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Garcia v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 30, 2019



          Stefan R. Underhill, United States District Judge

         Carlos Alexis Garcia (“Garcia”), is incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall-Walker”). He has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 regarding incidents that occurred at Enfield Correctional Institution (“Enfield”) from February 17, 2016 to March 4, 2016. See Compl., Doc No. 1, at 5-30. He names twenty-four employees of the State of Connecticut Department of Correction and one Connecticut State Trooper as defendants. See Id. at 1-5. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint is dismissed in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under Section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a plausible right to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. 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. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro se complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         II. Facts

         On February 17, 2016, Correctional Officer Lizon searched Garcia's cell and discovered a box in the radiator that contained numerous items of contraband including homemade needles and sharpened tools for engraving and modifying electronics. See Compl. at 6 ¶ 33 & Ex. 2 at 37-38. Officer Lizon charged Garcia with the disciplinary offense of Contraband, Class A. See Id. Custody Supervisor Scagliarini signed off on the disciplinary report. See Id. ¶ 34. Captain Rios determined that Garcia's presence in the general population posed a serious threat to the security of other inmates and the facility and issued an order that Garcia be placed on administrative detention pending the disposition of the disciplinary report for contraband. See Id. ¶ 32 & Ex. 1 at 35-36. He directed officers to escort Garcia to a cell in the restrictive housing unit. See Id. ¶ 32. Garcia received a copy of the disciplinary report later that evening. See Id. ¶ 35.

         The following day, February 18, 2016, Disciplinary Investigator Gottlieb interviewed Garcia regarding the disciplinary report. See Id. at 7 ¶ 36. Garcia did not deny that the contraband items belonged to him. Instead, he argued that the items constituted Contraband, Class B items, rather than Contraband, Class A items. See Id. ¶ 37. Investigator Gottlieb refused to reduce the charge to contraband B. See Id. ¶ 38. He encouraged Garcia to plead guilty and accept sanctions of seven days' of punitive segregation, thirty days' loss of commissary privileges, fifteen days' loss of recreation privileges and fifteen days' forfeiture of risk reduction earned credit, rather than risk the imposition of more significant sanctions if he were found guilty after a hearing on the disciplinary charge. See Id. Garcia was aware that a plea of guilty to a Class A offense would also result in the loss of contact visits with his family for two years. See Id. Garcia chose to plead guilty to the charge of Contraband, Class A and signed the guilty plea section of the disciplinary report in the presence of Investigator Gottlieb. See Id. ¶ 39 & Ex. 3 at 39-40.

         On February 24, 2016, Garcia completed his confinement in punitive segregation and Investigator Gottlieb escorted him to a cell in general population. See Id. at 8 ¶¶ 42-43. At approximately 1:45 p.m. on February 25, 2016, Officers Atkins and Hazelett informed Garcia that he must accompany them to the administrative building pursuant to the order of Lieutenant Earley. See Id. ¶¶ 44-45.

         During Garcia's escort to the administrative building, Officer Valierre informed Garcia that he would be searching his cell and would be removing any unauthorized items. See Id. at 9 ¶ 46. A few minutes after reaching the administrative building, Lieutenant Earley arrived with Intelligence Coordinator Rodriguez, Investigator Gottlieb and K-9 Handler Jane Doe. See Id. ¶ 48. As Officers Valierre, Atkins and Hazelett “converge[d]” on Garcia, Lieutenant Earley ordered Garcia to place his hands behind his back. See Id. ¶¶ 48-49. Instead of putting his hands behind his back, Garcia attempted to ask Lieutenant Earley some questions. Lieutenant Earley then took a cannister containing a chemical agent out of his pocket, assumed a “threatening stance” and issued another order directing Garcia to place his hands behind his back to be handcuffed. See Id. ¶ 50. Garcia placed his hands behind his back and officers placed the handcuffs on his wrists. See Id. at 9-10 ¶¶ 51-52. After being handcuffed, Garcia asked Lieutenant Earley why he was being “detain[ed]. See Id. at 10 ¶ 52. Lieutenant Earley told Garcia to relax. See Id. During Garcia's escort from the administrative building to the medical department, officers exerted pressure on his handcuffs causing Garcia severe pain. See Id. ¶ 54.

