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Stiener v. Robinson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 21, 2019

ARTHUR STIENER, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER J. ROBINSON, et al., Defendants.

          Arthur Stiener, Plaintiff Pro Se 7 Serviss Ave East Brunswick, New Jersey 08816

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE U.S. District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Arthur Stiener's (“Plaintiff”), submission of a civil rights complaint. [Docket Entry 1]. At this time, the Court must review the complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the complaint will proceed in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges a conspiracy consisting of extortion and assault during his confinement at Bayside State Prison, New Jersey. [Docket Entry 1]. The following factual allegations are taken from the complaint and are accepted for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the truth of Plaintiff's allegations.

         Plaintiff's incarceration at Bayside began in 2015. He began noticing after his arrival that several cells on his unit would remain unlocked during “lockdown” periods and that the inmates would be free to move about the unit. [Id. at 8]. He states that many of these inmates were gang members. [Id. at 8-9]. Plaintiff alleges these inmates told him on one occasion that they “‘got the door popped'” and would “‘go easy'” on him the first time because he was new to Bayside. [Id. at 9]. Plaintiff further alleges that they proceeded to explain to him “‘the way it is here.'” [Id.]. “This was to include payment to use the phone, and commissary on demand. Plaintiff declined to pay the runners anything and essentially told them he was prepared to use violence to protect himself and his property.” [Id.]. “Plaintiff consciously restricted his activity outside his cell to movement he considered necessary to avoid institutional infractions, i.e., work (not voluntary), shower, meals, and phone usage when he could pay to use it.” [Id.].

         Plaintiff asserts he observed Officer Robinson open cell doors for the inmates and laugh with them after they took commissary items from other inmates' cells. [Id.].

         On approximately November 23, 2015, Plaintiff was waiting to call his family when Officer Robinson asked him what he was doing. [Id.]. Plaintiff explained that he was waiting to use the phone, and Officer Robinson told Plaintiff to go downstairs. [Id.]. Plaintiff refused, asserting that he would miss his chance to use the phone if he left. [Id.]. Officer Robinson then spat on Plaintiff's shoe in what Plaintiff believed to be an attempt to provoke Plaintiff into a confrontation. [Id.].

         Shortly after this incident, Plaintiff's cell was searched by a friend of Officer Robinson. [Id. at 9-10]. The officer claimed to have found a finger of a blue glove, allegedly containing a controlled dangerous substance, on Plaintiff's bed in plain view. [Id.]. Before any testing was completed, officers were claiming the substance was heroin. [Id.]. Plaintiff was taken to medical and ordered to produce a urine sample. [Id.]. Plaintiff produced three clean urine samples over the next two days. [Id.]. Special Investigations Division (“SID”) Officer Gardner interviewed Plaintiff on the third day and informed him that the substance tested positive for heroin. [Id.]. Plaintiff told Officer Gardner about the inmate runners and Officer Robinson and how he believed the substance was planted in his cell as retaliation because he had refused to participate in their “extortion system.” [Id.].

         Plaintiff states that SID investigated and two or three of the inmate runners were moved to different prisons as a result of his conversation with Officer Gardner. [Id.]. Other inmates were moved to different units within Bayside and lost their runner position. [Id.]. “Then Officer Gardner listened to plaintiff's pre-recorded collect phone calls. Officer Gardner discussed the former and also specifically mentioned to plaintiff that he listened to one of his phone calls and that during the call, he could hear another inmate demanding money for use of the phone.” [Id.]. Plaintiff asked Officer Gardner for “keep separate” orders to be placed in his file to keep him away from the inmates involved in the scheme as well as Officer Robinson. “Officer Gardner told plaintiff that he would ‘take care of it.'” [Id.].

         Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing for possession of the alleged heroin occurred on approximately December 3, 2015. [Id.]. Officer Robinson escorted him to the hearing along with an Unknown Sergeant and Unknown Officers 1 & 2. [Id. at 10-11]. The hearing officer, who was filling in for the regular hearing officer, decided to postpone the hearing after Plaintiff expressed discomfort revealing his discussions with SID about Officer Robinson in front of Officer Robinson. [Id. at 11].

         Officer Robinson then “jerked” Plaintiff's handcuffed arm towards the door. [Id.]. Plaintiff asked to speak with the hearing officer privately as he was afraid to leave with Officer Robinson. [Id.]. Plaintiff alleges that Officer Robinson then struck him in the face with a closed fist three times. [Id.]. The sergeant intervened by yelling at Officer Robinson to stop. [Id.]. Officer Dick pulled the hearing officer out of the room, and the unknown officers pulled Plaintiff out of the hearing room. [Id.].

         Plaintiff began requesting to see SID about the assault on his way back to the medical unit when the sergeant and officers escorting him “wrenched” Plaintiff's arms behind his back. [Id.]. The sergeant threatened to “call a ‘code' and beat him worse if he didn't stop calling out.” [Id.]. When he got back to segregation, Plaintiff requested medical attention and SID. [Id.]. The sergeant came to Plaintiff's cell about thirty minutes later and said he would let Plaintiff see medical staff if Plaintiff would stop talking about being assaulted. [Id.]. Plaintiff objected but said he would not talk to SID if the sergeant would let him talk to medical staff. [Id. at 11-12]. The sergeant allowed Plaintiff to see medical staff about back pain resulting from his mattress. [Id. at 12]. Officer Probst, the medical officer, told Plaintiff that “‘we'll finish what the other guys started'” if Plaintiff attempted to ask for ...


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