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Gray v. Nordstrom

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 21, 2019

BENNIE GRAY, Jr., Plaintiff,


          Kari A. Dooley, United States District Judge.

         Preliminary Statement

         The plaintiff, Bennie Gray, Jr. (“Gray”), is currently incarcerated at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution. He filed the instant complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Groton Police Officers Bridget Nordstrom and Emery, Norwich Parole Officer Belval, Groton Police Chief John Doe and Norwich District Parole Manager John Doe. Gray challenges the September 5, 2017 search of a car in which he was a passenger, the seizure of evidence from the car, his arrest on drug possession charges and his remand to the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction for a parole violation. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint is dismissed in part.

         Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the court must review prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors and “dismiss ... any portion of [a] complaint [that] is frivolous, malicious, or 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.” Id. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         Although detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when a plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A complaint that includes only “‘labels and conclusions,' ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' or ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement, '” does not meet the facial plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). Although courts still have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally, ” the complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).


         In the second week of August 2017, Gray participated in a scheduled parole meeting in New Britain with his Parole Officer, Ms. Lindley. See Compl. at 2 ¶ 11. Gray was in the process of trying to change his sponsor.[1] Ms. Lindley directed Gray to report to her at the New Britain Parole office on September 5, 2017. See Id. at 2 ¶ 13. Gray was driven to the meeting with Ms. Lindley by Bobby Jo Viger (“Viger”). See Id. at 3 ¶ 18. When Gray entered the office, Ms. Lindley placed him in handcuffs because his original sponsor no longer wanted to be his sponsor and because the Hartford Police Department had received a report that an individual “with the same name as Gray was seen in the city with a gun.” See Id. ¶¶ 15-16. Within a few minutes of placing Gray in handcuffs, Ms. Lindley learned that officers had taken the individual who had been seen with a gun into custody. See Id. ¶ 16. She immediately released Gray to return to Ms. Slaughter's home in Groton and informed Gray that Norwich parole officers would be visiting Ms. Slaughter's home. See id.

         New Britain parole officers searched Viger's vehicle while he was inside the parole office with Ms. Lindley. See Id. ¶ 17. The search revealed no illegal items. See Id. Viger drove Gray to Manchester Community College to retrieve some paperwork and then picked up Rachel Mead (“Mead”) in Willimantic. See Id. ¶ 18 & at 4 ¶ 27. Viger drove Mead and Gray from Willimantic to Groton. See Id. When Gray entered Groton, he called Zachary T. Steward to arrange a meeting to collect money that Steward owed to him. See Id. at 3 ¶¶ 19-20. Steward agreed to meet Gray at a Walgreen's store located near Ms. Slaughter's address on Long Hill Road in Groton. See Id. ¶ 20.

         Upon arriving at the Walgreen's, several plainclothes police officers, including Groton Police Officers Nordstrom and Emery, and Norwich Parole Officer Belval ran towards Gray's vehicle. See Id. ¶ 21 & at 5 ¶ 37. The officers removed Gray, Viger and Mead from the vehicle. See Id. at 3 ¶ 21. Officers at the scene, pat-searched Gray, Mead and Viger. See Id. ¶¶ 21-22. The searches revealed no illegal items. See Id. Officers placed Gray, Viger and Mead under investigatory detention. See Id. ¶ 21 & at 7 ¶ 48. Officer Nordstrom then entered Viger's vehicle without permission and placed a brown bag containing narcotics under the driver's seat. See Id. at 4 ¶ 23. Norwich Parole Officer Belval immediately remanded Gray into custody on the charge of possession of narcotics. See Id. Officers at the scene did not charge Viger or Mead with a criminal offense in connection with the narcotics which Officer Nordstrom had planted in Viger's vehicle. See Id. ¶ 25.

         The police report documenting the incident included allegations that on September 5, 2017, Gray had traveled to his family's home on Brandegee Avenue in Groton to pick up narcotics and then traveled to Long Hill Road in Groton to sell the narcotics. See Id. ¶ 26. The report also included a statement that prior to Gray's arrest, the New Britain Parole Office had notified the Groton Police Department that Gray was travelling in a vehicle driven by Viger. See Id. The Groton Town Police Northeastern Task Force also known as the Regional Community Enforcement Task Force (“Task Force”) had coordinated the drug transaction involving Gray. See id.

         In connection with his arrest for the offense of possession of narcotics, Gray moved for a speedy trial and provided the court or the prosecutor with the GPS information from his cellular phone which documented the routes and stops that Viger's vehicle had made after leaving the New Britain Parole Office with Gray as a passenger. See Id. ¶ 27. The State of Connecticut “entered a Nolle” dismissing the criminal charge against Gray because the State “did not want to disclose its confidential informant.” See Id. ¶ 29 & at 7 ¶ 48.

         The Board of Parole initiated a hearing to revoke Gray's release on parole because he had been arrested on a charge of drug possession. See Id. ¶¶ 23, 30. At Gray's revocation hearing, the Board of Parole found Gray guilty of violating a condition of his parole and revoked his term of parole. See Id. ¶ 30. The Board of Parole “sanctioned” Gray to serve six months of imprisonment prior to re-releasing him on parole. See Id. ¶ 31. Gray “grieved Parole's decision, but Parole refused to answer his grievance.” See id.


         Gray asserts the following claims: a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, a violation of the separation of powers doctrine embodied in the United States Constitution, deliberate indifference and negligence. See Id. at 4-7. He sues the Groton Police Chief and the Norwich District Parole Manager in their individual and official capacities and sues Groton Police Officers Bridget Nordstrom and Emery and Norwich Parole Officer Belval in their individual capacities only. See Id. at 1-2.

         Fourth ...

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