United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JAMES L. PENA, Plaintiff,
COUNSELOR SUPERVISOR ALDI, ET AL. Defendants.
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
A. Dooley United States District Judge
plaintiff, James L. Pena (“Pena”), is currently
confined at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution
(“Corrigan”). He has filed a civil rights
complaint against Counselor Supervisor Aldi, Unit Manager
Tammaro, Captain Kelly, Lieutenant Bragdon, Correctional
Officers Nichols, John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 and Mental
Health Worker J. Baennan. He alleges that during his
confinement at Corrigan from January to November 2018, the
defendants were deliberately indifferent to his safety and
health and used excessive force against him. For the reasons
set forth below, the complaint is dismissed in part.
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).
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
January 2018, Pena, then a pretrial detainee, was confined in
B-Pod, a Security Risk Group unit at Corrigan. See
Compl. at 3 ¶ 1 & at 4 ¶ 7. On January 4, 2018,
Pena sent a request to Unit Manager Tammaro seeking to be
transferred from B-Pod to general population or to protective
custody because he felt his safety was at risk. See
Id. He contended that his continued presence in the
Security Risk Group unit might result in harm to his health
or jeopardize his safety because he was no longer a member of
the Bloods gang and because of the nature of the criminal
charges, sexual assault in the second degree, pending against
him. See Id. & at 8 ¶¶ 33-34. He
claimed that the Bloods gang had targeted him for assault or
serious harm. See Id. On January 8, 2018, Unit
Manager Tammaro responded that he was tired of talking about
the issue and instructed Pena to contact Counselor Supervisor
Aldi. See Id. at 4 ¶ 8.
January 6, 2018 and January 15, 2018, Pena spoke to Counselor
Supervisor Aldi in person and sent him a written request
documenting his concerns about remaining in the Security Risk
Group unit and seeking to be transferred to general
population or to protective custody. See Id. ¶
11. Counselor Supervisor Aldi sent Pena a written response to
his requests indicating that he would remain in the Security
Risk Group unit. See id.
filed a grievance regarding the responses of Counselor
Supervisor Aldi and Unit Manager Tammaro to his concerns for
his safety and his requests to be transferred to general
population or to protective custody. See Id. ¶
12. He did not receive a response to his grievance. See
Id. at 4-5 ¶ 12.
January-16-2018/February, ” Counselor Supervisor Aldi
toured of B-Pod. See Id. at 5 ¶ 16. Pena
informed Aldi that his presence in B-Pod could result in a
life-threatening injury and requested to be placed in
protective custody. See Id. Counselor Supervisor
Aldi indicated that Pena would be staying in B-Pod. See
Id. Pena claims that Counselor Supervisor Aldi was aware
that other correctional officers had treated him
“cruelly” due to the fact that he had been
charged with sexual assault. See Id. ¶ 18.
8, 2018, officials sent Pena to the restrictive housing unit
because he had threatened a correctional officer. See
Id. ¶ 19. Upon his release from the restrictive
housing unit, prison officials placed Pena in E-Pod, a
Security Risk Group unit. See id. On June 29, 2018,
Pena sent a written request to Captain Kelly claiming that
his continued presence in the Security Risk Group unit might
result in harm to his health or jeopardize his safety because
the gang of which he was formerly a member had targeted him
for assault or serious harm and because of the nature of the
criminal charge, sexual assault in the second degree, pending
against him. See id. at 5-6 ¶ 19. Captain Kelly
responded that he would visit Pena and mentioned something
about Counselor Supervisor Aldi telling him “unless
[Pena] g[a]ve him a name.” See Id. at 6 ¶
November 14, 2018, another inmate, who was a member of a
gang, assaulted Pena in the Day Room in E-Pod. See
Id. ¶ 20. The inmate stated that he had assaulted
Pena because Pena was a non-gang member with a rape charge.
See Id. The inmate commented that he was also
“being set up by John Aldi” and that Pena
“couldn't live [in the unit] with a sex
charge.” See Id. ¶ 21.
Nichols, John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 responded to the scene
of the altercation and secured Pena against the wall. See
Id. ¶ 22. Pena was compliant with all orders given
by Officers Nichols, John Doe #1 and John Doe #2. See
Id. At some point, Officers Nichols, John Doe #1 and
John Doe #2 slammed Pena to the floor. See Id. As
Pena lay pinned to the floor, Officer Nichols secured his
left arm by pulling it behind his back and “beyond its
limitation.” See Id. Officer Nichols then
twisted Pena's wrist, punched him in the ribs and called
him a rapist. See id.
