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Qasem v. Toro

August 10, 2010

GULTELA QASEM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LUIS A. TORO; SUPERINTENDENT OF TACONIC CORRECTIONAL FACILITY DELORES THORNTON; DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT FOR SECURITY WILLIAM ROGERS; JOHN DOES 1-10, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sidney H. Stein, U.S. District Judge.

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Gultela Qasem brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Luis Toro, Delores Thornton, William Rogers, and John Does 1-10 in their individual capacities. The lawsuit arises from injuries allegedly suffered by Qasem at the hands of Corrections Officer Luis Toro while Qasem was an inmate under the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") at Taconic Correctional Facility. The complaint alleges that defendants deprived Qasem of her constitutional rights through (1) direct and repeated acts of sexual assault by Toro; (2) Thornton and Rogers's deliberate indifference to her personal safety; and (3) Thornton and Rogers's maintenance of, or failure to remedy, policies and practices that created an unreasonable risk of sexual assault by Toro. Defendants Thornton and Rogers have now moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for relief.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the complaint and presumed to be true for the purposes of this motion.

A. Parties

Plaintiff Gultela Qasem is currently an inmate at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. At the time of the acts alleged in the complaint, plaintiff was an inmate at the Taconic Correctional Facility. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 21.) Defendant Toro-not a party to the present motion-is a DOCS Corrections Officer. At the time of the acts alleged in the complaint, defendant Dolores Thornton was the Superintendent of Taconic and defendant Rogers was the Deputy Superintendent for Security of Taconic. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 8-9.)

B. This Action

Qasem alleges defendants violated her Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution as they arise out of a repeated pattern of sexual assault and rape committed against her by Toro.

While an inmate at Taconic, Qasem was assigned to work in Building 93 from approximately February 2007 to November 2007, and for most of that time, she also lived there. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) Qasem alleges that, on or around March 27, 2007, Toro entered her cell during the afternoon "count time"*fn1 and sexually assaulted her by fondling her breasts, vaginal area, and buttocks while also exposing his penis and forcing Qasem to perform oral sex on him. (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff alleges that later that evening Toro ordered her to the officers' station where he raped her. (Id. ¶ 24.) Toro then told Qasem that he would write up a disciplinary action against her if she told anyone what he had done to her. (Id. ¶ 24.)

Qasem alleges that a pattern of sexual assault emerged over the next eight months. Toro allegedly assaulted and raped Qasem in her cell on numerous occasions during the night count time, in the officers' station, in the shower area, and in the recreation room. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.) Throughout these eight months, Qasem alleges that Toro repeatedly threatened to kill her and her family if she reported his actions. As a result, she did not report Toro's conduct. (Id. ¶ 27). Plaintiff alleges, however, that other corrections staff facilitated Toro's repeated sexual abuse by condoning Toro or plaintiff being in unauthorized areas and allowing Toro into plaintiff's housing area when he was not assigned there. (Id. ¶ 28.)

Although Qasem did not file a report against Toro based on his conduct, others did, and on July 2, 2007, the DOCS Officer of Inspector General ("IG") commenced an investigation into Toro's actions. (Id. ¶¶ 31-33.) When interviewed by an IG representative, Qasem denied the allegations because of the prior threats that Toro had made; despite her denials, plaintiff was reassigned to a different building the day after her interview. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.) As the IG continued its investigation, in August 2007 Qasem was transferred back to building 93, which was the building where Toro worked at that time. Plaintiff contends that by causing her to be transferred back to Toro's building, defendants Thornton and Rogers were deliberately indifferent to her safety and allowed Toro to have continued unfettered access to her, which enabled him to continue raping and sexually abusing her. (Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff alleges that once she returned to building 93 in August 2007, Toro resumed his sexual assaults, including but not limited to raping her and sodomizing her. (Id. ¶ 40.)

During this same time period, plaintiff was transferred in and out of the "keeplock" area in building 93. (Id. ¶¶ 39-47.) While she was in keeplock, at least one corrections officer delivered a message from Toro to her, while other corrections staff condoned and disregarded the alleged continuing assaults by Toro. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48.) In addition to physical, mental, and emotional injuries she suffered from the repeated rapes and sexual abuse, Qasem alleges that in October 2007 she was diagnosed with genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease, which she believes was transmitted to her by Toro. (Id. ¶¶ 61-63.)

Plaintiff alleges that sometime in November 2007, Toro became aware of the IG investigation and started harassing her by asking her what questions the IG representative had asked her and what her responses were. (Id. ¶ 45.) Quasem contends that on November 26, 2007, after she was once again raped by Toro, she told him that she was going to report his conduct, and Toro became violent with her-twisting her arm and wrist. (Id. ¶ 50.) The next day, plaintiff was transferred out of Taconic and into Bedford. (Id. ¶ 51.)

Plaintiff alleges that Thornton and Rogers were deliberately indifferent to her safety and well-being and that despite ample evidence of the assaults, they permitted Toro to have repeated access to her instead of removing either her or Toro from building 93. (Id. ΒΆΒΆ 55-60.) Plaintiff maintains that Thornton and Rogers were responsible for the inadequate polices and practices that allowed her to be repeatedly raped and assaulted ...


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