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JUAN v. RAFFERTY

January 5, 1984

GERONIMO JUAN, Inmate No. 55882, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN J. RAFFERTY, Superintendent New Jersey State Prison Rahway, PETER J. FENTON, former Superintendent New Jersey State Prison Rahway, PATRICK H. ARVONIO, Assist. Superintendent New Jersey State Prison Rahway, WILLIAM FAUVER, Commissioner of New Jersey Department of Corrections, JOHN J. FANNON, Disciplinary Hearing Officer, New Jersey State Prison Rahway, SGT. LOUIS HAGLER, SGT. JAMES LEE, OFFICER JOSEPH CALZARETTA, OFFICER RICHARD CRAWFORD, OFFICER JOSEPH TARTZA, OFFICER JOSEPH CACCAVALE, OFFICER LEONARD TRUCHAN, OFFICER JOSEPH MULLEN, OFFICER ROBERT HEANEY, as individuals and in their official capacities, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DEBEVOISE

 Plaintiff, Geronimo Juan, an inmate in the New Jersey State Prison system, brought this action against various officers and prison officials for alleged violations of constitutional rights. The cause of action arises under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and jurisdiction is conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

 Defendants have moved for partial summary judgment.

 FACTS

 For the purposes of this motion all issues of fact must be construed in the light most favorable to Juan. Applying this standard, the depositions and affidavits establish the following facts.

 On October 1, 1982, Juan was an inmate at Rahway State Prison. At approximately 7:30 a.m., at the steamline counter in the prison mess hall, Juan had a "minor verbal and physical altercation" with another inmate, Wilbert Harrington. According to Victor Garcia, another inmate present in the mess hall at the time, the fight only lasted a couple of seconds before it was broken up. Juan testified on deposition that he and Harrington each threw one punch at the other and that each successfully blocked the other's punch.

 A number of corrections officers, including two who were on the opposite side of the steam counter from the fighting inmates, moved to separate them. According to inmates who were present, Officer Leonard Truchan slipped as he was trying to jump over the counter and fell to the ground, injuring his face. Juan claims that he did not touch Truchan and did not cause him to fall.

 Other corrections officers succeeded in separating and restraining Juan and Harrington. As he was taken from the mess hall by the officers, Juan had no bruises or blood on his face. Juan offered no resistance as he was removed.

 John Washington, who was an inmate at Rahway on October 1, 1982, was being detained on that day in Cell #24 ILXX, the administrative segregation cells. At approximately 7:30 to 8:00 a.m., an inmate, who Washington later learned was Juan, was escorted past Washington's cell, and placed in Cell #26, the cell next to Washington's. Washington claims there were no signs of blood or bruises on Juan's face as he passed.

 Washington stated that after Juan was placed in Cell #26 he heard Sgt. James Lee say to other officers that Juan would be beaten because a correction officer had been injured as a result of Juan's fight in the mess hall. Washington stated that he then observed Sgt. Louis Hagler, Officer Joseph Calzaretta and Lee, along with perhaps two other officers whose names Washington did not know approach Juan's cell. Washington heard a commotion which he believed was the beating of Juan by the officers, and a few minutes later saw Juan escorted by his cell again by two officers. He stated that Juan's face was bloody and that Juan could not walk under his own power.

 On October 1, 1982, inmate Garcia was assigned to sweep the aisle in front of the ILXX administrative segregation cells. He stated in his affidavit that:

 In his deposition, Juan testified that Hagler and Caccavale entered his cell along with three other officers, whose identity Juan did not know. According to Juan, Hagler said, "Why did you punch the cop?" Although Juan denied punching Officer Truchan, Juan was then beaten by Hagler, Caccavale and a third officer. Juan testified that although Sgt. Lee had been in his cell about five minutes before the beating, he was not present during the beating. Juan was taken to the hospital a few minutes later.

 On October 1, 1982, Juan was charged with the disciplinary offenses of fighting with inmate Harrington and of assaulting Officer Truchan. On October 4 and 6, 1982, hearing officer John Fannon adjudicated the charges against Juan. Officers Truchan and Joseph Tartza submitted reports alleging that Juan had thrown Truchan to the ground as Truchan was attempting to stop the fight. In his summary of testimony and evidence used in making his decision, Fannon stated that the Reports of Officers Joseph Mullen and Caccavale, as well as those of Truchan and Tartza, indicated that Juan had thrown Truchan to the ground. However, neither Mullen nor Caccavale's report states that Juan punched or threw down Truchan. Their reports do state that they observed bruises on Juan's face as he was led away from Harrington and that they believed these bruises were received during the fight with Harrington.

 Juan was represented at the hearing by inmate Rene Santana, a law library paralegal. Santana informed Fannon that Santana had a list of 104 prospective witnesses who had seen the events in the mess hall. Fannon advised him that he could not call them all, but agreed to accept any written statements which Santana had obtained from inmates. Santana submitted statements from 12 inmates which all stated that Truchan had slipped as he was jumping over the counter and that Juan never touched him.

 Fannon found Juan guilty of the charges. For assaulting Truchan, Juan was sentenced to 15 days confinement in Disciplinary Detention and one year of Administrative Segregation. Fannon also recommended that the matter be referred to the prosecutor for possible criminal prosecution. Apparently, Juan ...


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