United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
MICHAEL P. SHEA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Joe Baltas, currently incarcerated at the Souza-Baranowski
Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, filed this
case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff sues five
employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction:
Lieutenant Hector Rivera, Lieutenant Harris, Counselor
Scheaffer, Captain Ernesteine Green, and Warden Allison
Black. He contends that the defendants violated his rights
under the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
The plaintiff seeks a prejudgment remedy, compensatory
damages, “spoliation sanctions, ” punitive
damages, costs, attorney's fees, and an order that the
Officer of the U.S. Attorney investigate his allegations for
any criminal wrongdoing.
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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This requirement
applies to all prisoner filings regardless whether the
prisoner pays the filing fee. Nicholson v.
Lenczewski, 356 F.Supp.2d 157, 159 (D. Conn. 2005)
(citing Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115 (2d Cir. 1999)
(per curiam)). Here, the plaintiff is proceeding in forma
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 plausible 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. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
courts must interpret a pro se complaint liberally, the
complaint will be dismissed unless it includes sufficient
factual allegations to meet the standard of facial
plausibility.” See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d
66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).
April 20, 2018, the plaintiff was placed on Chronic
Discipline status. Prison directives provide that an inmate
may be removed from Chronic Discipline status if he remains
disciplinary report free for 90 days. The plaintiff's
last disciplinary report was issued on July 19, 2018, and he
was released from Chronic Discipline status in October 2018.
ECF No. 1. ¶ 20.
November 8, 2018, the plaintiff was transferred to
Massachusetts under an interstate compact agreement.
Id. On November 30, 2018, the plaintiff was returned
to Connecticut to attend court. He was admitted to Hartford
Correctional Center (“HCC”). Id., ¶
Rivera is the unit manager of the restrictive housing units
(“RHU”) at HCC. Id., ¶ 22. After
the plaintiff was processed, defendant Rivera told him that
he would be placed in a restrictive housing unit because of
his Chronic Discipline status. In restrictive housing, the
plaintiff would be unable to receive visits or social mail,
would receive only one hour of recreation five days per week,
would be permitted only three showers per week, and would be
denied telephone access because of an outstanding
disciplinary sanction. Id., ¶ 23. The plaintiff
told defendant Rivera that he had been taken off Chronic
Discipline status before he left Connecticut. The plaintiff
also stated that, even if he had been on Chronic Discipline
status, a new hearing would be required before he could be
returned to Chronic Discipline status. Id., ¶
Rivera stated that he, not the plaintiff, dictates treatment.
Id., ¶ 25. The plaintiff was placed in RHU
South Block, which housed inmates classified as Security Risk
Group members, Special Needs, and Protective Custody. The
plaintiff was denied rights and privileges he would have had
in general population, such as social activities, exercise,
visits, and communication. Id., ¶ 26.
December 3, 2018, a protective custody/security risk group
inmate falsely accused the plaintiff of throwing urine on him
through a secure and sealed door. The plaintiff and other
inmates submitted written statements that the accusation was
false. Id., ¶ 27. A lieutenant responded to the
unit and stated that defendant Rivera had been contacted and
ordered that the plaintiff be placed in segregation. After
“some verbal controversy, ” the plaintiff was
moved to the segregation unit. Id., ¶ 28.
December 5, 2018, defendant Rivera threatened the plaintiff
with physical harm and reiterated his position that he
dictated the plaintiff's life at HCC. Id.,
¶ 29. The plaintiff submitted request forms to various
administrators at HCC and requested preservation of video
surveillance footage. Id., ¶ 30. Defendant
Green came to the housing unit and told the plaintiff that he
would receive no responses to his requests and that video
surveillance footage would not be preserved. Id.,
December 7, 2018, defendant Rivera ordered the plaintiff to
move to another cell in the segregation unit. The new cell
had a crack in the exterior wall, exposing the interior of
the cell to the elements. As it was winter, the new cell was
very cold. The move was intended to harass the plaintiff.
