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Hill v. Melvin

June 27, 2006

DEMETRIUS HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORRECTION OFFICERS A. MELVIN, V. AMIR, MS. WILSON & CAPTAIN ECK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Andrew J. Peck, United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Pro se plaintiff Demetrius Hill brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, and denial of religious freedom. (Dkt. No. 2: Compl.)

Presently before the Court is defendants' summary judgment motion. (Dkt. No. 27: Defs. Notice of Motion, Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. & Sitaras Aff.; Dkt. No. 28: Defs. Br.; Dkt. No. 36: Defs. Reply Br.) Hill has opposed the motion. (Dkt. No. 35: Hill Rule 56.1 Stmt., Br. & Aff.) The parties have consented to decision of this case by a Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. No. 16.)

For the reasons set forth below, defendants' summary judgment motion is GRANTED as to the denial of religious freedom claim as to all defendants, the malicious prosecution claim as to all defendants, and the false arrest claim as to Correction Officers Amir and Wilson, and DENIED as to the false arrest claim against Correction Officer Melvin and Captain Eck.*fn1

FACTS

Processing at the Vernon C. Bain Center at Rikers Island

On July 28, 2001, Demetrius Hill was processed into the Vernon C. Bain Center ("V.C.B.C.") on Rikers Island. (Dkt. No. 35: Hill Rule 56.1 Stmt. Att.: Hill Aff. at 8; Dkt. No. 27: Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8.) Captain Raymond Eck was a supervisor at the V.C.B.C. Intake area. (Dkt. No. 14: Answer ¶ 5; Hill Aff. at 8-9.)*fn2

According to Hill, he and other prisoners complained about being held in the holding cells for hours without food or a place to sit or sleep. (Hill Aff. at 8.) According to Hill, Correction Officer Melvin threatened to confiscate Hill's (and another inmate's) property, including religious medallions, if they "did not 'shut up.'" (Id.) Hill threatened to sue for mistreatment and requested to file a grievance about his religious medallion. (Id.; see Hill Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 14.) According to Hill, Correction Officers Melvin, Amir and Wilson and Captain Eck "whispered" amongst themselves, pointed at Hill and said, "'[Y]ou['re] going to lose all your shit today and after an ass whipping you'll have something to sue about.'" (Hill Aff. at 8.)

According to Hill, he was removed from the holding cell to be strip searched. (Hill Aff. at 8.) Correction Officer Wilson took Hill's boots, watch, and gold chain (the "religious medallion"). (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 27: Ex. S*fn3: Hill Dep. at 75; Hill Aff. at 8.) Hill was given a pink receipt and was told that his property would be returned to him after his release. (Hill Dep. at 76.)*fn4 Boots, jewelry, watches over $50, and non-plastic religious crosses are not permitted inside the V.C.B.C. (Ex. R: Wilson: People v. Hill,Trial Transcript ["Tr."] 303.) Inmates may obtain plastic religious crosses from the jail's clergy. (Id.) According to Hill, when he complained to Captain Eck about his medallion being taken, the Captain responded, "'[D]o what you're told or get your ass kicked.'" (Hill Aff. at 8.)

At approximately 10:45 a.m. at Intake Area "B," Officer Melvin strip searched Hill. (Ex. G: Infraction Rep.; Ex. H: Infraction Notice; Ex. I: Capt. Eck Rep.; Ex. J: Incident Report Form; Hill Aff. at 8.) Posters on the wall at the V.C.B.C. intake area informed prisoners that possession of weapons will result in arrest. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7; Ex. R.: Melvin: Tr. 43-44.) Hill passed naked through the metal detector and his clothes were passed through an x-ray machine. (Hill Aff. at 8; Ex. G: Infraction Rep.; Ex. H: Infraction Notice; Ex. J: Incident Report Form.) After Hill's clothes passed through the x-ray machine, Officer Melvin searched Hill's pants and produced a 1-1/4 inch single edge razor blade from the right-side pocket. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8; Ex. G: Infraction Rep.; Ex. H: Infraction Notice; Ex. I: Capt. Eck Rep.; Ex. J: Incident Report Form; Ex. K: Synopsis of Recovered Contraband; Hill Aff. at 8.)

According to Hill, C.O. Melvin planted the razor blade; Hill asserts that C.O. Melvin held the razor blade before searching Hill's pants and "reached into [Hill's] pocket and acted as if he withdrew a razor blade." (Hill Aff. at 8.)*fn5 Hill asserts that "the metal detector or x-ray machine made no indication that metal was in the pants and myself." (Id.) Hill also asserts that inmates Hareem Gillard and Derrick Felder looked at the x-ray machine monitor as Hill's clothes passed through and saw no weapons or "me[t]al outlines." (Id.; Ex. M: Hearing Report; Ex. N: Notice of Disciplinary Hearing Disposition.)*fn6 Officer Melvin, however, reported that he initially saw the razor blade on the x-ray machine as Hill's pants passed through. (Ex. G: Infraction Rep.; Ex. I: Capt. Eck Rep.; Ex. J: Incident Rep.)

