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Mercado v. Rinaldi

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 11, 2019

RAUDELL MERCADO, Plaintiff,
v.
MONICA RINALDI, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          Kari A. Dooley, United States District Judge.

         Preliminary Statement

         Plaintiff, Raudell Mercado (“Mercado”), currently confined at Hartford Correctional Center in Hartford, Connecticut, filed this complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, although counsel has since appeared for the Plaintiff. Mercado contends that the defendants, Deputy Commissioner Monica Rinaldi and Does 1-10, have violated his rights to procedural and substantive due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Mercado also asserts state law claims for violation of his rights under Article first, sections 8 and 9 of the Connecticut Constitution and for intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress. Although Mercado describes the action as seeking damages and injunctive relief, he includes only requests for compensatory and punitive damages in the prayer for relief. The complaint was received on June 12, 2019, and Mercado's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on June 19, 2019.

         Standard of Review

         Under section 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, the Court must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that 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. In reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them liberally to “raise the strongest arguments [they] suggest[].” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants). Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         Allegations

         On November 11, 2017, Mercado was incarcerated as a pretrial detainee at the New Haven Correctional Center.[1] Doc. No. 1, ¶ 11. He asked Officer Smith, the officer manning the control station, for tissues. Officer Smith said there was no tissue. Id., ¶¶ 12-13. Mercado then grabbed some paper towels and Officer Smith got “in plaintiff's face.” Id., ¶ 14.

         Mercado laughed at Officer Smith's response. Officer Smith said he had no time for Mercado and again got in Mercado's face. Mercado assumes this was an attempt to provoke Mercado to initiate a physical altercation. Id., ¶ 15. Mercado noticed that Officer Smith's hand was near his body alarm. If Officer Smith had activated the alarm, other correctional officers would have been alerted to an assault on staff. Id., ¶ 16. Mercado did not “take the bait.” Instead, he began walking away to try to deescalate the situation. Id., ¶ 17. Officer Smith violently pushed Mercado as a further act of provocation. Id., ¶ 18.

         Mercado contacted the state police, made coffee, and returned to his cell. Id., ¶ 19. At no time, did Officer Smith activate his body alarm. Id., ¶ 20. No. audible alarm was sounded to signal an assault on staff. Id., ¶ 21. After Mercado called the state police to report an assault by Officer Smith, two correctional officers and a lieutenant entered Mercado's cell and told him that he was being immediately taken to Punitive Segregation for allegedly assaulting staff. Id., ¶ 23.

         Before the transfer, Mercado was taken to the medical unit because he previously had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the officers feared that Mercado would engage in self-harm. Id., ¶ 24. The state police arrived while Mercado was in the medical unit. He described the assault by Officer Smith to the state police. Id., ¶¶ 25-26. Mercado received a disciplinary charge for assaulting an officer. He spent fourteen days in Punitive Segregation. Id., ¶ 27.

         On November 19, 2017, Mercado attended the disciplinary hearing for the charge of assaulting Officer Smith. Although Mercado pled not guilty, the hearing officer found him guilty of the charge. Mercado was sanctioned with time in Punitive Segregation. Id., ¶ 31.

         Following the hearing, Deputy Warden Stacy Memora submitted an Administrative Segregation packet. The request to place Mercado in Administrative Segregation was granted. Id., ¶ 32. On November 23, 2017, Mercado was transferred to Northern Correctional Institution. Upon his arrival he was placed on behavioral observation status and his property was confiscated. Id., ¶ 33.

         A hearing on Mercado's placement in Administrative Segregation was held on December 3, 2017. Id., ¶ 34. Hearing Officer Tugi recommended that Mercado's placement be suspended. He found there was insufficient evidence that Mercado actually assaulted Officer Smith. Id., ¶ 35. Director of Population Management Maiga overruled the decision. Id., ¶ 36. Mercado promptly appealed the decision to overrule the hearing officer and continue Mercado in Administrative Segregation. He submitted the appeal to the Deputy Commissioner's Office. Id., ¶ 37.

         Neither defendant Rinaldi nor anyone from her office responded to Mercado's appeal for 11 months. Id., ΒΆ 39. Mercado sent several reminder letters to defendant Rinaldi's office requesting action on his appeal. He received no response to his ...


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