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Prall v. Bocchini

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 30, 2015

TORMU E. PRALL, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH L. BOCCHINI, JR., et al., Defendants.

LUCY E. FRITZ, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL STATE OF NEW JERSEY OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Trenton, New Jersey. Attorney for Defendants Jimmy Barnes, Jeffrey S. Chiesa, J., Dominguez, James Drumm, Chris Holmes, J. Ilardi, Suzanne Lawrence, J. Lindsey, Officer McNair, William J. Moleins, Officer Moura, Kenneth Nelsen, Ruben Ortiz, Michelle R. Ricci, Charles Warren, and Vincent Wojciechowicz.

TIMOTHY K. SAIA, ESQ., MORGAN MELHUISH ABRUTYN, Livingston, New Jersey, Attorney for Defendant Kevin Newsom.

JOHN M. BOWENS, ESQ., SCHENCK, PRICE, SMITH & KING, LLP., Florham Park, New Jersey, Attorney for Defendant James Keil.

WILLIAM P. FLAHIVE, ESQ., Lambertville, New Jersey, Attorney for Defendant Stephen Alaimo.

OPINION

JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on the motion of Defendants Jimmy Barnes, Jeffrey S. Chiesa, J. Dominguez, James Drumm, Chris Holmes, J. Ilardi, Suzanne Lawrence, J. Lindsey, Officer McNair, William J. Moleins, Officer Moura, Kenneth Nelsen, Ruben Ortiz, Michelle R. Ricci, Charles Warren, and Vincent Wojciechowicz ("DOC Defendants") for Summary Judgment (Docket Entry 298); Defendant Kevin Newsom's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Entry 299); Defendant James Keil's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Entry 300); and Defendant Stephen Alaimo's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Entry 301) (collectively "Defendants"). Pro se Plaintiff Tormu E. Prall filed a Statement of Material Facts in Opposition to Defendants' motions (Docket Entry 307). These motions are being considered on the papers pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, summary judgment is granted as to Jeffrey Chiesa on Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims, granted to Kevin Newsom and Stephen Alaimo as to all remaining claims, and denied without prejudice as to the remainder of the defendants.

II BACKGROUND

A Procedural History

On or about March 8, 2010, Plaintiff, a prisoner at New Jersey State Prison ("NJSP"), filed a civil Complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, raising claims of constitutional violations. (Docket Entry 1). Since that time, several defendants and claims have been added and dismissed, the history of which is set forth in detail in this Court's prior opinions and orders (Docket Entries 10, 11, 18, 31, 32, 77, 78, 163, 164, 166, 167, 265 and 266). The history relevant to the instant motions is set forth below.

On or about March 16, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion for an injunction, alleging that on March 10, 2012, NJSP correctional officers, J. Ilardi, McNair, Sergeant J. Lindsey, and two unknown correctional officers, forced Plaintiff to perform oral sex on them. (Docket Entry 81 ¶ 1). In his motion, Plaintiff also alleged that before the sexual assault occurred, Officer J. Dominguez and one of the unknown correctional officers "ransacked" Plaintiff's cell and threw away or confiscated Plaintiff's legal documents related to this case. These officers also left Plaintiff's cell in a "shambles." (Docket Entry 81 ¶ 2). Plaintiff further alleged that Sergeant B. Gilmartin and other unknown custody supervisors failed to contact the Special Investigation Division ("SID") about the incident, failed to summon medical staff to provide medical treatment for Plaintiff, and failed to prevent the officers under their command and control from starving Plaintiff. (Docket Entry 81 ¶ 3). In sum, Plaintiff alleged that, since his placement in the Management Control Unit ("MCU"), the physical abuse alleged in his prior motions "has not stopped, " and the NJSP defendants "are unable and unwilling to prevent these abuses." (Docket Entry 81 ¶ 4).

