United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
se Plaintiff Sharodd Hargrove brings this 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 action against several employees of the New
Jersey Department of Corrections, in their individual
capacities (collectively, “Defendants”).
Plaintiff alleges that: certain Defendants retaliated against
him for exercising his First Amendment rights, by placing him
in temporary closed custody (“TCC”); certain
Defendants subjected him to an involuntary strip search in
violation of the Fourth Amendment, as incorporated into the
Fourteenth Amendment; and that the conditions of TCC violated
his rights to due process and to equal protection under the
law. Plaintiff also raises several state law claims.
Defendants now move for summary judgment on all Counts under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. There was no oral
argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). Because Defendants are entitled
to qualified immunity, their motion is GRANTED and the action
is DISMISSED with prejudice.
following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Since
2005, Defendant Sharodd Hargrove has been civilly committed
to the Special Treatment Unit (“STU”) in Kearney,
New Jersey, a facility jointly run by the New Jersey
Department of Corrections (“DOC”) and the New
Jersey Department of Health Services (“DHS”) for
the purpose of incapacitating and rehabilitating
“Sexually Violent Predators.” N.J.S.A. §
30:4-27.26. The events giving rise to this action relate to
Hargrove's suspected participation in a smuggling
operation along with several other STU residents and former
DOC employee Bobby Singletary. On January 3, 2013, a grand
jury indicted Plaintiff Hargrove for bribery in the second
degree and indicted Singletary for bribery, misconduct and
conspiracy. The three other residents of STU were indicted
and plead guilty in exchange for their testimony against one
or more defendants. Immediately following the indictment, the
DOC's Special Investigations Division (“SID”)
requested that the offending residents be placed in Temporary
Close Custody (“TCC”), a form of administrative
segregation. He was again placed in TCC in September
2013 while his trial for bribery was ongoing. Hargrove was
ultimately acquitted. Singletary was found guilty.
The Alleged Strip Search of Hargrove
January 4, 2013, before being placed in TCC, Hargrove and the
other indicted residents were strip searched. Hargrove
steadfastly refused to consent to the search and demanded
that the officers provide probable cause, in accordance with
STU guidelines. Hargrove Dep. 60:16-24. According to the
Complaint, Hargrove was then handcuffed and taken into a
separate room, where Defendants Troman and Salancho demanded
that he remove all of his clothing for visual bodily
inspection. Compl. ¶ 5.3. According to the Complaint,
Defendants Jones, Troman, and Salancho all threatened
Hargrove with physical violence. Compl. ¶ 5.5. Hargrove
alleges he ultimately submitted to the strip search because
he feared for his safety. Defendants deny that Hargrove was
strip searched, though concede that the Court must assume
that the strip search took place for the purposes of summary
judgment. Defendants claim that Hargrove was searched only by
use of a B.O.S.S. chair, a device which scans the body for
hidden metal objects. No contraband was recovered. Hargrove
does not allege that he sustained any physical injuries as a
result of being searched.
First Placement in TCC (January 2013)
on a recommendation from the DOC's Special Investigations
Division (“SID”), Defendant Santiago ordered that
Hargrove and the other indicted residents be placed in TCC.
Hargrove remained in TCC for roughly one and a half weeks.
Lynch Decl., Ex. A, 70:13-20; Defs.' Statement of
Undisputed Facts ¶ 9. Normally, defendants are processed
at a county jail. In this case, however, the requirement that
the DOC separate SVPs from other inmates created practical
impediments to transferring Hargrove to county jail. Lynch
Decl., Ex. A 77. During his stay in TCC, investigators from
SID visited Hargrove in order to elicit a written confession
regarding the bribery charge. Hargrove was read his Miranda
rights and declined to sign a written confession.
alleges that, while in TCC, Defendants deprived him of soap
and other toiletries, that he was permitted to shower only
twice, and that he was denied legal phone calls and access to
legal resources. He alleges that he requested legal phone
calls every day but was denied, and that some of the guards
stationed outside his cell harassed him and called him a
“snitch.” Id. at 73:22-23; 77:24-25. He
also lost his work assignment, as he was unable to leave his
Second Placement in TCC (September 2013)
September 12, 2013, Defendant Kennedy of DOC's Central
Transport Unit, was preparing to transfer Hargrove from STU
to court for trial. Resident Fitzpatrick, scheduled to
testify for the prosecution, was awaiting transportation in
the same holding area as Hargrove. Officer Kennedy overheard
Hargrove tell Fitzpatrick “to keep his dam[n] mouth
shut [in court].” Hargrove does not deny making this
statement, but insists that he made it jokingly. According to
Hargrove, Fitzpatrick “tried to tell the judge . . .
that it wasn't no problem amongst me and him.”
Hargrove Dep. 96:20-23. Upon learning of the incident from
Officer Kennedy, Investigator Wise nonetheless recommended
that Hargrove be placed in TCC until the trial ended in order
to prevent witness-tampering. Lynch Decl. Ex. H., Ans. #9. As
a result, Hargrove was placed in TCC for a second time on
September 12, 2013 until his trial ended on September 27,
2013. During this time, Hargrove was permitted to shower and
communicate with his attorney every day. Nonetheless,
Hargrove asserts that he was placed in TCC only because
certain officers believed he intended to testify against
Officer Singletary at trial, and that his placement was
Procedural History of this Action
filed a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
on July 30, 2014. On March 1, 2016, the Court denied
Hargrove's application for pro bono counsel in
light of his demonstrated ability to engage in motion
practice. On September 7, 2016, the Court denied
Defendants' motion for summary judgment without prejudice
and granted Plaintiff's motion for completion of limited
discovery to the extent of 25 written deposition questions to
Defendant Tromans pursuant to Rule 31. The Court denied
Hargrove's request for additional discovery. Defendants
now move for summary judgment.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides for summary judgment
“if the pleadings, the discovery [including,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file] and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Turner v.
Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990).
A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find
for the non-moving party, and is material if it will affect
the outcome of the trial under governing substantive law.
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