officers were using excessive force against Pizzuto, but he nonetheless failed to intercede. (Id.) Once the officers had beaten Pizzuto into submission, they left him lying in his cell with extensive visible injuries, including a swollen and blackened left eye, a swollen left cheek, abrasions to his left cheek, bruises and contusions on his chest, shoulder, torso and back, and a contusion on his leg. (Id. ¶ 12.) In addition, it was later discovered that his spleen was lacerated by the force of the punches or kicks to his torso. (Id. ¶ 13.) The officers reported back to Pincus that no "injury report" or "use of force report" was needed. (Id. ¶ 11.) As a result, Pizzuto received no immediate medical care.
When defendant Joseph Bergen replaced Pincus as the on-duty supervisor over an hour later, Pincus informed Bergen that "[m]y guys smacked D-3 around a little." (Id. ¶ 11.) Bergen replied that he would prepare an accident report claiming that Pizzuto had slipped and fallen in the shower. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 33.) Shortly thereafter, Bergen sent just such an accident report to a medical technician who escorted Pizzuto to the Medical Unit. (Id. ¶¶ 33, 34.) The only treatment Pizzuto received, despite his extensive visible injuries, was a bag of ice. (Pl. Stint, ¶ 26.) Pizzuto was returned to his cell later that evening. (Second Am. Compl., ¶ 34.)
Three days later, on January 11th, Thomas Pizzuto collapsed in his cell and was subsequently taken to the Nassau County Medical Center ("NCMC"). (Id. ¶ 36.) Pizzuto died two days later. (Pl. Stmt, ¶ 27.) The County Deputy Medical Examiner attributed the death to a ruptured spleen and declared his death a homicide. (Id., Ex. T.)
Defendants Velazquez, Regnier, Bavaro, Bergen and Pincus were all indicted in the Eastern District of New York for federal civil rights crimes in connection with the death of Thomas Pizzuto. Pincus entered into a cooperation agreement and pled guilty to the lesser charge of misprision of a felony for failing to report Velazquez and Regnier's criminal assault on Pizzuto. (Id. ¶ 29.) Bavaro pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 371 by conspiring to deprive Thomas Pizzuto of his right to be free from cruel and usual punishment resulting in death, and also to witness tampering. (Id. ¶ 31.) Defendants Velazquez and Regnier pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 241 and 242 for conspiring to deprive, and in fact, depriving Thomas Pizzuto of his right to be free from cruel and usual punishment resulting in bodily injury and death. (Id. ¶ 33.) A jury convicted Bergen for being an accessory after the fact to the conspiracy, and for depriving Pizzuto of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241 and 242. (Id. ¶ 38.)
Following the convictions of the five corrections officers, Plaintiff filed this civil action for damages on her own behalf and on behalf of Thomas Pizzuto.
I. Legal Standards
A. Summary Judgment
A grant of summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and. . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party carries the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986), and all reasonable inferences and ambiguities must be resolved against the moving party. Flanigan v. Gen. Elec. Co., 242 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001).
B. Collateral Estoppel Against The Individual Defendants
Plaintiff moves for summary judgment against defendants Velazquez, Regnier, Bavaro, Pincus and Bergen on the grounds that (1) their convictions collaterally estop them from disputing their acts and the legal consequences thereof, and (2) their own sworn testimony in the criminal proceedings and this civil action eliminates any material question of fact regarding their civil liability. The individual defendants have not replied to Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.
It is well-settled that a criminal conviction, whether by jury verdict or guilty plea. constitutes estoppel in favor of a private party in a subsequent civil action with regard to any issue of fact or law (t) that is identical to the issue raised in the prior proceeding: (2) that was actually litigated and decided in the prior proceeding; (3) that the defendants had a full and fair opportunity to litigate; and (4) that needed to be determined in order to reach a valid and final judgment on the merits. See Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Empresa Naviera Santa SA., 56 F.3d 359, 368 (2d Cir. 1995). A guilty plea qualifies as actual litigation for purposes of collateral estoppel in a subsequent civil trial. Gelb v. Royal Globe Ins. Co., 798 F.2d 38, 43 (2d Cir. 1986).
