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Conquistador v. Martin

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 10, 2020

ROBERT MARTIN, et al., Defendants.


          Kari A. Dooley, United States District Judge

         Preliminary Statement

         Plaintiff, Jean Karlo Conquistador (“Conquistador”), currently confined at Bridgeport Correctional Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut, filed this complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Conquistador asserts claims for retaliation, harassment, deliberate indifference, cruel and unusual punishment, and denial of due process against fourteen defendants who work at Bridgeport Correctional Center (“Bridgeport”): Warden Robert Martin; Deputy Warden Nathan Klein; Counselor Supervisor Maria Alves; Counselors Moore-DeCaito and McCarthy; Officers Massaro, Sullivan, Serrano, and Lee; Lieutenants Roman, Grady, McNeil, and Finuccan; and Captain Allen. He seeks damages and unspecified declaratory and injunctive relief against the defendants in their individual and official capacities. The complaint was received on December 13, 2019, and Conquistador's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on December 20, 2019.

         On December 24, 2019, Conquistador filed a motion to amend seeking to add a failure to protect claim and five additional defendants: Lieutenants Washington and Hernandez, and Officers Guerrera, Daniels, and John Doe 1. For relief, Conquistador seeks increased damages, a change in department policy and a transfer to a different facility. As the defendants have not yet responded to the complaint, Conquistador may file an amended complaint as of right. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(B). Thus, Conquistador's motion to amend is granted. The court will review the claims in the amended complaint in this order.

         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.


         On August 30, 2019, Conquistador was admitted to Bridgeport Correctional Center (“Bridgeport”) as a pretrial detainee. Doc. No. 8 ¶ 1. Conquistador asked defendants McCarthy and Moore-DeCaito for a toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, and soap on multiple occasions, but did not receive them. Id. ¶ 2. Defendants McCarthy and Moore-DeCaito told Conquistador that their supervisor, defendant Alves, had instructed them not to give him any toiletries. Id. ¶ 3.

         On multiple occasions, Conquistador's legal documents were not filed because they were double-sided. Id. ¶ 4.

         Once, defendant Massaro entered Conquistador's cell and placed some of his legal files in the toilet. Id. ¶ 5. He then left the cell stating that he was doing “spring cleaning.” Id. This occurred immediately after Conquistador threatened to sue defendant Massaro. Id.

         At 2:45 p.m. on November 7, 2019, defendant Roman yelled in the 37B2 corridor that Conquistador “was telling on other inmates.” Id. ¶ 6. At 10:15 p.m. on November 2, 2019, defendant Sullivan approached Conquistador and stated, “what you wanna do” and “do something.” Id. ¶ 7. Defendant Sullivan waited a moment and then called Conquistador a “bitch” and a “rat.” Id. After these statements were made, Conquistador was threatened and confronted by several gang members. Id. ¶ 8. Several correctional employees witnessed the interactions with gang members. Id. ¶ 9.

         A few days after Conquistador threatened to sue her, defendant Serrano, the disciplinary investigator at Bridgeport, refused to record Conquistador's statement and witness information for a disciplinary hearing. Id. ¶ 10. Conquistador told defendant Serrano that her actions violated his right to due process and again threatened to sue her. Id. ¶ 11. On one occasion, defendant Serrano told Conquistador that he was “all set for making his little threats.” Id. ¶ 12.

         On November 6, 2019, defendant Lee issued Conquistador a disciplinary report for being out of place. Id. ¶ 14. Conquistador asked defendant Serrano to arrange for him to view the relevant video footage. Id. ¶ 15. She refused to do so. Id. ¶ 16. Conquistador has not viewed the footage. Id. ¶ 17. At the hearing, defendant McNeil said, “since you want to run around here threatening to sue my staff, I'm finding you guilty.” Id. ¶ 18. Defendant McNeil told Conquistador that he would impose the maximum recommended sanctions. Id. Conquistador received sanctions of fifteen days confinement to quarters and ninety days loss of phone privileges. Id. ¶ 19.

