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Croft v. Greenhope Services for Women, Inc.

United States District Court, Second Circuit

December 17, 2013

RACHEL CROFT, Plaintiff,
v.
GREENHOPE SERVICES FOR WOMEN, INC.; CATHERINE CREECH; and NORMA

Oren Giskan and Raymond Audain, Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP, New York, NY, for the Plaintiff.

Bert L. Slonim, Richard A. De Sevo, Thomas John Szivos, Kaye Scholer LLP, New York, NY, Thaddeus John Rozanski, Kral, Clerkin, Redmond, Ryan, Perry, & Van Etten, LLP, Melville, NY, for the Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

DENISE COTE, District Judge.

Rachel Croft ("Croft") has brought this action, alleging both constitutional and common law tort claims, against Greenhope Services for Women, Inc. ("Greenhope") and certain of its employees. At the time of the incident that is the basis for these claims, Croft was on parole, and her parole required that she attend and complete a residential drug treatment program at the Greenhope facility. On October 30, 2012, a dispute arose between Croft and a Greenhope employee. The next day, other Greenhope employees called the Parole Office, and Croft was arrested for violating her parole. After spending approximately four weeks in jail, Croft's parole was revoked and reissued. She pled guilty to one charge of violating her parole, and was discharged to an outpatient program.

On May 3, 2013, Croft filed this suit, alleging that Greenhope and its employees falsely accused her and caused her arrest. She brings claims against them of false arrest under the Fourth Amendment and New York common law, retaliation under the First Amendment, and other negligence torts under New York common law. On October 22, the defendants moved for summary judgment. The motion was fully submitted on November 26. For the reasons explained below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed or taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. At the time of the incident that is the basis of her claims, Croft was on parole for a 2010 conviction for criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree. Her sentence was principally thirty months of incarceration followed by eighteen months of post-release supervision. After serving less than one year in prison, Croft was released on parole in May 2011. Croft violated her parole in October 2011 and was apprehended in July 2012. Prior to her parole hearing, Croft's attorneys arranged for her to be admitted to Greenhope, a private non-profit organization located at 435 East 119th Street, Manhattan, that provides residential drug treatment for women referred by New York's Division of Parole as an alternative to incarceration. Greenhope was chosen because Croft was pregnant and Greenhope had a mother-and-child program.

At her September 13, 2012 parole hearing, Croft pled guilty to violating her parole. Her parole was revoked and restored with the condition that she "enter and complete a residential... substance abuse treatment program to be arranged by the Parole Restoration Program prior to discharge." Croft signed a document dated September 17 stating that, as a special condition of release, she would "enter, cooperate [with, ] and complete a residential treatment program." On September 27, Croft signed a "Special Conditions of Release to Parole Supervision" document, in which she agreed to "enter and complete Project Greenhope" and "follow all [of] the conditions and rules of Project Greenhope."

On October 30, as New York City was under assault from Hurricane Sandy, Croft had a disagreement with a Greenhope employee, Catherine Creech ("Creech"), about the quality of her dinner. Croft became upset and refused to eat the plate of food that she had been provided. The exact circumstances of what she did with her plate of food remain very much in dispute.

On the morning of October 31, Ines Reid ("Reid"), then Residential Director of Greenhope, reviewed video footage of the incident. She and Estelle Pierce ("Pierce"), the director of Greenhope's legal department, conferred and decided to contact the Parole Office. The Parole Office was advised that Croft had thrown a plate of food at a staff member and that Greenhope no longer wanted her in the program. The Division of Parole issued a warrant for Croft's arrest. Parole Officer Douthit, along with other officers, arrived at Greenhope and arrested Croft. Croft was discharged from Greenhope, and was transported to Riker's Island jail, where she remained from October 31 to November 27.

On November 20, a hearing was held for Croft's parole revocation. The Violation of Release Report listed three charges of parole violation:

Charge #1: Rachel Croft violated Rule #8 of the conditions governing her release in that on 10-30-2013 at approximately 5:42 pm at 435 East 119th Street, New York she threw a plate at Catherine Creech with the intent to cause physical injury.
Charge #2: Rachel Croft violated Rule #13 of the condition governing her release in that on 10-30-2013 she failed to comply with the written special conditions given to her on 09-27-2012 by Parole Officer Douthit directing that she enter and complete Project Green Hope Drug Program.
Charge #3: Rachel Croft violated Rule #12 of the conditions governing her release in that she failed to enter and complete Project Green Hope Drug Program at 435 East 119th Street, New York City, contrary to the Board Mandate and Special Conditions of her release as specified in the Certificate of Release she signed on 05-09-2011.

Croft was represented at the hearing by Omar Fortune, of the Legal Aid Society.

During the hearing, the Parole Judge heard from Croft that she had not, in fact, thrown a plate at a Greenhope staff member and that Parole Officer Douthit believed that she should enter outpatient treatment and live with her fiance, pending the birth of their child. The Parole Judge decided to solicit the opinion of Parole Officer Douthit, who was not present. Upon being contacted, Douthit acknowledged that Croft had been kicked out of Greenhope but recommended that Croft's parole be revoked and restored so that she could enter outpatient treatment. The Parole Judge accepted the recommendation and told Croft that she "can go back home." It was determined that the first and third charge would be withdrawn but not the second charge.

Court: You're gonna have to plead guilty to being kicked out of the program or leaving the program, and I'm going to revoke and ...

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