John Doe #1 put his knee into Pena's lower back and used
unnecessary force to press Pena's face to the ground.
See Id. at 7 ¶ 23. Officer John Doe #2 secured
Pena's right arm by pulling it behind his back and
“beyond it[s] limitation, ” twisted Pena's
wrist and punched him in the ribs. See Id. ¶
24. Lieutenant Bragdon was present at the scene and
supervised the use of force by Officers Nichols, John Doe #1
and John Doe #2. See Id. ¶ 25. After Officers
Nichols, John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 had restrained Pena and
placed him in handcuffs, Lieutenant Bragdon sprayed Pena in
the face with mace/pepper spray. See Id. at 4 ¶
8. When Pena questioned why Lieutenant Bragdon had sprayed
him with mace and stated that he could not breathe,
Lieutenant Bragdon told Pena to stop complaining and
threatened to spray him again. See Id. ¶¶
medical staff member treated Pena for a swollen and bruised
face, cuts on the side of his nose and lip, a busted lip, a
black eye and bruises and cuts on his wrists. See
Id. at 8 ¶ 30. Prison officials placed Pena in the
restrictive housing unit and issued him disciplinary report
for fighting. See Id. ¶ 31.
November 15, 2018, Pena filed a request and a grievance
regarding the assault. See Id. ¶ 32. On
November 16, 2018, Pena met with Captain Kelly and stated
that the incident involving his assault could have been
avoided had prison officials placed him in protective custody
at an earlier date. See Id. ¶ 33. Pena asked to
be placed in protective custody. See Id. Captain
Kelly indicated that he would help Pena, if Pena gave him
information on the Bloods gang. See Id. Pena stated
that he was no longer a member of the Bloods gang and that
after his arrest, members of the gang had targeted him for
assault or serious harm. See Id. ¶ 34.
Captain Kelly indicated that he had reviewed the video
footage of the incident involving the assault and that it
looked like Pena had been set up. See Id. ¶ 35.
He asked Pena who had set him up and Pena stated that he did
not know. See Id. Captain Kelly indicated that he
would “see what he [could] do for [Pena].”
submitted additional requests and grievances claiming that
his continued presence in the Security Risk Group unit would
result in a serious harm to his health, Officers Nichols,
John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 had used excessive force against
him and Counselor Supervisor Aldi and Unit Manager Tammaro
had failed to take action in response to his complaints of
threats to his safety prior to his assault by a gang member.
See Id. ¶ 36. He requested to be placed in
protective custody. See Id. He submitted a separate
request to the mental health unit indicating that he was
experiencing emotional distress and would like to be seen.
See Id. at 9 ¶ 37. A mental health worker by
the name of J. Baennan responded to Pena's request and
indicated that the mental health department could not
“assist in this issue” and suggested that if he
was concerned for his safety, he should write to a custody
official to request that he be placed in protective custody.
See Id. ¶ 38.
November 26, 2018, pursuant to Pena's plea of guilty to
the charge of sexual assault in the second degree, a Superior
Court Judge sentenced Pena to ten years of imprisonment,
execution suspended after five years of imprisonment and
followed by ten years of probation.On that same date, Captain
Kelly informed Pena that he would be transferred to
MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution
(“MacDougall-Walker”) and placed in phase two of
the Security Risk Group program. See Id. ¶ 40.
Pena questioned why prison officials were transferring him to
a Security Risk Group unit with more restrictive conditions
of confinement. See Id. Captain Kelly indicated that
Pena was complaining too much and attempting to “get
some of his good friend[s] in trouble.” See
November 29, 2018, prison officials at Corrigan transferred
Pena to MacDougall-Walker and placed him the Security Risk
Group unit on “N.I.C. status.” See Id.
¶ 42. Mental health staff members at MacDougall-Walker
examined Pena and diagnosed him as suffering from
post-traumatic stress disorder. See Id. ¶ 43.
asserts claims of excessive force, failure to protect him
from harm and deliberate indifference/cruel and unusual
punishment under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments. The allegations are also construed as
asserting a First Amendment retaliation claim against Captain
Kelly. Pena asserts state law claims of ...