On March 26, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion for supplies (Docket Entry 84). While Plaintiff principally asked that he be provided with pens, legal size note pads, white envelopes and manilla envelopes so that he could prepare and file legal documents with respect to his case before the Court, he also argued that he did not receive responses to his grievances, making prison administrative remedies "unavailable." (Docket Entry 84, Motion at ¶ 1, Declaration at ¶ 1).[1]

Following the Court's denial of Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, the NJSP defendants filed a motion to dismiss the action and/or for summary judgment on March 30, 2012. (Docket Entry 85).[2] Plaintiff filed an opposition to the NJSP defendants' motion, and his own cross motion for summary judgment on or about April 18, 2012. (Docket Entries 91 and 92). The NJSP defendants filed a reply letter brief on April 30, 2012. (Docket Entry 99).

Thereafter, on or about September 4, 2012, Plaintiff filed a second amended Complaint without leave of court. (Docket Entry 135). Plaintiff attempted to re-introduce claims that were previously dismissed, add new parties, and add new claims regarding his allegations of physical abuse. The new claims included the allegations raised in his second motion for an injunction and motion for supplies, in which he alleged that on March 10, 2012, new defendants, Officers J. Dominguez and M. Moura ransacked his cell and that Sgt. J. Lindsey, Officer McNair, Officer J. Ilardi and two unknown correctional officers forced Plaintiff to perform oral sex on them. (Docket Entry 135 ¶ 123). Plaintiff also alleged that these officers, Sgt. Gilmartin and unknown nurses and custody supervisors refused to provide Plaintiff medical treatment and covered up the incident until it was reported to the SID on March 11, 2012. (Id. ).

Plaintiff also alleged that he received disciplinary sanctions as a result of the incident in retaliation for Plaintiff pursuing this litigation. (Docket Entry 135 ¶ 124). Additionally, Plaintiff alleged that on or about March 14, 2012, Officer Dominguez and two unknown officers beat Plaintiff, forced him to ingest hallucinating drugs and then forced him to perform oral sex on them. SID conducted an investigation, but Plaintiff contended the investigation was a sham. (Docket Entry 135 ¶ 125).

In an Opinion and Order entered on December 21, 2012, this Court denied Plaintiff's motion for legal supplies, granted in part Plaintiff's application to file a second amended Complaint, and directed that the NJSP defendants, as well as the newly added defendants, respond in writing to this Court within thirty (30) days from the date of entry of the Order, addressing Plaintiff's new allegations of physical and sexual abuse in March 2012, as alleged in Plaintiff's motion for an injunction and Second Amended Complaint. (Docket Entries 163 and 164). The Court allowed Plaintiff's claims of alleged sexual assault, physical abuse and continuing torture, regarding the March 2012 incidents,

as well as the claims alleging denial of medical treatment for injuries allegedly sustained during the March 2012 incidents, and the retaliatory disciplinary charges stemming from those incidents, to proceed against the remaining NJSP defendants and the newly named defendants, Officers J. Dominguez, M. Moura, McNair, J. Ilardi, Sgt. J. Lindsey, and the two unknown correctional officers who allegedly took part in the alleged incidents of physical abuse against Plaintiff on March 10, 2012 and March 14, 2012, and Charles Warren, Administrator at NJSP, Vincent B. Wojciechowicz; NJSP SID; Suzanne Lawrence, NJSP Assistant Superintendent; and Kenneth Nelson, NJSP Associate Administrator.

(Docket Entry 166 at 9-10 & n.5; see also Docket Entries 163 and 164).

On March 20, 2012, Defendants Barnes, Holmes, Keil, and Ricci filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgment (Docket Entry 85).[3] Plaintiff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment and for discovery requests on April 18, 2012 (Docket Entry 92). On December 26, 2012, this Court granted in part the NJSP Defendants' motion for summary judgment, dismissing all claims against the NJSP Defendants except the newly added Eighth Amendment claims of physical and sexual abuse "as well as the claims alleging denial of medical treatment for injuries allegedly sustained during the March 2012 incidents, and the retaliatory disciplinary charges stemming from those incidents, " (Docket Entry 166 at 9-10 & n.5), observing "that these new claims and defendants are not part of these motions for summary judgment, and will be excluded from consideration herein." (Docket Entry 166 at 10). The Court also denied Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and his requests for discovery. (Docket Entries 166 and 167).

