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SANTIAGO v. SEMENZA

May 19, 1997

SAMMY SANTIAGO, Plaintiff, against BRYAN SEMENZA, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KOELTL

 John G. Koeltl, District Judge:

 This action arises out of the alleged use of excessive force by the defendant, Bryan Semenza, against the pro se plaintiff, Sammy Santiago, while he was a pretrial detainee during a disturbance in a holding cell area located behind a courtroom in the United States Courthouse of the Southern District of New York. Liberally construed, the complaint asserts a claim pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 29 L. Ed. 2d 619, 91 S. Ct. 1999 (1971), for a violation of the plaintiff's constitutional rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Graham v. M.S. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 n.10, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443, 109 S. Ct. 1865 (1989) ("The Due Process Clause protects a pretrial detainee from the use of excessive force that amounts to punishment."); see also Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535-39, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979); Rodriguez v. Phillips, 66 F.3d 470, 477 (2d Cir. 1995); Brown v. Doe, 2 F.3d 1236, 1242 (2d Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1125, 127 L. Ed. 2d 403, 114 S. Ct. 1088 (1994).

 The defendant now moves pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. For the reasons explained below, the motion is granted.

 I.

 The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment may not be granted unless "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs. Ltd. Partnership, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994). "The trial court's task at the summary judgment motion stage of the litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding; it does not extend to issue-resolution." Id., 22 F.3d at 1224.

 The moving party bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter that "it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The substantive law governing the case will identify those facts which are material and "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 8 L. Ed. 2d 176, 82 S. Ct. 993 (1962)); see also Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1223.

 If the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). With respect to the issues on which summary judgment is sought, if there is any evidence in the record from any source from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, summary judgment is improper. See Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37 (2d Cir. 1994).

 II.

 For the purposes of his motion, the defendant accepts the plaintiff's version of the facts as true. On or about June 20, 1994, an indictment was unsealed charging the plaintiff, who is an alleged member of the New York chapter of the Latin Kings, *fn1" with conspiring with nineteen other members of the Latin Kings, to violate, inter alia, the RICO statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), through a pattern of racketeering activity involving the murders of eight individuals and conspiracies to murder three other individuals. (Zabel Decl. P 2.) On June 30, 1994, the plaintiff and approximately nineteen other Latin Kings were placed in a holding cell area located behind a courtroom in the United States Courthouse for the Southern District of New York prior to their arraignment. (Santiago Dep. at 50-53; Def.'s 3(g) Statement P 1.) Deputy United States Marshals escorted the Latin Kings, who were handcuffed behind their backs, from the holding cell area into the courtroom for their appearances in four groups of four or five each. (Santiago Dep. at 65-69.)

 After the plaintiff's appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge, he was taken back to the holding cell area. (Santiago Dep. at 70.) Upon his return, the plaintiff observed a "mad commotion" in the holding cell area. (Santiago Dep. at 89-90.) The plaintiff saw the defendant arguing with Latin King Jose Gabriel and then with Latin King Nelson Torres. (Santiago Dep. at 70-73.) The plaintiff approached the defendant and looked at him in order to find out who he was and why he was arguing with the other Latin Kings. (Santiago Dep. at 75.) The plaintiff then sat in a chair where three other Deputy Marshals kept him "secluded from the incident that was taking place." (Santiago Dep. at 78-80.) After sitting down, the plaintiff bent over and slipped his handcuffed hands under his legs bringing them around to his stomach area where he concealed them from the view of the Deputy Marshals who were guarding him. (Santiago Dep. at 93.) During this time period, other inmates in the bullpen were arguing, screaming, "breaking," and banging on the chairs and on the gate. (Santiago Dep. at 83.)

 The defendant removed his glasses and approached the plaintiff's chair. (Santiago Dep. at 81, 88-89.) The defendant swung his left hand at the plaintiff, and the plaintiff blocked the defendant with his hands. (Santiago Dep. at 86-87.) The plaintiff "grabbed" the defendant's hand, "locked onto [the defendant's] hands," and they moved together toward a camera in the holding cell hallway. (Santiago Dep. at 94-95.) The defendant swung at the plaintiff a second time, and the plaintiff thinks the defendant hit him in the face, but he did not realize it until three other marshals came running up. (Santiago Dep. at 95.) "Somehow, [the defendant] got away," (Santiago Dep. at 100), and the three other marshals "ran [the plaintiff] into the wall," (Santiago Dep. at 96). The three marshals then escorted the plaintiff out of the holding cell area. (Santiago Dep. at 100.)

 According to the plaintiff, he had marks on his wrists from his handcuffs, and bruises under his arms and on his back from being slammed into the wall. (Santiago Dep. at 111-12, 117.) The plaintiff also received a bruise/scratch "like a paper cut" running from his forehead to the middle of his nose, ...


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