         Upon his arrival at the medical department, a medical staff member evaluated Garcia's physical and mental health. See Id. ¶ 55. After her evaluation, the staff member signaled to Lieutenant Earley that she had cleared Garcia for placement in the restrictive housing unit. See id.

         Upon his arrival in the restrictive housing unit, officers subjected Garcia to a search of his clothes, body and body cavities. See Id. ¶ 56. K-9 Handler Doe was able to observe the search and Garcia's naked body for approximately sixty seconds. See id.

         After completing the strip search, officers placed Garcia in a “dry cell” which smelled of urine and feces. See Id. at 10-11 ¶¶ 57-58. The toilet in the cell, which could only be flushed from the outside, was clogged up with “what appeared to be bio-hazardous waste” and some areas of the walls of the cell were covered with streaks of dried blood and excrement. See Id. The cell was equipped with cameras that enabled staff to observe Garcia twenty-four hours a day. See Id. at 10 ¶ 57. After being secured in the cell, Garcia voiced his health and sanitation concerns to Lieutenant Earley through the cell door, but Lieutenant Earley ignored Garcia's complaints. See Id. at 11 ¶ 59.

         Lieutenant Earley explained to Garcia that his placement on administrative detention was due to a mix-up or mis-communication regarding the way that the initial disciplinary report for contraband was handled or processed and the type of sanctions that were imposed pursuant to Garcia's plea of guilty to the disciplinary report. See Id. at 12 ¶¶ 65-66. Lieutenant Earley indicated that Warden Ford and Deputy Warden Rodriguez had ordered him to place Garcia on administrative detention and to “fix” the mix-up immediately. See Id. ¶ 70. Lieutenant Earley and Investigator Gottlieb also mentioned that as of February 17, 2016, officials had become aware that Garcia had engaged in criminal activity and had referred the matter to the Connecticut State Police for investigation. See Id. at 14 ¶ 83. Both Lieutenant Earley and Investigator Gottlieb stated that the matter was out of their hands. See Id. at 13 ¶¶ 74-75.

         Garcia requested that he be permitted to contact “his then attorney at law, James R. Hardy, II” in order to protect his civil rights. See Id. at 14 ¶ 78. Lieutenant Earley denied the request and indicated that he did not think it was an appropriate time for Garcia to make a legal call. See Id. ¶¶ 79-80.

         Several hours after his placement in a cell in the restrictive housing unit, Captain Rios came by and observed that Garcia had placed a notice on the window of his cell door indicating that he was going to engage in a hunger strike until prison officials provided him with due process, equal protection and access to a legal assistance and reasonable living conditions. See Id. at 16 ¶ 94. Captain Rios explained that only Commissioner Semple could “re-visit” the disposition of a disciplinary charge “with the intent to re-write mistakes and/or produce an outside charge.” See Id. at 17 ¶ 96. Although, Captain Rios was aware that neither Warden Ford, nor Deputy Warden Rodriguez had consulted with Commissioner Semple prior to reopening the February 17, 2016 disciplinary matter against Garcia, she took no action to correct the situation. See Id. at 17 ¶ 97.

         After observing the conditions in Garcia's cell, Captain Rios transferred him to another clean cell in the restrictive housing unit. See Id. ¶ 98. Garcia asked Captain Rios for permission to call his attorney, but she indicated that she would defer to the decision of Lieutenant Earley and denied the request. See Id. ¶ 99. Prior to leaving the restrictive housing unit, Captain Rios encouraged Garcia to eat some food. See id.

         A short time later, Lieutenants Scarchilli and Montefusco spoke to Garcia regarding his confinement in the restrictive housing unit. See Id. at 17-18 ¶¶ 100-01. Lieutenant Scarchilli became “agitated” when he learned about the lack of communication among ranking officers and Lieutenant Montefusco expressed disappointment regarding “Top-Level Management's blatant abuse of policy.” See id.