On or about January 8, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion to file a third amended Complaint and to be relieved from this Court's December 21, 2012 and December 26, 2012 Opinions and Orders. (Docket Entry 171). By Memorandum Opinion and Order dated March 28, 2013, this Court denied Plaintiff's motion and ordered him to cease his vexatious litigation practices. (Docket Entry 197). The NJSP Defendants filed their answer to the Second Amended Complaint on July 19, 2013, (Docket Entry 214), and defendants Ilardi, Lawrence, Newsom, Moura, and Dominguez filed their answer on February 14, 2014. (Docket Entry 255).

During the pendency of the litigation, Plaintiff sought to obtain access to the footage of the video taken of his journey to his cell on March 10, 2012, as Senior SID Investigator Shawn Harrison's declaration, which was included with the NJSP Defendant's response to this Court's order to show cause why an injunction should not issue (Docket Entries 163 and 164; 184-4), referenced he viewed the video as part of his investigation. Harrison declared that the footage showed Plaintiff "standing outside of his cell, being placed in handcuffs and escorted back into his cell, and secured in his cell." (Docket Entry 184-4 ¶ 7). In the investigative report attached to the declaration, Harrison notes that after being escorted back into his cell "custody staff entered inmate Prall's [sic] and remained inside for approximately two minutes before exiting the cell as inmate Prall was secured inside the cell." (Docket Entry 184-4 at 9). The report further indicated "[a] copy of the video will remain [in the] case file." Id.

On October 31, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions against Michelle R. Ricci, William J. Moleins, Chris Holmes, Jimmy Barnes, James Drumm, James Keil, Sgt. Newsom, Ortiz, Charles Warren, Stephen Alaimo, Kenneth Nelsen, J. Dominguez, M. Moura, Sgt. J. Lindsey, Officer McNair, Officer J. Ilardi as he had been informed that the video from March 10, 2010 could not be produced as the camera footage had been overwritten and inmates could not view footage due to security concerns. (Docket Entry 241 at 3). After briefing by the parties and a telephone conference, Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams granted Plaintiff's motions for sanctions in the form of an adverse jury inference, but denied Plaintiff's request to have certain counts of his Second Amended Complaint deemed admitted. (Docket Entry 280). Defendant Sgt. Kevin Newsom filed a motion for reconsideration on the grounds that he was not present at NJSP in 2012, (Docket Entry 283), and the DOC Defendants filed a motion for reconsideration on June 26, 2014. (Docket Entry 285). Defendants Major Keil and Lt. Alaimo later joined the DOC Defendants' motion. (Docket Entries 289; 290).[4]

While those motions for reconsideration were pending, the DOC Defendants and Major Keil filed the instant motions for summary judgment on Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims, (Docket Entries 298; 300), and Sgt. Newsom and Lt. Alaimo filed their motions for summary judgment as to all of the remaining claims, (Docket Entries 299 and 301). In the interim, Magistrate Judge Williams granted Sgt. Newsom's motion for reconsideration, (Docket Entry 311), and granted the DOC Defendants', Lt. Alaimo's, and Sgt. Keil's motions for reconsideration only to the extent that an evidentiary hearing would occur to determine each defendant's degree of fault, if any, in the spoliation of the video footage. (Docket Entry 312).

B. Statement of Facts

1. Allegations in Pleadings

Based on the foregoing complicated history of this case, the Court will identify the remaining claims and defendants. In the sole remaining claims from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts on March 10, 2012, Officers J. Dominguez and M. Moura ransacked his cell and that Sgt. J. Lindsey, Officer McNair, Officer J. Ilardi and two unknown correctional officers forced Plaintiff to perform oral sex on them. (Docket Entry 135 ¶ 123). Plaintiff also alleged that these officers, Sgt. Gilmartin and unknown nurses and custody supervisors refused to provide Plaintiff medical treatment and covered up the incident until it was reported to the SID on March 11, 2012. (Id. ).

