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Allred v. Knowles

October 5, 2010

JEFFREY ALLRED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAPTAIN KNOWLES, HEARING OFFICER SGT. NOTO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. United States Magistrate Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the assignment of this case to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings in this case, including entry of final judgment. Dkt. #14.

Plaintiff, Jeffrey Allred, filed this pro se action seeking relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. #1. Plaintiff alleges that while an inmate at the Gowanda Correctional Facility ("Gowanda") his rights pursuant to the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution were violated. Id. Currently before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. #18. For the following reasons, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted and the plaintiff's complaint is dismissed in all respects.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this action on July 11, 2006, against defendants, Michael Knowles and Louis Noto, pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 1983, seeking monetary damages. Id. The action arises from a misbehavior report issued on or about July 27, 2003 by defendant Noto against plaintiff and the resulting Tier III disciplinary hearing conducted by defendant Knowles. Id. Specifically, the complaint alleges the issuance of a false misbehavior report, retaliation and violation of plaintiff's due process rights. Id.

At the time of the events alleged in the complaint, plaintiff was an inmate in the care and custody of the New State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") housed at Gowanda. Dkt. #1, p.2; Dkt. #20, p.1. Defendant Knowles was a Captain at Gowanda and his duties included, from time to time, conducting inmate disciplinary hearings. Dkt. #1, pp.3-4; Dkt. #21, pp.1-2. Sergeant Noto was a DOCS Sergeant on plaintiff's housing unit at Gowanda. Dkt. #1, p. 4; Dkt. #22, pp.1-2.

On July 22, 2003, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Correctional Officer Millich discovered several marijuana cigarettes during a search of inmate Meja's cell. Dkt. #22, p.3. Consequently, defendant Noto initiated an investigation into the matter. Dkt. #1, p. 8; Dkt. #22, p.3. Defendant Noto maintained that Meja told him that he had purchased the marijuana cigarettes from plaintiff. Dkt. #22, p.3. Based on Meja's identification of plaintiff and information allegedly received from confidential informant(s) --- who identified plaintiff as a drug dealer and indicated that the sale in question occurred between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. on July 22, 2003 in the prison yard ---defendant Noto issued a misbehavior report charging plaintiff with violating Inmate Rule 113.25. Dkt. #1, pp.22 and 25; Dkt. #22, p. 3. Inmate Rule 113.25 provides that "an inmate shall not make, possess, sell or exchange any narcotic, narcotic paraphernalia, controlled substance or marijuana. An inmate shall not conspire with any person to introduce such items into the facility." Dkt. #22, p.2; see also 7 NYCRR § 270.2(14)(xv).

On July 28, 2003, a Tier III disciplinary hearing was conducted before defendant Knowles. Dkt. #1, p.23; Dkt. # 21, p.2. At the hearing, plaintiff testified in his own defense that he was at a Nation of Islam ("NOI")/Black studies program during the period of the alleged drug sale in the prison yard. Dkt. #1, p.24; Dkt. # 21, p.6. Plaintiff called two other inmates, Ford and Williams, as alibi witnesses. Dkt. #1, p. 29; Dkt. #21, p.7. Ford and Williams attended the NOI/Black studies program with plaintiff, but could not verify the time plaintiff left. Dkt. #21, pp.7 and 16. The sign-out sheet for the NOI/Black studies class did not indicate the time plaintiff left, although it indicated that both Ford and Williams left at 7:00 p.m. Id. Plaintiff did not sign back into his housing unit until 8:10 p.m. and no one was able to verify his whereabouts after 7:00 p.m. Dkt. #21, p.17. Defendant Knowles interviewed the confidential informant(s) outside the presence of plaintiff and found them to be credible witnesses. Dkt. #21, pp.7-8. The confidential informant(s) identified plaintiff as a drug dealer and indicated that the sale of the drugs to Meja occurred between 7:00-8:00 p.m. in the prison yard. Id. Meja also testified at the hearing, and recanted his initial identification of plaintiff as the person who sold him drugs. Dkt. #1, p.26; Dkt. #21, p.11. When asked by defendant Knowles why he initially told defendant Noto that plaintiff was the individual who sold him drugs, Meja answered that he did so because he wanted defendant Noto to "leave [him] alone." Dkt. #24, Ex. D, p 5. In response, defendant Knowles asked Meja to confirm, by answering in either the affirmative or the negative, if he initially identified plaintiff as the individual who sold him drugs, to which Meja answered in the affirmative. Id.

On August 3, 2003, at the close of the disciplinary hearing, defendant Knowles entered a guilty finding against plaintiff. Dkt. #24, Ex. C. Based on the Hearing Disposition Report completed by defendant Knowles, he based his guilt determination on the following evidence: defendant Noto's misbehavior report and his testimony that Meja initially identified plaintiff as the individual who sold Meja drugs in the yard; and the testimony of the confidential informant(s). Id. Defendant Knowles imposed a penalty of 12 months of confinement in special housing unit ("SHU") and a loss of privileges between the period August 22, 2003 and August 22, 2004.

DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "In reaching this determination, the court must assess whether there are any material factual issues to be tried while resolving ambiguities and drawing reasonable inferences against the moving party, and must give extra latitude to a pro se plaintiff." Thomas v. Irvin, 981 F. Supp. 794, 799 (W.D.N.Y. 1997) (internal citations omitted).

A fact is "material" only if it has some effect on the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see Catanzaro v. Weiden, 140 F.3d 91, 93 (2d Cir. 1998). A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979 (2d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 849 (1991).

Once the moving party has met its burden of "demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must come forward with enough evidence to support a jury verdict in its favor, and the motion will not be defeated merely upon a 'metaphysical doubt' concerning the facts, or on the basis of conjecture or surmise." Bryant, 923 F.2d at 982. A party seeking to defeat a motion for summary judgment must do more than make broad factual allegations and invoke the appropriate statute. The non-moving party must also show, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in Rule 56 of the ...


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