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Nieblas v. Ricci

January 16, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge



This is an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which the plaintiff, Pedro Nieblas ("Plaintiff"), formerly a parolee enrolled at the W illard Drug Treatment Campus Facility ("W illard"), alleges that Defendants, all of whom were employed at W illard by the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), violated his constitutional rights. Now before the Court are Defendants' summary judgment motions [#44] [#69]. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' applications are granted, and this action is dismissed.


Unless otherwise noted the following are the facts of this case viewed in the light most-favorable to the non-moving Plaintiff. The events at issue in this case occurred at W illard between November 2002 and February 2003, when Plaintiff agreed to enter the 90-day, boot camp-style drug treatment program, after he failed a drug test given by his Parole Officer. At all relevant times, Defendant Melvin L. W illiams ("W illiams") was the Superintendent of W illard. The other Defendants, Corrections Captain David Reynolds ("Reynolds"), Corrections Sergeant David Crans ("Crans"), Corrections Officer Douglas Ricci ("Ricci"), Corrections Officer Nelan ("Nelan"), Corrections Counselor Patricia Milczarski ("Milczarski"), and Parole Officer Diana W ingfield ("W ingfield") were also employed at W illard in the capacities indicated by their respective titles.

At W illard, parolees "receive approximately 90 days of: assessment; intensive residential alcohol and substance abuse treatment[;] education; drill consisting of rigorous physical activity, intensive regimentation and discipline[;] rehabilitation therapy; and other programming." (Affidavit of David Reynolds ¶ 5). During his first two weeks at W illard, Plaintiff received written reprimands, known as "Case Memorandums," from four separate staff members, for conduct such as talking back to staff and otherwise being disrespectful. (Ricci Aff. ¶ 7).*fn1 On or about November 25, 2002, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Ricci, which was denied. Subsequently, Milczarski prepared weekly evaluations of Plaintiff's performance, some of which were based on her personal knowledge and some of which were based on information that she obtained from staff members who worked directly with Plaintiff during that time.*fn2 Plaintiff's monthly evaluations were primarily unfavorable, and during the month of December 2003 he received negative reports from multiple staff members, including defendants Ricci and Nelan, as well as several non-defendants including Counselor D. Stone, Counselor Pastik, Counselor G. Zook and Parole Officer Montalto. (Milczarski Affidavit ¶ 7). As a result of Plaintiff's poor performance, Milczarski referred Plaintiff to W illard's Evaluation Review Committee ("ERC"), which determined that Plaintiff would have to re-start the program.*fn3 Consequently, Plaintiff was reassigned to a new platoon (B-1). Apparently, Plaintiff had no contact with Ricci, Milczarski, or Nelan after he was transferred to B-1 Platoon.

Upon Plaintiff's transfer to B-1 Platoon, W ingfield became his supervisor. During the month of January 2003, Plaintiff completed a number of required writing assignments for W ingfield, and failed to complete others. (W ingfield Affidavit ¶ ¶ 7-8). He also continued to receive written reprimands from staff.*fn4 On or about February 3, 2003, Plaintiff failed to appear for a scheduled meeting with W ingfield. (Id. at ¶ 8). On February 10, 2003, W ingfield met with Plaintiff, and observed that he had a large amount of typing paper in his binder that he was not authorized to possess. W hen W ingfield asked Plaintiff where he had gotten the paper, he gave inconsistent statements. (Id.). W ingfield wrote a misbehavior report against Plantiff, charging him with false statements, contraband, and stealing state property, and also referred him to the ERC.

On February 12, 2003, Plaintiff approached W ingfield and asked her to allow him to withdraw from the W illard program. (Id. at 9). W hen W ingfield told Plaintiff that she had already referred him to the ERC, Plaintiff responded that he was going to sue her, and take her house, car, and everything else. (Id.). Plaintiff also began yelling that W ingfield was "killing him," and that she was giving him a "heart attack." (Id.). As a result, W ingfield issued a misbehavior report, charging Plaintiff with making threats and causing a disturbance. (Id. at ¶ 10). Subsequently, Plaintiff was found guilty of the misbehavior report. Additionally, the ERC removed Plaintiff from the W illard program based on his poor performance. Consequently, Plaintiff was removed from the program, and charged with a parole violation for failing to complete the program. (Id.).

On March 4, 2003, Plaintiff appeared before the New York State Division of Parole for a Preliminary Parole Hearing. At the hearing, Plaintiff testified under oath that he was able to speak, read, and understand English. (Transcript of Preliminary Parole Hearing at 5). Moreover, the hearing transcript clearly indicates that Plaintiff has no difficulty speaking or understanding English. On April 9, 2003, Plaintiff appeared at his Final Parole Hearing, and again testified under oath, stating that the reason he left the W illard Program was because it was too stressful for him. (See, e.g., Transcript of Final Parole Hearing at 6). Notably, Plaintiff testified that he left voluntarily, and was not removed from the program. (Id. at 8) ("I wasn't removed."); (See also, Id. at 8-9) (Plaintiff's counsel explained to the Administrative Law Judge: "Simply, my client explains to me although he does have some psychiatric difficulties, basically, he signed out. It was too stressful. . . . He chose on his own to terminate his relationship with W illard and to seek a different avenue."). Specifically, Plaintiff testified, in relevant part, as follows:

W illard is a stressful program. Very stressful program. . . . [S]ome people cannot handle it. The problem is I'm one of the people who cannot handle it. Okay. W hile in W illard, I went through a lot of stressful situations. A lot. That situations therefore a normal person or strong-minded person they would have been able to handle it [sic]. Definitely, I could not handle it. The last month -- my last month at W illard was [a] real bad month for me. I was real agitated. I was confused. I didn't know what to do. My disciplinary hearing record at W illard, my disciplinary violation, I could not pass no evals. I tried real hard.

I went through a lot of problems. People thought in W illard I was rebellious. I was trying to fight the program. I wasn't trying to fight the program. The program, I could not handle it. . . . The last couple of days in W illard, you know, I was in so many problems. I could not even sleep the last week. I got into problems with the leader of the Bloods [gang] in the facility. You know, that's crazy.

I'm [a] 47-years-old man [sic]. Getting into trouble with a 27-years-old gang member only a crazy guy [would] do that. I went into the problem without even thinking. February 12 -- we go to February 12. My parole officer [W ingfield] write me a misbehavior report. She write at one point I was really agitated. Really confused. I was blaming that on her for everything that was happening to me. That day about six o'clock in the afternoon I requested protective custody because I wasn't -- I could not -- truthfully, I as thinking about killing myself.


Eight o'clock I had [an] argument with my parole officer [W ingfield]. Still today I don't know why. Because they didn't make no sense. She didn't do nothing to me. I believe I didn't do nothing to her, but she didn't say nothing to me. (Id. at 19-21).

Subsequent to his Final Parole Hearing, Plaintiff wrote a letter to the Administrative Law Judge, in which he stated, in relevant part:

My last few weeks at W illard were a nightmare. I could not handle the stress. As a result, I started acting out of character, arguing with my peers and not following directions that caused my removal from the program. However, I don't believe that I was responsible for the deterioration of my mental state. W hile at W illard, more specifically on February 12, 2003, I suffered some kind of nervous breakdown or psychotic episode. I felt like the whole world came crashing down on me and [I] started acting out of character, yelling and ...

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