Id., ¶ 32. The plaintiff refused to move and
asked to speak with a supervisor. Id., ¶ 33.
Rivera threatened to deploy a chemical agent and beat the
plaintiff over the head stating “you['re] going to
learn you're my bitch today.” Id., ¶
34. The plaintiff felt fearful and anxious. He decided to do
what he could to prevent the defendant Rivera from using
force against him. Id., ¶ 35. The plaintiff
then stated that he agreed to be moved, but when defendant
Rivera opened the trap in the cell door, the plaintiff threw
a cup of cold water at defendant Rivera. The plaintiff
assumed that defendant Rivera would then remove himself from
the situation and have a different supervisor respond to the
incident. Id., ¶ 36. But defendant Rivera did
not remove himself and remained in command of the situation.
Id., ¶ 37.
plaintiff then covered his window, believing this would cause
other staff to respond and record the incident. Id.,
¶ 38. Several officers responded and defendant Harris
began to record the incident on a hand-held video-camera.
Id., ¶ 39. Under defendant Rivera's
supervision, the officers began planned use of force
procedures. The plaintiff repeatedly stated that defendant
Rivera had threatened him and that he only wanted a captain
or administrator to come to the unit. None of the officers,
including specifically defendant Harris, interceded to stop
the procedures or called a supervisor. Id.,
Rivera ordered the use force against the plaintiff.
Id., ¶ 42. The plaintiff held his mattress
against the trap and continued to request a supervisor.
Id., ¶ 43. Defendant Rivera began to personally
use force against the plaintiff in violation of prison
directives. Id., ¶ 44. Defendant Rivera used
the Barricade Obstruction Tool (“BOT”), a long
metal cylindrical object designed to push aside obstructions
and deploy a chemical agent. He deliberately and forcefully
struck the plaintiff several times with the BOT.
Id., ¶ 45.
chemical agent was disbursed, the plaintiff stated that he
was asthmatic and had a history of negative reactions to the
chemical agent. Defendant Rivera denied this and deployed
more of the chemical agent into the cell. Id.,
¶ 46. He ignored the plaintiff's documented medical
condition. Id., ¶ 47.
the incident, the plaintiff stated that he feared defendant
Rivera and would comply if a supervisor were present. Rather
than intervening, defendant Harris encouraged defendant
Rivera in the use of force. Id., ¶ 48. After
being struck several times with the BOT, the plaintiff again
requested a supervisor. Defendant Rivera denied the request
saying, “You don't dictate here” and
“You're gonna learn today.” He then continued
to strike the plaintiff and deploy the chemical agent.
Id., ¶ 49.
chemical agent finally overwhelmed the plaintiff causing him
to leave the cell. Id., ¶ 51. The plaintiff
submitted to restraints. Id., ¶ 52. Defendant
Rivera ordered use of a safety veil which should only be
utilized when there is an immediate threat of the inmate
spitting at staff. Id., ¶ 53. The plaintiff
alleges there was no such threat. Id. Because of the
veil, the plaintiff could not be properly decontaminated.
Id., ¶¶ 54-55. Defendant Rivera then
ordered the plaintiff's placement in in-cell restraints
consisting of handcuffs and shackles connected by a tether
chain. The restraints were not necessary as the plaintiff
remained calm and compliant. Id., ¶ 56.
Defendant Rivera shortened the tether chain to cause the
plaintiff discomfort and pain, an action expressly prohibited
by correctional policy and procedures. He instructed the
camera operator to hold the camera high so this action would
not be recorded. Id., ¶ 57.
plaintiff remained in in-cell restraints for 24 hours. The
cell did not have an operable toilet and the light remained
on all day and night. The plaintiff experienced pain from the
restraints and chemical agent. Id., ¶ 58.
Defendant Harris conducted the required restraint checks. She
refused to remove the restraints or permit medical staff to
enter the cell to check the restraints. Id., ¶
59. She also ordered the unit officers to falsify documents
to indicate that the plaintiff was non-compliant.
