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Mohammed Bhuiyan v. Correctional Officer Wright

May 13, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Andrew T. Baxter, U.S. Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff commenced this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that, while he was confined at the Auburn Correctional Facility on April 20, 2003, the defendant correction officers assaulted him and/or failed to intervene to protect him, violating his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and his right to Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. On March 24, 2011, with the consent of the parties, this matter was referred to me for all further proceedings, including the entry of final judgment, by the Hon. Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., Senior United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and FED. R. CIV. P. 73. (Dkt. No. 92). This court conducted a bench trial in Syracuse, New York, on May 9 and 10, 2011. Having considered all of the testimony and evidence admitted at trial, the court finds in favor of the defendants on all claims brought against them. The following constitutes the court's supporting findings of fact and conclusions of law, as required by FED. R. CIV. P. 52.


A. Stipulated Facts*fn1

The parties stipulated that plaintiff Mohammed Bhuiyan (hereinafter "plaintiff" or "Bhuiyan") was an inmate in the custody of the New York Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), at Auburn Correctional Facility ("Auburn") in 2003. On April 20, 2003, defendants Wright, Kuc, and Davis were correction officers at Auburn. Defendants Koziol and Withers were sergeants at Auburn at that time.

At approximately 8:45 p.m. on April 20, 2003, plaintiff was crossing from the North Recreation Yard to the South Recreation Yard at Auburn prison. He was stopped by one or more corrections officers. At some point while he was still in the prison yard, handcuffs were placed on plaintiff, while defendants Wright and Koziol were present. Defendant Wright and Koziol escorted plaintiff from the recreation yard to his cell block. The plaintiff was subjected to at least one "pat frisk"; no contraband was found on his person.

Photographs were taken of Bhuiyan on April 21, 2003. Plaintiff was seen by Nurse Quinn in the Auburn infirmary that afternoon, at approximately 3:40 p.m. Plaintiff's medical records verify that he sought medical attention for a wide range of complaints, including back pain, both before and after April 20, 2003.

B. Plaintiff's Version of Disputed Facts

Mohammed Bhuiyan is an Indian, originally from Bangladesh. His first language is Bangla, and he is a practicing Muslim. Plaintiff testified that correction officers at Auburn, including all of the named defendants, periodically referred to him as a "terrorist" and harassed him in other ways because of his ethnicity and religion. In April 2002, plaintiff filed a grievance complaining of such harassment by correction officers other than the defendants. He claimed that, in response to the grievance, defendant Withers cursed and threatened plaintiff with a beating if he filed any other such grievances. (Pl.'s Exh. 17).

A correction officer not named in this complaint charged plaintiff, in an inmate misbehavior report filed in December 2002, with possessing terrorist or gang-related material in his cell. Plaintiff was vindicated on this charge when the confiscated letter proved to be a letter from his mother, written in Bangla. Bhuiyan claimed that defendant Davis was involved in the cell search that prompted this disciplinary charge, and burned plaintiff's beard with a lighter during the incident. C.O. Davis' name was not reflected in the misbehavior report. (Pl.'s Exh. 19).

Plaintiff testified that, at about 5:30 p.m. on April 21, 2003, defendant Wright came to his cell, mentioned his prior grievances against other correction officers, called him a "terrorist," and threatened to beat and kill plaintiff. As plaintiff acknowledged, these allegations were not included in the written grievance he filed a few days later about the alleged incidents on April 21st.

As plaintiff was crossing through the tunnel between the north and south recreation yards during the evening of April 20, 2003, defendant Wright ordered Bhuiyan to submit to a pat frisk. Plaintiff claimed that he obeyed the directions given by C.O. Wright; however, he admitted being upset (but not crying) and asking why the officers were mistreating him. According to the plaintiff, numerous officers surrounded him, someone kicked his feet to move them further from the wall against which he was told to stand, an officer took his identification and his cigarettes from him, and eventually he was placed in handcuffs, with his hands behind his back. Plaintiff testified that defendant Withers was in the area and directed defendants Koziol and Wright not to do anything "here" and to take the plaintiff back to his cell block.

Defendants Wright and Koziol escorted plaintiff, in handcuffs, to the "feed-up room" on the upper floor of the cell block where plaintiff was confined. Once in this small room, plaintiff testified that defendant Koziol punched him twice in the chest. Defendant Koziol then allegedly directed defendant Wright to beat plaintiff further. According to plaintiff, defendant Wright punched him once in the face, drawing blood from around plaintiff's right eye. Sgt. Koziol wiped the blood from plaintiff's face using his "kufi,"*fn2 and cautioned C.O. Wright to hit plaintiff where it would leave no marks. Defendant Wright proceeded to repeatedly hit and kick plaintiff in his body, causing him to fall to the floor and hit two front teeth on the ground. When plaintiff screamed, C.O. Wright tightened the strings of the hood on plaintiff's sweat shirt in an effort to silence him.

Defendant Koziol brought the plaintiff up to his feet, at which time Bhuiyan first saw defendants Kuc and Davis on the other side of the door to the feed-up room, allegedly keeping watch. Defendant Koziol then purportedly warned plaintiff not to tell anyone about the incident or they would bury him under the jail and/or charge him with assaulting an officer. When plaintiff did not respond to defendant Koziol, defendant Kuc allegedly pulled on plaintiff's beard and told him to answer the sergeant. Plaintiff was then released and allowed to return to his cell. He testified that defendant Davis made threatening and racist remarks such as "haven't you killed the terrorist yet" as plaintiff was moving towards his cell.

Plaintiff testified that other inmates gave him ice to put on his right eye and that he experienced serious back and neck pain. The next morning, he asked to be taken to emergency sick call, but was refused. Plaintiff testified that he did not see any medical personnel until about 3:30 p.m. on April 21, 2003, when he was taken to the prison infirmary and examined by Nurse Quinn. He filed a written grievance about the incident a few days later. (Pl.'s Exh. 5).

Plaintiff testified that, in the years following this incident, he continued to suffer from back pain that was more persistent and serious than the occasional back pain of which he complained prior to April 2003.*fn3 Plaintiff suggested that the root canal he had on two front teeth in 2008 ...

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