II. Federal Law Claims
A. Count I: Conspiracy to Violate Pizzuto's Eighth Amendment Rights
Plaintiff claims that the convictions and sworn deposition testimony of Velazquez. Regnier, Bavaro and Bergen conclusively establish that Defendants conspired to deprive Pizzuto of his constitutional rights, including the right (1) to be free from the intentional use of unreasonable force; (2) to be free from cruel and unusual punishment as an incarcerated inmate; (3) to have access to and seek redress in the courts; (4) to be free from the delay and denial of medical attention; (5) to be free from unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain; and (6) not to be deprived of life without due process of law.
1. Velazquez and Regnier
Defendants Velazquez and Regnier each pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 241 by conspiring to deprive Thomas Pizzuto of his right to be free from cruel and usual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. (Pl. Stmt, ¶ 33.) To determine whether these guilty pleas collaterally estop Defendants from disputing their civil liability under Count I of Plaintiff's complaint, I apply the standards set out in Central Hudson, 56 F.3d at 368.
The court first considers whether the convictions of Velazquez and Regnier "settled issues of fact and law that are identical to those raised in this case." See Id. To establish a civil conspiracy under § 1983, Plaintiff has the burden of showing (1) that two or more people entered into an agreement to violate the victim's civil rights, (2) that the alleged co-conspirators shared in the general conspiratorial objective, and (3) that an overt act was committed in furtherance of the conspiracy that caused injury to him. See Beck v. Prupis, 529 U.S. 494, 503 (2000) (requiring overt tortious act in addition to traditional elements of a conspiracy); Old Security Life Ins. Co. v. Continental Ill. Nat. Bank & Trust Co., 740 F.2d 1384, 1397 (7th Cir. 1984) ("Civil conspiracy is an agreement of two or more people to commit an unlawful act, or to inflict a wrong against another. and an overt act that results in damages."); see also Hampton v. Hanrahan, 600 F.2d 600, 620-21 (7th Cir. 1979), rev'd in part on other grounds, 446 U.S. 754 (1980).
By pleading guilty to violating § 241, Defendants admitted that they (1) intended and in fact did join an agreement between two or more people to violate Thomas Pizzuto's civil rights, and (2) that they knew of the conspiracy and voluntarily participated in it. U.S. v. Skillman, 922 F.2d 1370 (9th Cir. 1990). Because § 241 does net require an overt act as one of its constituent elements, Defendants' guilty pleas under Count One of the indictment did not necessarily establish that they took an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. See U.S. v. Morado, 454 F.2d 167 (1972). However, in pleading guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 242, Defendants did admit to performing an overt act — the battery of Pizzuto. Thus, when considered together, Defendants' guilty pleas under § 241 and § 242 clearly establish a set of facts that are identical to those necessary for satisfying the elements of a civil conspiracy claim.
Central Hudson also requires that Defendants actually litigated the issues underlying their criminal liability and that they had a full and fair opportunity to do so. This requirement was satisfied when Defendants entered their guilty pleas. See Gelb, 798 F.2d at 43.
Finally, Central Hudson requires that the criminal findings relevant to civil liability were necessary to support a valid and final judgment on the merits of the criminal proceedings. As set out above, Defendants' liability under Counts One and Three of the indictment was only established when the government satisfied elements that are identical to the elements of a civil conspiracy claim.
Accordingly, I find that Velazquez and Regnier's criminal convictions conclusively establish their liability under Count I of Plaintiff's complaint.
Defendant Bavaro pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 371 by conspiring to deprive Thomas Pizzuto of his right to be free from cruel and usual punishment. (Pl. Stmt, ¶ 31.) The factual basis for Bavaro' s plea was the admission that:
On January 8, 1999, I joined Edward Velazquez and
Patrick Regnier on the D-Block tier and stood in front
of Thomas Pizzuto's cell while Officers Velazquez and
Regnier were inside the cell beating him. I stood in
front of the cell throughout the beating in order to
assist Officers Velazquez and Regnier by making sure
that Mr. Pizzuto did not fight back or try to leave
the cell. By standing in front of the cell I also
intended to discourage other inmates on the tier from
later telling anyone what they saw or heard during the
(Id. ¶ 6.) Bavaro further testified at his deposition that when Velazquez told him that they were going "to pay [Thomas Pizzuto] a visit," he understood that the officers were going to use physical force against him. (Id. ¶ 7.)