         Multiple times, Conquistador told defendants Martin, Klein, Alves, Grady, Finuccan, and Allen about his concerns regarding the threats and confrontations with gang members. Id. ¶ 20. They ignored his concerns. Id. Conquistador also expressed his concerns about the refusal to move him to a different housing unit at Bridgeport. Id. ¶ 21. Defendants Martin, Klein, Alves, Grady, Finuccan, and Allen ignored these concerns also. Id.

         Several times, Conquistador asked defendants Martin, Klein, and Alves about the denial of toiletries. Id. ¶ 22. His concerns were ignored. Id. Conquistador threatened to sue defendants Martin, Klein and Alves. Id. ¶ 23. Defendant Martin replied that Conquistador would be “put somewhere where he would be trying to figure it out.” Id.

         Several time, Conquistador complained to defendants Martin, Klein, and Alves that it was cold outside, the ventilation system was blowing cold air, and cold air was coming in through the window in his cell. Id. ¶ 24. The defendant disregarded his concerns. Id. Conquistador requested an additional blanket because of the cold. Id. ¶ 25. The request was denied. Id. ¶ 26.

         On several occasions, defendants McCarthy and Moore-DeCaito told Conquistador that defendant Alves instructed them to charge him $.25 per page before electronically filing documents for him. Id. ¶ 27.

         On December 19, 2019, Conquistador told defendants Washington and Hernandez that he had been threatened by several inmates. Id. ¶ 28. He told them he would be assaulted if he returned to the housing unit. Id. Defendant Hernandez said “good, we'll have a reason to put you in seg.” Id. Defendant Washington stated they could do nothing for him. Id. Defendant Guerrera was present during this conversation. Id. Conquistador expressed his concerns to defendants Daniels and Doe 1 but they did nothing. Id. ¶ 29. That afternoon, between 12:00 p.m. and 12:20 p.m., an inmate entered Conquistador's cell and assaulted him. Id. ¶ 30. Later in the afternoon, Conquistador was moved to a different housing unit. Id. ¶ 34. Conquistador asked defendant Martin to preserve the video footage of him speaking to defendants Washington and Hernandez and the inmate entering his cell. Id. ¶ 30 & Ex. Z.


         Conquistador purports to bring constitutional claims for retaliation, “harassment, ” denial of due process, and deliberate indifference to his safety/failure to protect him. He seeks damages and injunctive relief against the defendants in their individual and official capacities.

         Conditions of Confinement

         Conquistador alleges that defendants McCarthy and Moore-DeCaito denied him toiletries at the direction of defendant Alves. As he does not indicate the length of the deprivation, the court assumes that Conquistador was denied toiletries for approximately four months, from August 30, 2019, until December 22, 2019, the date he signed the Amended Complaint. Conquistador also alleges that he complained to defendants Martin, Klein, and Alves about cold temperatures in his cell and requests an additional blanket, but his concerns were ignored.

         “A pretrial detainee may not be punished at all under the Fourteenth Amendment” whether by being subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement or otherwise. Darnell v. Piniero, 849 F.3d 17, 35 (2d Cir. 2017); see also Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979) (“[U]nder the Due Process Clause, a detainee may not be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law.”). When considering whether the conditions imposed on a pretrial detainee violate due process, the “court must decide whether the [condition] is imposed for the purpose of punishment or whether it is but an incident of some other legitimate governmental purpose.” Bell, 441 U.S. at 538. If the plaintiff cannot show an “expressed intent to punish on the part of detention facility officials, that determination generally will turn on ‘whether an alternative purpose to which [the condition] may rationally be connected is assignable for it, and whether it appears excessive in relation to the alternative purpose assigned'” Id. “[I]f a restriction or condition is reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective, it does not, without more, amount to ‘punishment.'” Id. at 539. On the other hand, if the condition “is not reasonably related to a legitimate goal-if it is arbitrary or purposeless-a ...

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