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Ayuso v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 14, 2019

SCOTT SEMPLE et al., Defendants.


          Jeffrey Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.

          Plaintiff Geovanni Ayuso is a sentenced prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed this lawsuit alleging a violation of his constitutional rights in connection with a disciplinary hearing and his conditions of confinement. Based on my initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I conclude that Ayuso has failed to allege a plausible claim for a violation of his due process rights but that he has alleged a plausible claim against two of the defendants for violation of his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.


         Ayuso is incarcerated at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. Doc. #8. He brings this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following 11 defendants in their individual and official capacities: Scott Semple, Edward Maldonado, Christine Whidden, John Aldi, William Mulligan, William Faneuff, Warden Rodriguez, Lieutenant Congelos, Lieutenant Roy, Correctional Officer Legassy, and Correctional Officer Michaud.[1] He claims that these defendants violated his rights to due process and subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement.

         The following allegations as alleged in the complaint are accepted as true solely for the purposes of the Court's initial review. On May 5, 2017, after spending nine years in security risk group (SRG) segregation, Ayuso renounced his membership in the Almighty Latin King Queen Nation gang (Latin Kings), and he was released from segregation and placed in general population at MacDougall. Doc. #1 at 7-8 (¶¶ 18-21).

         On August 10, 2017, defendant Legassy informed Ayuso that he would be conducting a random cell search and told Ayuso, “you're going to SRG tonight Prieto.” Id. at 8 (¶¶ 22, 24). Legassy did not target any other cells during his random shakedown. Ibid. (¶ 23). Several hours later, an officer placed Ayuso in the restrictive housing unit (RHU) at MacDougall. Id. (¶ 25). Before the shift change that day, a correctional officer delivered a disciplinary report to Ayuso. Ibid. (¶ 26).

         This disciplinary report was written by Legassy and stated that when he “shook down O-40 cell” that morning, he “found SRG Latin King materials inside an envelope addressed to Inmate Ayuso, Giovanni.” Doc. #1 at 71. Legassy further stated that “[t]he bag the envelope was found in was also found in Inmate Ayuso's storage locker cell, ” and that the Latin King materials “also had the name Prieto written on the back of them.” Ibid. “Inmate Ayuso's known alias is Prieto.” Ibid. Defendant Roy signed off on the disciplinary report as the custody supervisor/unit manager. Ibid.

         In his role as a disciplinary investigator, defendant Michaud met with Ayuso in RHU to discuss the SRG affiliation disciplinary report. Id. at 9 (¶ 29).[2] Michaud informed Ayuso that he would need to see a disciplinary hearing officer (DHO) about his disciplinary report. Ibid. (¶ 30).

         Ayuso refused an advocate, but told Michaud that, per the requirements of the DOC Administrative Directive, he wanted to see the evidence supporting the SRG charge at least 24 hours before the hearing and to present a written statement in his defense. Id. at 9 (¶¶ 31-32). But Michaud refused to allow Ayuso to review the alleged evidence or provide a statement for his defense. Id. at 10 (¶ 35).

         On August 25, 2017, Ayuso appeared for a first hearing before a DHO (one who is not named as a defendant in this action). Ibid. (¶ 37). After Ayuso expressed his concern that he had not been given an opportunity to review the evidence, the DHO granted a continuance. Ibid. (¶¶ 38-40). The DHO said she would forward the evidence to Michaud to give to Ayuso to prepare his defense. Id. at 10-11 (¶ 41).

         On August 31, 2017, defendant DHO Congelos convened a disciplinary hearing on the basis of the disciplinary report. Id. at 11 (¶ 42). After Ayuso told Congelos that Michaud had never given him the evidence against him to review, Michaud placed two sheets of paper in front of him and said, “There's your evidence Prieto.” Ibid. (¶ 44). At the hearing, Congelos then found Ayuso guilty despite the fact that Ayuso denied that he wrote or possessed the Latin King materials. Ibid. (¶¶ 45-47).

         Congelos told Ayuso he was going to Phase One of SRG Segregation, and he did not advise Ayuso of his right to appeal. Ibid. (¶¶ 48-49). According to Ayuso, Congelos was not a member of the SRG review committee for initial phase placement, and he exceeded his duties and authority by directing that Ayuso be placed in the SRG Segregation unit. Id. at 12 (¶¶ 50-52).

         On September 12, 2017, Ayuso was transferred to SRG Segregation at Northern Correctional Institution, which is a supermax facility that houses Phase One of SRG Segregation. Id. at 13 (¶¶ 54, 56). At Northern, Ayuso was required to have his hands cuffed behind his back during recreation time, and he promptly lodged an inmate complaint on September 13 that this caused him pain. Ibid. (¶ 57); id. at 72 (inmate request form). The complaint was lodged with defendant Faneuff but Faneuff did not respond. Ibid. (¶¶ 57-58).

         On September 26, 2017, Ayuso filed a level 1 grievance, stating that he was required to wear handcuffs each time he went outside to recreate for an hour from Monday to Friday and that the handcuffs were causing such extreme pain to his back and shoulders that he could not sleep. Id. at 13, 14 (¶¶ 59, 62-63); see also Id. at 73. As to exercising inside his cell without handcuffs, Ayuso said that this would disturb his cell mates and surrounding cells. Id. at 14-15 (¶¶ 66, 68); see also Id. at 73. Faneuff did not respond to Ayuso's level 1 grievance. Id. at 13 (¶ 60).

         According to Ayuso, he was housed in Phase One of SRG Segregation until December 5, 2017, and he suffered every day. Id. at 14 (¶ 64). He alleges in substance that prison officials showed callous indifference to his need for exercise by requiring him to wear painful handcuffs during outside recreation periods. Id. at 14-16 (¶¶ 67-72).

         After being transferred back to MacDougall-Walker, he filed a complaint about his back pain on December 12, 2017, and then was seen by a nurse on December 17, 2017, who in turn placed him on a list to see the facility doctor for further evaluation. Id. at 16-17 (¶¶ 74-75). On January 9, 2018, a doctor saw Ayuso and determined that the pain was serious enough for pain medication. Id. at 17 ...

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