         On February 26, 2016, Intelligence Coordinator Rodriguez directed Garcia to prepare himself for his interview with Connecticut State Police Trooper Stebbins, escorted him to an office and handed him a voluntary interview authorization form to sign. See Id. at 18 ¶¶ 102-04. Garcia signed the authorization form under protest. See Id. ¶ 104.

         When Trooper Stebbins arrived at the office, he began to read the incident report prepared by prison officials in conjunction with the incident involving the discovery of contraband items in Garcia's cell on February 17, 2016. See Id. ¶ 106. Trooper Stebbins indicated that Department of Correction officials had contacted him on February 17, 2016, but he could not explain why it had taken him until February 26, 2016 to come to investigate the incident and the contraband items that had been discovered in Garcia's cell. See Id. at 20 ¶ 117.

         Trooper Stebbins showed Garcia a copy of a photograph of “an item in question.” See Id. at 21 ¶ 122. Trooper Stebbins then pulled a “plastic instrumentality” from his coat pocket and asked Garcia to identify it. See Id. Garcia did not answer the question and “invoked his right against self-incrimination.” See Id. Trooper Stebbins stated that Warden Ford, Deputy Warden Rodriguez and Lieutenant Earley had requested that he charge Garcia with being in possession of “said instrument, an alleged 6 inch shank.” See Id. ¶ 123. Garcia immediately requested permission to call his attorney or Inmates' Legal Aid Services. Trooper Stebbins denied Garcia's request and continued to interview him. See Id. ¶ 124.

         Garcia confronted Trooper Stebbins regarding the fact that the shank had not been placed in a bag or a container and that Trooper Stebbins had not worn gloves while handling the shank. See Id. at 21-22 ¶¶ 128, 131. In response, Trooper Stebbins asked Garcia to relate his version of the events surrounding the discovery of contraband items during a search of his cell. See Id. at 22 ¶ 131. Garcia informed Trooper Stebbins that on February 18, 2016, prison officials at Enfield had disposed of the disciplinary report charging him with possession of contraband items, described as homemade needles and sharpened tools for engraving and modifying electronics that were found in his cell on February 17, 2016. See Id. at 21 ¶ 125; Ex. 3 at 39-40. Trooper Stebbins indicated that he was unaware that a disciplinary report had already been issued and stated that he must speak to prison officials about the matter. See Id. at 22 ¶¶ 132-33. When he returned to the interview room, Trooper Stebbins indicated that prison officials had denied any wrongdoing. See Id. ¶ 134.

         Garcia requested that Trooper Stebbins file a criminal complaint on his behalf against prison officials who had threatened him on February 25, 2016. See Id. ¶ 135. Trooper Stebbins denied Garcia's request and attempted to persuade Garcia to submit a written statement admitting that he had possessed the shank that had been found in his cell on February 17, 2016. See Id. at 22-23 ¶¶ 135-36. Garcia declined to submit a written statement incriminating himself. Trooper Stebbins did not recommend that criminal charges be filed against Garcia or anyone else in connection with any of the items that were recovered from Garcia's cell on February 17, 2016. See Id. at 23 ¶ 138 & at 28 ¶ 169.

         After the interview with Trooper Stebbins had ended, Lieutenant Earley attempted to convince Garcia to sign a document admitting that he had been aware of contraband being smuggled into Enfield. See Id. ¶¶ 140-41. Lieutenant Earley indicated that if Garcia signed the document, he would either release Garcia from the restrictive housing unit or permit Garcia to make a telephone call to an attorney or the Inmates' Legal Aid Services office. See Id. ¶ 142. Garcia denied any knowledge of contraband being brought into Enfield and did not sign the document. See Id. ¶ 141. During his meeting with Lieutenant Earley, Garcia stated that he needed to see a psychologist, but Lieutenant Earley ignored his request. See Id. at 24 ¶ 143.

         On February 27, 2016, Lieutenant Lee spoke to Garcia. See Id. ¶ 147. She stated that she thought “there was a clear abuse of the policy, but that he should wait it out because they're probably making you sweat.” See Id. On February 28, 2016, Lieutenant Kit spoke to Garcia and indicated that his detention in the restrictive housing unit was “un-called for” and was a form of retaliation. See Id. at 25 ¶ 148.