Id., ¶ 60.
plaintiff was removed from the restraints on December 8, 2018
and placed in the cell that was exposed to the elements. In
addition to cold temperatures, the toilet did not flush,
there was no running hot water in the sink, and the light
remained on all day and night. The constant light was at
defendant Rivera's order. Id., ¶ 61. The
plaintiff submitted requests to the warden and administrative
captain about the incidents and requested preservation of
video surveillance recordings. Id., ¶ 62.
December 11, 2018, the plaintiff spoke with Warden Black when
she toured the unit. He described the incidents and the
refusal to process prior requests. Defendant Black stated
that defendant Rivera and the other officers had her full
support. Id., ¶ 63.
December 12, 2018, the plaintiff observed defendant Rivera
use a chemical agent on inmate Jumpp. After removing inmate
Jumpp from the cell, defendant Rivera had inmate Jumpp's
cellmate moved to a different cell because the cell was
contaminated with the chemical agent. Id., ¶
64. Defendant Rivera then ordered the plaintiff to move to
the contaminated cell. Id., ¶ 65.
the plaintiff refused to move and requested a supervisor.
Lieutenant Fields responded. After the plaintiff explained
the various issues asserted in this complaint, Lieutenant
Fields said he would raise defendant Rivera's conduct
with HCC administration but required the plaintiff to move to
the contaminated cell. He did order that the plaintiff be
given cleaning supplies to clean the cell. Id.,
¶ 66. The plaintiff cleaned the cell even though he had
no training for this type of cleaning and was not paid for
cleaning his cell. Id., ¶ 67.
December 13, 2018, the plaintiff filed multiple grievances.
Defendant Scheaffer, the Administrative Remedies Coordinator,
came to the unit and told the plaintiff that she would not
process any of his grievances because he would be returning
to Massachusetts. Id., ¶ 68. The following day,
the plaintiff complained to defendants Black and Green about
denial of access to the grievance process. Id.,
¶ 69. He again spoke with defendant Black on December
17, 2018. She said his complaints did not matter as he was
“going back soon.” Id., ¶ 70.
plaintiff returned to Massachusetts on December 18, 2018.
Id., ¶ 71. On January 3, 2019, the plaintiff
returned to Connecticut for court. Again, he was housed at
HCC. Id., ¶ 72.
Rivera told the plaintiff that he would be held in
segregation on Administrative Detention Status based on his
“out of state status.” This is not a criterion
for placement on Administrative Detention Status. The
plaintiff believes this placement was intended for
harassment. Id., second ¶ 72. The plaintiff had
no telephone access, no recreation, no privileges, no access
to religious practices and limited access to hygiene. The
cell was dirty and cold with no window. There was no running
hot water and the light remained on all day and night.
Id., ¶ 73. The plaintiff was not afforded due
process and was unable to appeal the placement. Id.,
January 4, 2019, the plaintiff tried to address his issues
with defendant Black during her unit tour. She ignored him.
Later that day, the plaintiff tried to address defendant
Green. She told the plaintiff that, per defendant Black's
instructions, only defendant Rivera is permitted to deal with
him. Id., ¶ 75. The plaintiff was unable to
speak with any correctional official during the time he
remained in segregation. Id., ¶ 76.
plaintiff filed several grievances but received no receipts
or responses. Id., ¶ 77. On January 15, 2019,
defendant Rivera threatened the plaintiff for filing
grievances, saying “No one is going to nay say me, stop
filing grievances or I'll chain you [Plaintiff] up until
you leave.” Id., ¶ 78.
that day, the plaintiff had a visit with his attorney.
Defendant Rivera escorted the plaintiff to the visit and
cautioned him not to say anything. When defendant Rivera left
the room, the plaintiff asked the officer present to speak
with an administrator in the presence of his attorney
regarding the threats and abuse by defendant Rivera. The
officer agreed to call the administrative office.
Id., ¶ 79. When the plaintiff left the visiting
area at the end of his attorney visit, he was confronted by