has counsel or appears pro se. Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010). However, “[w]here . . . the complaint was filed pro se, it must be construed liberally with ‘special solicitude' and interpreted to raise the strongest claims that it suggests.” Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011)).


         On May 17, 2015, the plaintiff filed a civil rights action against Gogins and the Hartford Police Department (“HPD”) for false arrest, malicious prosecution, defamation, libel, and other claims stemming from his 2013 arrest for sexual assault and unlawful restraint. Williams v. Hartford Police Dept., No. 3:15-CV-933 (AWT). The Court, Thompson, J., dismissed that case with prejudice after concluding that the plaintiff had attempted to defraud the Court by deliberately falsifying an exhibit and submitting sworn verifications in support of the false exhibit. Williams, No. 3:15-CV-933, Order No. 456.[1]

         In 2016, while his first civil rights case was pending in this Court, the plaintiff alleges that Quiros intercepted some of his outgoing “legal” mail and e-mailed it as an attachment to Gogins. The plaintiff attached to his opposition memoranda a copy of the e-mail exchange between Quiros and Gogins.[2] In the e-mail, dated July 23, 2015, Quiros stated the following to Gogins:

Not sure where the case is right now. But the facility intercepted a letter that I/M Williams tried sending out as legal mail. Please see attached. Please let me know if I should release the letter or hold it for evidence.

         Gogins responded later that afternoon stating:

Thank you for apprising me of this letter by above mentioned inmate.
I will need to obtain the original letter for my files. Could you advise me how I can ascertain it[?] Is there paperwork that I need to complete or can the ...

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