United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF PRO SE
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff Damon Williams'
(“Plaintiff”), submission of a civil rights
complaint. [Docket Entry 1]. Plaintiff has also moved for the
appointment of pro bono counsel. [Docket Entry 2]. 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. The motion for the
appointment of counsel is denied without prejudice.
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
alleges that he was standing in the South Woods State Prison
(“SWSP”) “mess line” at lunch time on
July 22, 2018. [Complaint ¶ 9]. As Plaintiff approached
the window to receive his meal, Sgt. Miletta approached
Plaintiff and ordered him out of the line. [Id.
¶ 10]. Following Sgt. Miletta's instructions,
Plaintiff exited the line and placed the tuna packets that
had been in his pockets on the ground. [Id. ¶
11]. Plaintiff states Sgt. Miletta told him
“‘Since you so stupid go lock-in.'”
[Id. ¶ 12]. Plaintiff asked if he could eat
first but Sgt. Miletta told him to get on the ground and to
place his hands on his head. [Id. ¶ 13].
Plaintiff complied and was escorted to a holding cell.
[Id. ¶¶ 14-15]. Sgt. Miletta took
Plaintiff's wristwatch and instructed Officer John Doe to
take Plaintiff's socks. [Id. ¶ 16].
was later taken to the Emergency Care Unit
(“ECU”) as he uses a C-PAP machine to treat his
sleep apnea. [Id. ¶ 17]. The officers did not
allow Plaintiff to put on socks or shoes before taking him to
the ECU, forcing him to walk barefoot through rain puddles to
get to the ECU. [Id. ¶¶ 18-19]. Upon
arrival at the ECU, Officer Doe told Plaintiff to get on his
knees and strip. [Id. ¶ 20]. While Plaintiff
was disrobing, Officer Doe grabbed the back of
Plaintiff's neck. [Id. ¶ 21].
was served with disciplinary charges the next day for
refusing a housing assignment, prohibited act .254; and
conduct which disrupts, prohibited act *.306. [Id.
¶ 27]. See also N.J.A.C. §§
10A:4-4.1(a)(3)(ix), (a)(2)(xxix). He asked that the video
footage be presented and that the inmates from the mess line
be called as witnesses. [Complaint ¶ 28]. He also asked
to speak with the Special Investigation Division
(“SID”). [Id. ¶ 30]. On July 24,
2018, Plaintiff spoke with a mental health counselor and
asked if she could get SID to interview Plaintiff.
[Id. ¶ 32]. According to the complaint, the
counselor advised Plaintiff that she could only call SID if
Plaintiff made a complaint under the Prison Rape Elimination
Act (“PREA”). [Id. ¶ 32]. Plaintiff
told the counselor about the events of July 22. [Id.
time later, Officer Doe came to Plaintiff's cell and
asked him “what shift did the PREA complaint
accrue.” [Id. ¶ 34]. Plaintiff denied
making a PREA complaint and “Doe told the plaintiff to
tell [the mental health counselor] what [Plaintiff] told
him.” [Id. ¶ 35]. Plaintiff spoke with
the counselor again and told her he was not making a PREA
complaint but wanted to see SID about alleged excessive
force. [Id. ¶ 36].
was taken to an interview room by SID Investigators Schwartz
and Tobolski. [Id. ¶ 39]. The officers asked
Plaintiff about his PREA complaint, and Plaintiff again
denied he wanted to make a PREA complaint. [Id.
¶¶ 39-40]. Plaintiff tried to tell them about the
strip search and the use of force, but Investigator Schwartz
said they'd “‘get to that after the PREA
complaint.'” [Id. ¶ 40]. Plaintiff
gave a statement denying that he'd ever stated that he
had ever alleged a PREA violation or wanted to discuss PREA
with anyone. [Id. ¶ 41]. Investigators Schwartz
and Tobolski would not let Plaintiff discuss his original
complaint and told him to file it on the grievance kiosk.
[Id. ¶ 42]. Plaintiff was charged with
committing prohibited act *.704 (perpetrating frauds,
deceptions, confidence games, riots, or escape plots)
[Id. ¶ 45]. See also N.J.A.C. §
disciplinary hearing for the .254 and *.306 charges took
place on July 25, 2018. [Complaint ¶ 46]. According to
the complaint, Hearing Officer Zimmerman did not provide the
video footage or interview the inmates who were present in
the mess line with Plaintiff. [Id. ¶ 47]. The
hearing officer did not find Plaintiff guilty of conduct that
disrupts, prohibited act *.306, but did find him guilty of
refusing a housing assignment, prohibited act .254.
[Id.]. Plaintiff's hearing on the *.706 charge
took place on July 27, 2018. [Id. ¶ 50]. He
produced a grievance he wrote to SID as evidence.
[Id.]. Plaintiff alleges Hearing Officer Zimmerman
never provided him with a written statement of her findings
and the disciplinary action taken for either case.
[Id. ¶¶ 48, 51]. Plaintiff appealed to
SWSP Assistant Superintendent Kippie Langford. [Id.
¶¶ 49, 55]. The appeals were denied on July 30,
2018. [Id. ¶ 56]. While his appeals were
pending, Plaintiff was transferred to administrative
segregation at New Jersey State Prison (“NJSP”).
[Id. ¶ 54]. He alleges he has failed to receive
any of his property from SWSP besides the “overnight
bag” he took to NJSP. [Id. ¶ 59].
alleges that his C-PAP machine has not been functioning
properly since his arrival at NJSP. [Id. ¶ 64].
He claims it is too hot in his administrative segregation
cell for the machine to properly function. [Id.
¶¶ 62-64]. He has submitted multiple requests for
assistance, but he has not received any response from the
NJSP medical department. [Id. ¶ 68].
raises claims of cruel and unusual punishment, assault and
battery, denial of due process, failure to investigate,
denial of medical care, and failure to discipline.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal
Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134,
§§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26,
1996) (“PLRA”), district courts must review
complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is
proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B), seeks redress against a governmental
employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b),
or brings a claim with respect to prison conditions,
see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. The PLRA directs
district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that
is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. This action is
subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under
28 U.S.C. § 1915 because Plaintiff is a prisoner
proceeding in forma pauperis.
determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court
must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the
plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
93-94 (2007) (following Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 106 (1976)); see also United States v. Day, 969
F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). According to the Supreme
Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, “a
pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions' or
‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do.'” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte screening
for failure to state a claim,  the complaint must allege
“sufficient factual matter” to show that the
claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation
omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Fair Wind Sailing,
Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while
pro se pleadings are liberally construed,
“pro se litigants still must allege sufficient
facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala
v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir.
2013) (citation omitted) (emphasis added).