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Fowler v. City of Stamford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 14, 2019

JAMARR FOWLER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF STAMFORD et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jamarr Fowler 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 the City of Stamford and the State of Connecticut's Department of Adult Probation - Court Support Services Division (“CSSD”), as well as four probation officers: Executive Director of Adult Probation Steve Grant, Deputy Executive Director of Adult Probation Gary Roberge, Chief Probation Officer Marvin Parsons, and Chief Probation Officer Lorraine Rodriguez. Doc. #1 at 1-2 (¶¶ 3-9). He seeks damages against Stamford, the CSSD, and the four individual defendants in their individual capacities. Id. at 2, 9. For the following reasons, I conclude that the complaint should be dismissed without prejudice.

         Background

         The following facts are alleged in the complaint and are accepted as true only for purposes of this initial ruling. On July 30, 2015, Fowler appeared before the Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford and pleaded guilty to forgery in the second degree and interfering with an officer. Doc. #1 at 3 (¶ 10). The court entered a three year suspended prison term, as well as three years of probation. Ibid. Fowler had entered into the plea under a stipulation that the probation supervision would be transferred to his home State of New York, which both the prosecutor and state court accepted. Ibid. However, Fowler's probation was never transferred to New York. Ibid.

         On September 15, 2015, Fowler traveled from New York City to Stamford and met with Probation Officers Parsons and Rodriguez and his attorney, Benjamin Aponte. Doc. #1 at 3 (¶ 11). Fowler notified Parsons and Rodriguez that he was going to record their conversation, and both defendants permitted the recording. Id. at 4 (¶ 12). Parsons and Rodriguez then told Fowler that the state court did not have jurisdiction to approve the plea deal as it did, and that he must remain in Connecticut. Ibid. At the time, Fowler had a pending criminal case in New York City and had been released on bond. Ibid. The terms of his bond release prohibited him from living outside the State of New York. Ibid. When he informed Parsons and Rodriguez that he could not remain in Connecticut because of this condition, the officers told him that they “didn't care about him violating the conditions of his bond release” and again demanded that he stay in Connecticut. Ibid. (¶ 13).

         Fowler then informed Parsons and Rodriguez that he intended to withdraw his prior guilty plea in Connecticut because the terms of his plea agreement were not being met. Ibid. (¶ 14). Parsons and Rodriguez immediately threatened to “violate his probation if he even attempted to let the judge know what they said and/or try to [withdraw] his plea.” Id. at 4-5 (¶ 14). In an attempt to fully understand the officers, Fowler asked, “So let me get this straight. Y'all are gonna violate me for probation for me wanting to exercise my legal right to take my plea back because the terms of my plea agreement [are] not being met, ” and both officers answered in the affirmative. Id. at 5 (¶ 15). The officers' statements were made in the presence of Fowler's counsel and recorded on Fowler's iPhone. Ibid.

         The following morning, September 16, 2015, Fowler called the officers' supervisors, Grant and Roberge, and told them about the threats made regarding his probation, which he had recorded. Id. at 5-6 (¶¶ 16-18). When he asked Grant and Roberge for their assistance, the officials said to him, “We don't believe you. Our staff wouldn't do such a thing, [and] there's nothing we can do for you but [to] tell you to file a complaint with the human resource[s] department if you feel that our staff has done something wrong.” Id. at 6 (¶ 18).

         Later that day, Parsons and Rodriguez charged Fowler with violating the terms of his probation. Id. at 5 (¶ 16). Fowler was arrested without ever being served with the arrest warrant or any documentation explaining the reasons for the charge. Id. 6-7 (¶¶ 19-20).

         A violation of probation hearing was held on November 4, 2015, and concluded on November 19, 2015. Id. at 7 (¶ 20). Following the hearing, the state court found Fowler guilty of violating his probation and ordered him to serve the three-year suspended sentence in prison. Ibid. (¶ 21). Fowler's direct appeal and later habeas challenges to his probation revocation have all been denied. See State v. Fowler, 178 Conn.App. 332 (2017) (rejecting claims on direct appeal), cert. to appeal denied, 327 Conn. 999 (2018); Fowler v. Comm'r of Correction, 2017 WL 3000706, at *1 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2017) (denying state habeas corpus petition); Fowler v. Semple, 18cv86 (D. Conn. 2018) (denying federal habeas corpus petition). Fowler has served the sentence and now lives in New York. Doc. #8.

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review Fowler'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.” Because Fowler is proceeding pro se, the allegations of his 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).

         Fowler contends that Parsons and Rodriguez violated his First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection rights by threatening to revoke his probation for exercising his right to withdraw his plea, and then carrying out that threat. Doc. #1 at 8 (¶ 22). He is suing Grant and Roberge on the same constitutional grounds for failing to take any corrective action when he notified them about Parsons's and Rodriguez's actions. Ibid. (¶ 23). Finally, Fowler is suing the City of Stamford and the CSSD for failing to train and supervise the other defendants. Id. at 8-9 (¶ 24).

         Claims ...


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