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Lexis v. Bellemare

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 15, 2019

BELLEMARE, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Patrick Lexis is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC). He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against four DOC officials. He principally alleges that his constitutional rights were violated when he was wrongfully accused and disciplined for a gang affiliation on the basis of a letter he wrote. I will allow some of Lexis's claims to proceed against some of the defendants.


         The complaint names the following four defendants: Lieutenant Bellemare, Lieutenant Ebgrle, Correctional Officer Lorenzen, and Jhon Aldi. Doc. #1 at 1. The following facts are alleged in the complaint and are accepted as true only for purposes of this initial ruling.

         On February 6, 2018, at about 8:00 am, Lexis was preparing for recreation at Radgowski Correctional Institution when four correctional officers entered his housing unit. Doc. #1 at 5. Lorenzen asked if his name was Lexis, and he said yes. He was then taken to the “AP” room, where Bellemare instructed him to remove his clothing, bend at the waist, and spread his buttocks. In five years of incarceration, Lexis had never been asked to do this. Prior searches had only involved squatting and coughing. Bellemare repeated the order two more times before Lexis complied. When he did, a couple of officers snickered. Id. at 6.

         Following the search, Bellemare took Lexis's state-issued glasses, causing him to experience migraines and blurred vision. Id. at 8. Lexis is blind without his glasses. He did not get his glasses back for two weeks. Id. at 10.

         At 10:00 am, Bellemare returned and told Lexis that he was receiving a disciplinary report for security risk group involvement. Id. at 8, 19 (copy of the disciplinary report). The disciplinary report was written by Lorenzen on the basis of his review of an outgoing letter written by Lexis.[1] Lorenzen's report stated that he had “reviewed an outgoing letter authored by Inmate Lexis, Patrick #370866 in accordance with Administrative Directive 10.7 and State regulations 18-81-28 to 18-81-51.” Id. at 19. In the letter, Lexis wrote the following words: “He kept trying to play me in front of everybody belittlen' me and a few bros. Plus he was Stack 9. So, you know bro, I lead heads follow we beat flames out of him.” Ibid.

         Lorenzen interpreted these sentences as a reference to a fight that Lexis was involved in at a different facility and as evidence of Lexis “referring to himself as a leader by writing that when he leads others will follow him.” Ibid. Lorenzen further noted that “Stack 9” is an “identifier uniquely associated with the SRG [Security Risk Group] Bloods which means snitch, ” and concluded that the letter “shows his involvement and leadership with the SRG Bloods.” Ibid. “For behaving in this manner uniquely associated with the SRG Bloods Inmate Lexis is in direct violation of AD 9.5 Security Risk Group Affiliation.” Ibid.

         The report reflects that it was reviewed and approved by Bellemare on February 6, 2018. Ibid. A box is checked on the form for “Administrative Detention” but does not indicate that Lexis was interviewed. Ibid.

         After Bellemare told Lexis that he was receiving a disciplinary report, Lexis was transferred to a restrictive housing unit. He informed the medical staff there that he struggled with depression. Id. at 8.

         The following morning, Lorenzen told Lexis that he would be designated a security risk group member and sent to Phase 1 of the Security Group Risk Program at Northern Correctional Institution because of the disciplinary report. Ibid. Lorenzen told him that if he did not admit to the charge in the report, he would still be sent to Northern but would also receive sanctions of 90 days loss of phone, recreation, and commissary. Id. at 8-9 Lexis felt “forced” and with “Lorenzen coercing me due to his threats, ” he “ended up grabbing the pen, ” and “Lorenzen became elated when I start[ed] writing him a statement.” Id. at 9.

         On February 15, 2018, Lexis attended a disciplinary hearing before Lieutenant Ebgrle in his capacity as a disciplinary hearing officer (DHO). Id. at 9, 20. He pleaded guilty to the disciplinary charge without presenting any witnesses and refusing an advisor. Ibid. The disciplinary hearing form reflects the imposition of certain sanctions that are not readily intelligible. Id. at 20.

         On February 27, 2018, Lexis was sent to solitary confinement at the supermax unit at Northern Correctional Institution. Id. at 9. “I was sent to NCI Supermax without a hearing called an SRG Review Committee.” Ibid. Lexis remained in solitary confinement at NCI for nearly three months from February 27 to May 24, 2018. Id. at 14.

         The complaint alleges seven counts, some of which combine different claims of legal violations. Count One alleges that defendants Bellemare and Lorenzen violated the Fourth and Eighth Amendments when Lexis was required to bend and spread his buttocks as well as when Bellemare took his glasses away from him. Id. at 10.[2]

         Count Two alleges that Lorenzen violated the Due Process Clause by opening and censoring his outgoing mail. It further alleges that Bellemare and Ebgrle were supervisors who “failed to see this depravity, ” and that Lexis was “put in segregation without due process.” Id. at 10-11.

         Count Three alleges that Lorenzen was “completely wrong in saying that stack 9 is behavior uniquely associated with SRG bloods” and that he violated the First Amendment by “decid[ing] to charge with a false SRG affiliation because of one word” and the use of terms that were not “fighting words.” Id. at 11-12.

         Count Four alleges that Lorenzen penalized Lexis despite the fact that his prison facility “does not have any rules published on words that are prohibited” or “a rule for using words that c/o Lorenzen claims were uniquely associated with SRG Bloods.” Id. at 12-13.

         Count Five alleges that Lorenzen violated the First Amendment because he “censored my outgoing mail due to my communication with an alleged gang member” and “by prohibiting my outgoing mail from reaching the addresse[e].” Id. at 13.

         Count Six alleges that Ebgrle violated the Due Process Clause by not screening him for his mental health needs prior to subjecting him to solitary confinement at Northern Correctional Institution for three months from February 27 to May 24, 2018, and also for crediting the disciplinary report written by Lorenzen without doing any investigation. At the time he was placed in solitary confinement, he was “exhibiting psychosis[-]like symptoms like talking to [him]self, clapping loudly for no reason & laughing hysterically.” Id. at 14.

         Count Seven alleges that Lorenzen falsified the disciplinary report-that “he knew that the word ‘Stack 9' along could not stick, so he fabricated and falsely stated” in the report that Lexis was referring to himself a gang leader. Lexis alleges that his reference to “I lead heads follow” was to a “particular quote derived from a book on Jimmy Hoffa” and that he was “inspired by his chutzpah and thought it sounded cool saying it in a letter.” Id. at 15.

         Lexis seeks injunctive relief in the form of an order that “throw[s] the SRG ticket out and return[s] him to a level 2 prison.” Id. at 17. He also ...

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