United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §
Jeffrey Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.
Francisco Hernandez is a prisoner in the custody of the
Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed a
complaint pro se and in forma pauperis
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that he was subject to
an unlawful strip search and false arrest. In accordance with
my duty to conduct an initial review of the complaint before
it may be served on the defendants, I conclude that the strip
search claim should proceed but that the false arrest claim
must be dismissed.
names four defendants: the Stamford Police Department, and
three members of the Stamford Police Department's
Narcotics and Crime Unit: Officer Bryan Cooper, Officer
Connelly, and Officer Pennoyer. Hernandez asserts claims for
an unconstitutional strip search and failure to intervene to
prevent the search.
complaint alleges the following facts that I assume to be
true solely for purposes of this ruling. On October 23,
2018, Hernandez was walking down the street in Stamford when
he saw a friend. The two men briefly spoke in the parking lot
of 1 Southfield Avenue. Doc. #1 (¶ 1). Officer Connelly
approached the men in an unmarked car and asked for
identification. Id. (¶¶ 2-3).
Connelly ran their names and discovered that there was an
outstanding warrant for Hernandez's arrest. Hernandez
asked to see the warrant, but Officer Connelly refused.
Id. (¶ 3). As Hernandez was speaking with
Officer Connelly, Officers Pennoyer and Cooper approached him
from behind and handcuffed him with his hands behind his
back. Id. (¶ 4).
Cooper conducted a strip search of plaintiff in the parking
lot. He unzipped plaintiff's jacket, untucked his shirt,
opened his pants, and searched plaintiff's buttocks and
genital area with his bare hands. Id. (¶ 5).
While Officer Cooper was attempting to force his hand between
plaintiff's buttocks he made rude sexual remarks.
Id. (¶ 6). Officers Pennoyer and Connelly were
laughing and encouraging Officer Cooper. Ibid. The
search lasted about twenty minutes. Id. (¶ 7).
Connelly called for a transport vehicle. Officer Cooper
escorted plaintiff to the back of the vehicle. He roughly
pushed Hernandez into the vehicle but then immediately pulled
him out and conducted a second strip search of
Hernandez's buttocks and genitals, again accompanied by
rude sexual remarks. Ibid.
Cooper reached into the back of the transport vehicle and
retrieved a clear plastic baggie containing white and blue
substances, and Hernandez claims that this evidence was
planted by the police. Id. at 7 (¶¶ 8-9).
Hernandez seeks money damages on grounds that that he was
subject to a “gruesome” experience, that he was
“deprived of my dignity in a degra[d]ing and
emasculated manner in the public eye, ” as well as
“being incarcerated with trumped up charges for the
possession of narcotics that did not belong to me.”
Id. at 7.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a
prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity
or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims
or dismiss the compliant, or any portion of the complaint, if
the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se,
the allegations of the complaint must be read liberally to
raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See
Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010).
Supreme Court has set forth a threshold
“plausibility” pleading standard for courts to
evaluate the adequacy of allegations in federal court
complaints. A complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct
from legal conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds
for relief. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Notwithstanding the
rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se
complaint, a complaint may not survive dismissal if its
factual allegations do not meet the basic plausibility
standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v. Ironworkers
Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).
Fourth Amendment protects an arrestee against an unreasonable
strip search. See Sloley v. VanBramer, ___ F.3d.
___, 2019 WL 6765762, at *4-5 (2d Cir. 2019). Although the
Fourth Amendment allows the police to conduct a search of a
suspect incident to the suspect's arrest, a strip search
is not an ordinary search, and such a search must be
justified by at least an individualized reasonable ...