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Vaughn v. Strickland

United States District Court, Second Circuit

July 11, 2013

TARIK VAUGHN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPTAIN STRICKLAND, et al., Defendants. CARL WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPTAIN STRICKLAND, et al., Defendants. JAMEL WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
DORA SCHRIRO, et al., Defendants. ANTHONY ESQUILIN, Plaintiff,
v.
DORA SCHRIRO, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

J. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge.

These civil rights actions all arise from prison officials' strip search of several inmates in the bathroom on the 8-Main Housing Unit in the E.M.T.C. holding facility at Rikers Island on March 9, 2012. Although the actions were brought separately, each Plaintiff alleges that he was strip searched incident to the same occurrence on the evening of March 9. Accordingly, the Court addresses the cases together in a single opinion.

Plaintiff Tarik Vaughn ("Vaughn") asserts violations of his Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants Captain Strickland ("Strickland"), Correction Officer Pagan ("Pagan"), Correction Officer McMillian ("McMillian"), and Warden Edward Duffy ("Duffy"). Plaintiff Carl Williams asserts violations of his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants Strickland, Pagan, McMillian, Duffy, and the City of New York ("the City"). Plaintiff Jamel White ("White") alleges violations of his Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Strickland, Pagan, McMillian, Duffy, and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections, Dr. Dora Schriro ("Schriro"). Plaintiff Anthony Esquilin ("Esquilin") alleges violations of his First, Fourth, and Eighth Amendment Rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Strickland, Pagan, McMillian, Duffy, and Schriro. Collectively, the Defendants in each action are referred to as "Defendants."

Before the Court are the following: Defendants' motion to dismiss Vaughn's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c); Defendants' motion to dismiss Williams's Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6); Defendants' motion to dismiss White's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c); and Defendants' motion to dismiss Esquilin's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).

For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motions are granted.

I. Background

A. Factual Background[1]

On the evening of March 9, 2012, a search was conducted on the 8-Main Housing Unit at E.M.T.C. on Rikers Island. Between the hours of 6:30 and 8:30 pm, approximately 9 to 12 inmates, including the four plaintiffs, were directed by Strickland to enter the bathroom area of the Housing Unit. Once in the bathroom, Strickland instructed several officers, including Pagan, to carry out a visual strip search. Accordingly, Plaintiffs were ordered to strip down to nothing so as to facilitate a full body visual cavity search. There were no partitions, barriers, or dividers separating the inmates subjected to the search. Esquilin alleges that he told Pagan that he was Catholic, and as such was not supposed to be strip searched or forced to undergo a visual body search, to which Pagan responded: "You are not Catholic, your [sic] nothing but the devil."

Each Plaintiff was instructed to take hold of his penis with one hand, and his testicles with the other, after which each individual was told to bend over and squat, exposing his anal area to the inspecting officers. When Plaintiffs inquired to McMillian as to the purpose of the search, he responded with some version of: "Shut the fuck up before I place a shank on you, I have enough to go around."

As a result of the visual strip search, all Plaintiffs reported feelings of emotional distress, sexual harassment, and fears for their safety. Esquilin also alleges that all his food and property was destroyed in the course of the search.

While Williams's original Complaint (Complaint, Dkt. No. 2 ("Compl."), at 3) exactly tracked the allegations of the other plaintiffs, discussing a visual strip search that occurred in the Housing United bathroom on March 9, 2012, he filed an Amended Complaint in September 2012 (Amended Complaint, Dkt. No. 15 ("FAC").) Williams's allegations in the FAC vary dramatically from those in his original Complaint. For example, Williams adds that female corrections officers were present during the search. (FAC at ¶ 2.) Additionally, he claims that Pagan instructed Williams to keep his hands up while Pagan "grabbed [Williams's] penis and lifted up [Williams's] testicles roughly." ( Id. at ¶ 3.) The FAC also includes an allegation that Pagan inserted his finger into Williams's anus, moving it around within Williams's anal passage, in violation of his constitutional rights. ( Id.; id. at ¶ 7.)

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs filed their original Complaints in April 2012. Defendants answered all the Complaints in July 2012. Defendants later moved for judgment on the pleadings with respect to Vaughn, White, and Esquilin's claims, in October 2012. Williams filed his FAC in ...


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