The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID LARIMER, Chief Judge, District
Plaintiff, Corey Lasley, an inmate in the custody of the New
York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"),
commenced this action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
claiming that defendants, five DOCS employees, violated his
First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiff alleges
that defendants filed false misbehavior reports against him and
conducted repeated retaliatory searches of his cell in order to
stop him from filing grievances and doing legal work in the law
library. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. (Dkt.
#26).*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, defendants'
motion is granted, in part, and denied, in part.
The following facts are construed in a light most favorable to
plaintiff. At all relevant times, plaintiff was housed at Five
Points Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison.
Incidents involving C.O. Wakefield, Sgt. Piccolo, Lt. Sarra,
and Dep. Superintendent Aidala
In October 2001, plaintiff worked as clerk assisting other
inmates with legal research and writing in the library at Five
Points. On October 8, defendant Correctional Officer Marlene
Wakefield informed the law clerks working in the library that day
of an alleged new policy that limited clerks to five minutes with
each inmate that they were assisting. Plaintiff, who claimed
familiarity with the regulations, questioned Wakefield as to the
basis for the new policy. Wakefield responded that the director
for libraries in Albany had issued the policy. She told plaintiff
to file a grievance if he was not happy with her directive.
Plaintiff immediately began preparing such a written grievance
to the Superintendent claiming that Wakefield did not give him
sufficient time to render proper legal assistance to inmates.
(Grievance "FPT 3504-01," at Dkt. #26, Ex. 2, Dep. Ex. 6).
Wakefield apparently saw plaintiff writing the grievance and called defendant Sgt. Paul Piccolo to
the library for assistance. Plaintiff was searched and property
was taken from him. Sgt. Piccolo allegedly said to plaintiff,
"What are you crazy writing one of my officers up, now your (sic)
gonna pay and then maybe it'll stop those other assholes from
writing my officers up."(Dkt. #1, ¶ 28).
Wakefield wrote an inmate misbehavior report against plaintiff
charging him with four rules violations: possession of
contraband, harassment, refusing a direct order, and unauthorized
legal work. (Dep. Ex. 8). Plaintiff was placed on keeplock
confinement beginning that day.*fn2 Two days later, on
October 10, 2001, plaintiff filed a second grievance, this time
alleging retaliation by Wakefield and Piccolo. (Grievance "FPT
3471-01," at Dep. Ex. 5). Plaintiff's cell was then searched on
October 10 and 14. Plaintiff claims that his cell was ransacked
and some of his property was destroyed.
After a disciplinary hearing on October 16, 2001, plaintiff was
found not guilty of all the October 8 charges. The hearing
officer found that the "evidence [did] not support misbehavior
report." Plaintiff was released from keeplock confinement that
same day. (Dep. Ex. 8). On October 18, 2001, the Superintendent
denied Grievance FPT 3471-01, in which plaintiff accused
Wakefield and Sgt. Piccolo of retaliation. (Dep. Ex. 5).
However, on October 24, the Inmate Grievance Review Committee
("IGRC") responded to plaintiff's first grievance, FPT 3504-01,
and agreed with him that the law clerk Directive did not contain
a time limit on how long a law clerk could meet with an inmate.
On October 30, the Superintendent "accepted" this grievance and found that "law
clerks should be provided ample opportunity to provide assistance
to other inmates with their legal work in accordance with the
Directive." (Dep. Ex. 6). Plaintiff's cell was searched four days
later on November 3, 2001.
On November 5, 2001, plaintiff wrote a letter complaint to the
Law Library Supervisor complaining that another unnamed
correctional officer and Sgt. Piccolo again tried to enforce a
time limit on how long he could meet with inmates. Plaintiff gave
the officer a copy of the decision on his last grievance and the
Directive pertaining to law clerks. The officer called Sgt.
Piccolo to the library. Plaintiff claims that Sgt. Piccolo
harassed him for giving the officer a copy of the decision and
that, in fact, Sgt. Piccolo had instructed the officer to enforce
the time limit. Plaintiff received no response to this complaint,
despite sending follow-up letters to the Superintendent and the
Law Library Supervisor. (Dep. Ex. 10).
Sometime in November 2001, plaintiff also informed Inmate
Grievance Supervisor Hendricks and defendant Lt. Gregory Sarra
that he intended to run in the upcoming election to become an
IGRC representative. Plaintiff was dissatisfied with the manner
in which the IGRC at Five Points was handling certain grievances.
He voiced his complaints to members of the IGRC and other
On November 20, 2001, Lt. Sarra filed an inmate misbehavior
report against plaintiff charging him with creating a disturbance
and threatening an inmate member of the IGRC ("the November 20
charges"). These incidents allegedly took place on November 18
and 20 in the law library. Lt. Sarra based the misbehavior report
on information received through confidential informants.(Dep. Ex.
11).Plaintiff was confined to his cell on keeplock confinement
pending a disciplinary hearing. On December 5, plaintiff was found not
guilty after a hearing of the November 20 charges. The hearing
officer found that there was no evidence that the inmate who
plaintiff allegedly threatened was present in the law library at
the time of the alleged incident. (Dep. Ex. 11).
On December 5, plaintiff wrote a grievance against Lt. Sarra
claiming that the misbehavior report was written in retaliation
for plaintiff's complaints against the IGRC representatives that
they were not processing grievances correctly. (Dep. Ex. 12).
Plaintiff filed a second grievance on December 5 complaining that
the October 10, October 14, and November 3, 2001 cell searches
were retaliatory and based on the grievances he had filed
regarding the library policies, as well as his acquittal of the
October 8 charges. Plaintiff also grieved the fact that he did
not receive a response from the law library administrator
concerning his November 5 complaint against Sgt. Piccolo for
enforcing a time limit on law clerk/inmate meetings. (Grievance
"FPT 3820-01," Dep. Ex. 7).
In addition to naming Sgt. Piccolo in the grievance, plaintiff
also named defendant Dep. Superintendent Dana Aidala because
Aidala authorized the three cell searches. According to Dep.
Superintendent Aidala, plaintiff's cell was searched on these
dates based on a computer program that randomly identified cells
to search. (Aidala Aff., Dkt. #32). Grievance FPT 3820-01 was
denied on January 6, 2002. (Dep. Ex. 7).
On December 4, 2001, Sgt. Piccolo ordered another search of
plaintiff's cell in order to look for "law library material." A
law library book was found in plaintiff's cell. The officer who
searched the cell (who is not a party to this lawsuit) wrote a
misbehavior report against plaintiff charging him with possession
of stolen state property and contraband. According the
misbehavior report, Sgt. Piccolo "deemed" the book "stolen
property" and "contraband." (Dkt. #26, Dep. Ex. 13). On December 5, plaintiff wrote a grievance against Sgt. Piccolo
claiming that the December 4 cell search was retaliatory. (Dep.
Ex.12). On December 14, the hearing officer found plaintiff not
guilty of the charges based on the fact that ...