         On March 2, 2016, Counselor Timbro indicated that he would attempt to convince prison officials to permit Garcia to make a legal telephone call. See Id. ¶ 149. Garcia did not hear from Counselor Timbro again. See id.

         Later that day, Counselor Supervisor Bowman visited Garcia and vowed to look into his request for a legal telephone call. See Id. ¶ 150. Garcia did not hear from Counselor Supervisor Bowman again. See id.

         During the morning of March 3, 2016, Deputy Warden Rodriguez spoke to Garcia and informed him that it was permissible to reinstate disciplinary charges without the written approval of the Commissioner of Ccorrection. See Id. ¶ 151. Garcia learned that Deputy Warden Rodriguez believed Trooper Stebbins should have charged him with possession of a dangerous weapon and that Deputy Warden Rodriguez had recommended that Garcia be placed on administrative segregation status at Northern Correctional Institution. See Id. at 25-26 ¶¶ 152-53. Other prison officials disagreed with that recommendation. See Id. at 25 ¶ 152. When Garcia accused Deputy Warden Rodriguez and other prison officials of engaging in reckless and retaliatory behavior by holding him accountable for mistakes that were made by employees of the Department of Correction regarding the handling of the disciplinary report charging him with contraband, Deputy Warden Rodriguez stated that Garcia would be moved from Enfield “one way or another.” See Id. at 26 ¶¶ 154-55.

         At approximately 1:10 p.m., Garcia advised Lieutenant Earley that he had spoken to Deputy Warden Rodriguez and would be filing a law suit over deprivations that had occurred. See Id. at 26-27 ¶¶ 158-59. A short time later, Garcia spoke to Lieutenant Earley and Captain Hunter and indicated that he intended “to hold them accountable for the series of breaks in command” in connection with actions taken in response to the discovery of items of contraband in his cell. See Id. at 27 ¶¶ 160-62.

         On March 3, 2016, Director Offender Classification and Population Management Maiga approved the request by Warden Ford and District Administrator Quiros to raise Garcia's overall security level to a level 4, designated Garcia as a high security inmate and directed Warden Ford to hold a hearing regarding the placement of Garcia on high security status. See Id. at 28 ¶ 166 & Exs. 8, 9 at 47-48. Warden Ford did not hold a hearing. See Id. at 28 ¶ 166.

         On March 4, 2016, Lieutenant Earley and Property Officer Valierre informed Garcia that he would be transferred from Enfield to another prison facility pursuant to an order from Deputy Warden Rodriguez. See Id. at 27 ¶ 164. Property Officer Valierre stated that Deputy Warden Rodriguez had ordered him to confiscate Garcia's Nintendo 3DS XL game console and fourteen games as contraband. See Id. at 27-28 ¶ 165. At approximately 4:00 p.m., prison officials transported Garcia to MacDougall-Walker, a high security facility. See Id. at 28 ¶ 166 & Ex. 7 at 46. Garcia claims that prison officials at MacDougall-Walker confined him in a restrictive housing unit. See Id. ¶ 167.

         Approximately ten days after his transfer to MacDougall-Walker, Garcia filed multiple grievances regarding the incidents that had occurred at Enfield in February and early March 2016. See Id. at 29 ¶ 170 & Exs. 11-18 at 50-65. Garcia received receipts from Grievance Coordinator Bennett for two of the four grievances that he filed in March 2016. See Id. & Ex. 19 at 66. On May 4, and May 31, 2016, Garcia filed grievance appeals regarding the incidents that had occurred at Enfield in February and early March 2016. See Id. & Exs. 20-21 at 67-68. He never received responses to his grievances or grievance appeals. See id.

         On February 14, 2017, at MacDougall-Walker, Garcia spoke to Commissioner Semple about what had transpired at Enfield in February and March 2016, after a search of his cell had revealed items meeting the definition of contraband. See Id. at ¶ 172. Commissioner Semple requested that Garcia notify him regarding the individuals who were responsible for the incidents in question. See Id. ¶ 173. Garcia wrote a letter to Commissioner Semple on February 15, 2017 and placed the letter in the mail on February 16, 2017. See Id. Garcia is doubtful that the letter reached Commissioner Semple. See id.