Officer Melvin reported the infraction -- that he had found a razor blade in Hill's pants pocket -- to Captain Eck. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 9; Ex. G: Infraction Rep.; Ex. I: Capt. Eck Rep.; Ex. J: Incident Rep.) On July 28, 2001, Hill was infracted for possession of contraband weapons, pursuant to Department of Correction Charge No. 103.10, and referred to the Gang Intelligence Unit for re-arrest. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10; Ex. G: Infraction Rep.; Ex. H: Infraction Notice; Ex. K: Synopsis of Recovered Contraband; Hill Aff. at 9.) Captain Eck read Hill his legal rights. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 11; Ex. L: Legal Rights Form Signed by Hill.)

On July 31, 2001, following a disciplinary hearing before Captain Edward Vinogroski, Hill received 90 days in punitive segregation. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 12; Ex. M: Hearing Report; Ex. N: Hearing Disposition Notice; Hill Aff. at 7.) Hill was immediately placed on "Red I.D." status, an elevated prisoner classification. (Hill Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 13; Hill Aff. at 9; Ex. N: Hearing Disposition Notice; Ex. O: Notice of Authorization for Initial Placement in Red ID Status; Ex. P: Notice of Hearing Determination for Red ID and/or Enhanced Restraint Status.)*fn7

On July 31, 2001, Hill also was arrested on the possession of contraband charge. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 14; Ex. B: Crim. Compl.; Hill Aff. at 9.) On August 23, 2001, Hill was indicted by a grand jury and charged with first degree promoting prison contraband pursuant to Penal Law § 205.25(2) and fourth degree criminal possession of a weapon, Penal Law § 265.01(2). (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 15; Ex. D: Grand Jury Indictment.)

Hill's Criminal Trial

Hill's criminal trial began on December 10, 2003 and concluded on December 19, 2003. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17; Ex. E: Exhibit Sheet; Ex. F: Verdict Sheet.) Captain Eck, Correction Officer Melvin, Correction Officer Maury Johnson, and Investigator Uriondo testified for the prosecution; Police Officer Scott Griczewicz, inmate Hareem Gillard, Correction Officer Amir, Correction Officer Wilson, Captain Eck, and Hill testified for the defense. (See Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18; see generally Ex. R: Tr.)

Hill alleges, without supporting proof, that all four defendants perjured themselves at trial by stating that they did not recall the July 28, 2001 incident, that they did not recall other incidents that occurred that day, and that Officer Melvin found, as opposed to planted, the razor in Hill's pants. (Hill Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 8, 12; Hill Aff. at 9; see Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 20; Ex. R: Amir: Tr. 275, 286; Wilson: Tr. 298-99.)

At Hill's criminal trial, Correction Officers Amir and Wilson testified that they did not recall events occurring on July 28, 2001. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 20; Hill Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8.)*fn8

The following are excerpts from C.O. Amir's and C.O. Wilson's testimony:

[MR. HIGGINS (Counsel for Hill)]: Okay. Directing your attention to July 28th of 2001, did you work on that date?

[C.O. AMIR]: Well, like I told you earlier, I didn't recollect that information until you showed me the paperwork. (Ex. R: Amir: Tr. 275.)

[MR. HIGGINS]: About how many incident reports have you written since July the 28th of 2001? . . .

[C.O. AMIR]: Like I tell you, I work in a jail environment, okay. Anything could happen on any day. So, I can't specifically tell you how many or not. (Ex. R: Amir: Tr. 286.)

[MR. HIGGINS]: You have no recollection of the incident that is written on the document?

[C.O. WILSON]: No, sir. I don't. (Ex. R: Wilson: Tr. 303.)

On December 19, 2003, Hill was found not guilty. (Defs. Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17; Ex. F: Verdict; Hill Aff. at 9.)

Hill's Federal Complaint

On May 16, 2005, Hill signed his present federal ยง 1983 complaint asserting claims against Correction Officers Melvin, Amir and Wilson, and Captain Eck. (Dkt. No. 2: Compl., last page.) Hill's complaint was received by the Court's Pro Se Office on May 20, 2005. (Compl., 1st page.) The Court interprets Hill's pro se complaint as alleging threeclaims: (1) false ...


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