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Moon v. Blackman

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 24, 2019

SELDALE MOON, Plaintiff,
v.
BLACKMAN et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Seldale Moon is a prisoner of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Moon alleges that prison officials failed to protect him from a serious risk of harm by general population inmates when he was in protective custody status. Based on my initial review, I conclude that Moon has stated a plausible Fourteenth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to safety, and the complaint should be served on defendants in their individual capacities.

         Background

          Moon names the following defendants: Lieutenant Papoosha, Correctional Treatment Unit (CTU) Officer Blackman, CTU Officer Negron, Lieutenant Cox, and Correctional Officer Milling. The following allegations from Moon's complaint are assumed to be true solely for purposes of this initial ruling. On September 5, 2017, Moon submitted a request to Lieutenant Papoosha regarding his transportation from Bridgeport Correctional Center to a court proceeding on September 20, 2017. Doc. #1 at 6. In the request, Moon reminded Papoosha that he was a protective custody inmate and could not be transported with general population inmates due to safety and security concerns. Ibid. Moon received no response from Papoosha. Ibid.

         On September 20, 2017, Officer Milling escorted Moon to the arrival and processing area to be transported to court. Ibid. When Moon learned that he would be transported with general population inmates, he asked to speak to a mental health worker. Ibid. Milling indicated there were no mental health professionals available and refused to call for one. Ibid.

         A short time later, CTU Blackman arrived. Id. at 7. He announced Moon's protective custody status to the general population inmates in the area and asked Moon to state his name and inmate number out loud. Ibid. Moon noticed that all the general population inmates in the area turned to look at him. Ibid. Moon stated that he would not get on the van until he was able to speak to a lieutenant or shift commander and a mental health worker. Ibid. Blackman called Moon derogatory names, while CTU Officer Negron and other inmates in the area laughed at Moon. Ibid. Blackman informed Moon that if he refused to board the van, he would receive two disciplinary reports. Ibid.

         Moon complied and was shackled, loaded, and buckled into the front passenger seat of the van. Ibid. The general population inmates in the back of the van did not have seatbelts on. Ibid.

         As soon as officers closed the door of the van, the general population inmates began to threaten Moon and call him derogatory names, such as a protective custody “snitch” or a rapist. Ibid. Inmate Rinaldi, who was also confined in the van, spit on the back of Moon's neck and the side of Moon's face. Ibid. Moon screamed for assistance from two correctional treatment unit officers, but they ignored him. Ibid.

         Rinaldi then leaned over the passenger seat and threatened to physically harm Moon and continued to spit on him. Ibid. Moon felt he had no choice but to defend himself, and he bit Rinaldi. Id. at 8.

         In response to this conduct, Blackman entered the van, verbally threatened Moon, removed him from the van, and escorted him back to the arrival and processing area. Ibid. Lieutenant Cox was present in the arrival and processing area and informed Moon that “if [he] wasn't so much of a PC Bitch [he] wouldn't be scared to be around General Population inmates.” Ibid. After Moon reminded him that protective custody inmates are to be kept separate from general population inmates, Cox announced that “in order to [p]rotect our asses, we are pressing outside charges against you.” Ibid. Moon asked to press charges for being assaulted and spit upon, but Cox refused to assist Moon with the request. Ibid. Cox instructed Milling to place Moon in a cell in the arrival and processing room. Ibid.

         Prison officials did not provide Moon with medical treatment. Ibid. An hour later, an officer escorted Moon to an office and a Connecticut State Trooper formally charged Moon in connection with the incident in the prison van. Ibid. Moon informed the State Trooper that he sought to press assault charges against Rinaldi. Ibid. Cox and Blackman informed the State Trooper that it would be impossible to prove that Rinaldi spit on Moon. The State Trooper chose not to recommend that an assault charge be filed against Rinaldi. Ibid. After the State Trooper left, an officer removed Moon's shackles, and a mental health worker examined him. Ibid. Moon was then placed in a cell in the segregation unit. Ibid. Moon claims that he suffered “physical assault and [m]ental anguish” from the incident. Id. at 9.

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity or 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.” The complaint of a prisoner proceeding pro se “must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that [it] suggest[s].” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         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 ...


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