         III. Discussion

         Garcia contends that the defendants violated his rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. In addition, he asserts a state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages.

         A. Connecticut State Trooper Stebbins

         Garcia alleges that Trooper Stebbins came to interview and question him on February 26, 2016. Garcia contends that Trooper Stebbins attempted to persuade him to admit to having possessed the 6-inch shank that was allegedly found in his cell during a search on February 17, 2016. Garcia claims that he invoked his right against self-incrimination and did not admit to or make a statement regarding possession of the shank that had allegedly been found in his cell. Garcia alleges that at another point during the interview, he demanded that Trooper Stebbins permit him to call his attorney or the Inmates' Legal Aid Services, but Stebbins denied the request and continued to interview him.

         The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides in relevant part: “No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” U.S. Const. amend. V. It is applicable to state criminal proceedings by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 6 (1964). To the extent that Garcia is claiming that Trooper Stebbins infringed on his right to counsel by not honoring the invocation of his right to an attorney under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), [1] the right to counsel during a custodial interrogation recognized in Miranda is merely a procedural safeguard whether it arises under the Fifth or Sixth Amendment and a violation of Miranda rights does not give rise to a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Myers v. Cty. of Nassau, 825 F.Supp.2d 359, 367 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) (“The remedy for a violation of this right [to counsel under the Fifth Amendment] is exclusion of any self-incriminating statements from use at a criminal proceeding, and not an action for damages under Section 1983.”) (citing Jocks v. Tavernier, 316 F.3d 128, 138 (2d Cir. 2003); Neighbour v. Covert, 68 F.3d 1508, 1510 (2d Cir. 1995); Paige v. City of New York, 2011 WL 3701923, *3 (E.D.N.Y. 2011); McZorn v. Endicott Police Dept., 2008 WL 163581, *9 (N.D.N.Y. 2008)). Furthermore, Garcia concedes that Trooper Stebbins did not recommend that criminal charges be brought against him. Nor does Garcia allege that the State of Connecticut ever filed criminal charges against him in connection with the items found in his cell on February 17, 2016. Accordingly, any claim that Trooper Stebbins violated Garcia's Fifth Amendment right to counsel during the interview is dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

         Garcia also contends that he asked Trooper Stebbins to “lodge a formal criminal complaint” against several defendants who had threatened him on February 25, 2016, but Trooper Stebbins decided not to recommend that such charges be filed by the State of Connecticut. Garcia has no constitutionally protected right to a proper investigation. See Lewis v. Gallivan, 315 F.Supp.2d 313, 316-17 (W.D.N.Y. 2004) (“There is . . . no constitutional right to an investigation by government officials.”) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); Santossio v. City of Bridgeport, 2004 WL 2381559, at *4 (D. Conn. Sept. 28, 2004) (“the United States Constitution does not grant plaintiffs a right to an adequate investigation or adequate after-the-fact punishment”) (citing cases). Furthermore, a victim of allegedly criminal conduct is not entitled to a criminal investigation or the prosecution of the alleged perpetrator of the crime. See Leeke v. Timmerman, 454 U.S. 83, (1981) (inmates alleging beating by prison guards lack standing to challenge prison officials' request to magistrate not to issue arrest warrants); Linda R. S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973) (“in American jurisprudence at least, a private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or nonprosecution of another”); McCrary v. Cty. of Nassau, 493 F.Supp.2d 581, 588 (E.D.N.Y. 2007) (“A private citizen does not have a constitutional right to compel government officials to arrest or prosecute another person.”).

         Thus, the fact that Trooper Stebbins chose not to pursue criminal charges against any of the defendants for their alleged threatening conduct towards Garcia does not constitute a constitutional violation. Because Garcia has no right to have any of the defendants prosecuted for allegedly threatening him, the allegation that Trooper Stebbins refused to pursue criminal charges against any of the defendants for their alleged threatening conduct towards Garcia fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and is dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

         B. ...

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