Plaintiff also alleged that he received disciplinary sanctions as a result of the incident in retaliation for Plaintiff pursuing this litigation. (Docket Entry 135 ¶ 124). He stated DHO Ralph informed him that her friends, Holmes, Ricci, Barnes, Moleins, Warren, Nelsen, Lawrence, and Attorey General staff" requested she sanction Plaintiff for pursuing this litigation (Id. ). He further alleged that on or about March 14, 2012, Officer Dominguez and two unknown officers beat Plaintiff, forced him to ingest hallucinating drugs and then forced him to perform oral sex on them again. SID conducted an investigation, but Plaintiff contended it was a sham as nonparty Officer Schwartzer informed Plaintiff that "nothing will come out of the complaint." (Docket Entry 135 ¶ 125).

2. DOC Defendants' Statement of Material Facts

Whether Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies as to the remaining claims is an issue. The DOC Defendants set forth the inmate grievance procedure for inmates at NJSP as follows. In accordance with N.J.A.C. 10A:8-1.1 to 10A:8-3.6, the NJSP has adopted Inmate Handbooks that set forth the rights and privileges of its inmates at NJSP. The Inmate Handbook also sets forth the inmate grievance procedure at NJSP. (Declaration of Jessica Smith, Docket Entry 298-2 ¶¶ 3, 5; Exhibit B at Docket Entry 298-2).[5] The handbook informs prisoners that they must fill out an Inmate Remedy Form ("IRF") and submit it to an appropriate staff member for delivery to a supervisor for review (Smith Dec. 298-2 ¶ 7). When an inmate receives a response to his IRF, they may appeal the response. After an administrative response has been provided to the inmate's appeal, the inmate's administrative remedies have been exhausted. (Docket Entry 298-2 ¶¶ 8-9 and Ex. B).

The DOC Defendants state Plaintiff has filed numerous IRFs between March 1, 2012 and October 1, 2012, and attach them to their response as Exhibit C to Smith's Declaration. ( See Docket Entry 298-2). They assert none of the IRFs filed by Plaintiff during the aforementioned period were properly and fully exhausted.[6] Of the twenty-five IRFs submitted with the DOC Defendants' motion, [7] only one IRF, dated March 13, 2012, mentions the alleged sexual assault, claiming "Superintendent Barnes masterminded my ill treatment and the rape I suffered on 03/10/12... "(Docket Entry 298-2 at 35). This IRF was submitted in the context of Plaintiff asserting he has been denied showers and food, and Lt. Gerdes responded "Inmate Prall receives everything he is entitled to according to Institutional and Unit policy and procedure" but did not respond to the rape allegation. (Docket Entry 298-2 at 35). Plaintiff did not appeal this denial of his IRF; therefore, DOC Defendants assert Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.

Defendants reference SID Investigator Harrison's Declaration submitted in response to the Court's order to show cause, (Docket Entry 184-4), and resubmit it for the Court's consideration on summary judgment (Docket Entry 298-3). Harrison indicates he was contacted on March 11, 2012 by NJSP Lt. Mendez, a non-party, regarding Plaintiff's allegations of sexual assault. As noted above, Harrison reviewed the video recording of March 10, 2012 from Plaintiff's housing unit, purportedly showing Plaintiff being placed in handcuffs, being escorted into his cell, and the officers leaving the cell two minutes later (Docket Entry 298-1 ¶ 17; 298-3 ¶ 7). The report attached to Harrison's declaration asserts "[t]he video does not depict any image to support Prall's allegation." (Docket Entry 293-3 at 9). Between March 11 and 25, 2012, Harrison interviewed Plaintiff, Sgt. Scantling, Officer Moura, Officer Ilardi, Officer Dimichele, Officer McNair, and Sgt. Lindsey regarding Plaintiff's allegations (Docket Entry 298-3 ¶¶ 8-9, 11-15). All denied anything inappropriate occurred. Based on his interviews and review of the video footage, Harrison concluded there was "no evidence or information could be found to support inmate Prall's allegations.... Inmate Prall's allegations are deemed to be entirely without merit." (Docket Entry 298-3 at 12).

The DOC Defendants further noted Registered Nurse Milroy attempted to evaluate Plaintiff on March 10 and 11, 2012, however, he reportedly refused medical evaluation on both days. RN Milroy indicated Plaintiff did not show any signs of physical injuries, and he was medically cleared to remain in his housing unit. (Docket Entry 298-3 ¶ 10). DOC Defendants therefore ...


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