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Britt v. Fawcett

March 31, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lyle E. Strom, Senior Judge United States District Court



This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 42). Upon review of the motion, the memoranda and evidentiary submissions of the parties, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.


At all times relevant to this lawsuit, plaintiff Troy Britt ("Britt") was incarcerated at Bare Hill Correctional Facility ("Bare Hill") and held in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") (Doc. 42-10, ¶ 1). On October 24, 2005, Britt was involved in a fight with two other inmates, Lindsay Thomas and Brying Ham, in the recreation area of G-1 dorm at Bare Hill (Doc. 44-2, ¶¶ 4-5). As a result of the incident, two inmate misbehavior reports were issued against Britt, and Britt was charged with several violations of prison rules (See Doc. 42-7 at 14-15).

Officer Timothy Gravlin drafted one of the misbehavior reports (Doc. 42-7 at 14). Gravlin was the dorm officer assigned to G-1 dorm on the date of the incident (Doc. 42-10, ¶ 6). According to Gravlin's Report, Gravlin was signing out inmates going to the yard at approximately 7:45 p.m. when he heard a loud commotion in the recreation area (Doc. 42-7 at 14). Upon investigation, Gravlin saw Britt holding Thomas with one hand and hitting Thomas with the other hand; Ham was also hitting Thomas. (Doc. 42-7 at 14; Doc. 42-10, ¶¶ 7-8). Gravlin gave the inmates a direct order to break up the fight, but they did not comply (Doc. 42-7 at 14). Gravlin pulled the pin on his radio and gave them another direct order to break up the fight, which they did at that time (Doc. 42-7 at 14). Britt then ran into the dorm area (Doc. 42-7 at 14). The report charged Britt with 100.13 fighting, 106.10 disobeying a direct order, 104.11 violent conduct, and 104.13 creating a disturbance (Doc. 42-7 at 14).

In addition to the report, Gravlin drafted a memorandum that was directed to defendant Sergeant Timothy Reed (Doc. 42-7 at 13). The memorandum states Gravlin was signing out inmates when he heard a loud thump in the recreation area, observed a mop handle sliding across the floor towards the dorm area door, and then witnessed three inmates fighting (Doc. 42-7 at 13).

Defendant Reed drafted the second misbehavior report issued against Britt (Doc. 42-7 at 15). Reed was assigned to the position of housing sergeant in the main area of the facility on the night of the incident (Doc. 42-10, ¶ 13). According to Reed's report, Reed conducted an investigation of the incident "which included an interview with Officer T. Gravlin and confidential information received" (Doc. 42-7 at 15). As a result of the investigation, Reed concluded that Britt was the aggressor in the incident and assaulted Thomas with a wooden mop handle (Doc. 42-7 at 15). Reed's report charged Britt with 100.10 assault on an inmate and 113.10 possession and use of a weapon (Doc. 42-7 at 15; Doc. 42-10, ¶ 35).

At approximately 8:10 p.m. on the night of the incident, Britt was escorted to the infirmary (Doc. 42-10, ¶ 27). According to the inmate injury report form, Britt reported that he was in his cube at the time the incident occurred (Doc. 42-10, ¶ 28). After medical staff completed Britt's medical work-up, Britt was interviewed by Reed, and according to Reed, Britt denied any knowledge of the incident (Doc. 42-10, ¶ 29). Thereafter, Britt was escorted to the special housing unit ("SHU") (Doc. 42-10, ¶ 30). According to Britt, Reed escorted Britt to SHU and verbally harassed Britt during the escort (Doc. 44-2, ¶ 15; Doc. 1 at 4-5).

On October 26, 2005, Officer Poupore delivered the misbehavior reports to Britt (Doc. 42-10, ¶ 36). At that time, Britt marked and signed a document indicating he was waiving his right to an employee assistant (Doc. 42-3; Doc. 42-10, ¶ 37).

On October 28, 2005, defendant Cheryl Fawcett conducted a Tier III disciplinary hearing (Doc. 42-4). Fawcett read the misbehavior reports, Gravlin's memorandum, and the charges to Britt (Doc. 42-4 at 3-5). Britt pled guilty to creating a disturbance, fighting, and disobeying a direct order; Britt pled not guilty to violent conduct, assault on an inmate, and possession and use of a weapon (Doc. 42-4 at 4-5).

Britt offered his explanation of the incident (Doc. 42-4 at 6). Britt admitted to hitting Thomas with a fist but denied hitting Thomas with a weapon (Doc. 42-4 at 6). Gravlin testified regarding the contents of his report and memorandum (Doc. 42-4 at 7-10). Gravlin stated that he did not see Britt throw the mop, but he concluded the mop came from Britt because of the positions of the inmates (Doc. 42-4 at 9).

Reed testified outside the presence of Britt (Doc. 42-4 at 17-19). Fawcett informed Britt that Reed had prepared a confidential memorandum, and therefore, Fawcett would have Reed testify on a confidential tape (Doc. 42-4 at 10-11). Reed testified that he interviewed Thomas, and Thomas stated Britt attacked him with a mop handle (Doc. 42-4 at 17). Reed also received information from a confidential inmate who witnessed the incident and lived in the same housing unit as Britt and stated Britt was the perpetrator of the incident (Doc. 42-4 at 17-18).

At the completion of Reed's testimony, Fawcett continued the hearing in Britt's presence (Doc. 42-4 at 11). Fawcett told Britt that she could not provide Britt the information contained in Reed's confidential memorandum or allow Britt to listen to the confidential tape due to concerns for prison safety (Doc. 42-4 at 12). Fawcett told Britt that Reed had received information from "somebody on the dorm" but she could not reveal the person's identity because that "would subject that person to serious physical harm or even death for cooperating with prison officials" (Doc. 42-4 at 12).

Fawcett proceeded to find Britt guilty on all charges (Doc. 42-4 at 13-14). Britt was sentenced to 365 days in SHU, loss of recreation, packages, commissary, phone, and special events for 365 days, and a recommended loss of 12 months good-time (Doc. 42-5; Doc. 42-4 at 14). Fawcett gave Britt a statement of the evidence relied upon in reaching her determination and the reasons for the disposition (Doc. 42-5).

Britt asserted this action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Britt's complaint states a claim against Reed for verbal harassment, and a claim against Fawcett for violations of Britt's due process rights. ...

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