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Singleton v. Williams

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 20, 2014



LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, District Judge.

Dwayne Singleton, pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against Defendant Correction Officer Kimberly Williams, alleging interference with his mail during his incarceration at the George R. Vierno Center ("GRVC") on Rikers Island, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Defendant moves for summary judgment dismissing the Complaint in its entirety ("Motion"). Because Plaintiff has failed to adduce sufficient evidence to permit a reasonable juror to return a verdict in his favor, Defendant's Motion is granted.


I. Factual Background

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's deposition, Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant's Statement pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 ("56.1 Statement") and Defendant's other filings in support of her Motion.

This case involves Plaintiff's allegations that his mail was stolen or withheld while he was incarcerated at GRVC, from December 2009 to May 2010, and from September 2011 to March 2012. While at GRVC, Plaintiff drafted letters "everyday, " usually "ten, fifteen letters in one shot." Plaintiff corresponded with his mother, his cousins, an ex-girlfriend, his lawyers, a friend named "Stacy, " whose last name and contact information is unknown to Plaintiff, and several other women whose names he does not recall. Plaintiff also sent letters to outpatient programs, drug programs, magazines, and "businesses, " including a record company and a film company.

Plaintiff received "a lot of mail" while incarcerated at GRVC, including from his mother, the ex-girlfriend, a social worker and other individuals. Plaintiff also received money from his mother and his cousins on numerous occasions. In addition to personal mail, Plaintiff received legal mail, which was recorded in a log. Plaintiff signed for legal mail on twelve occasions between December 2011 and March 2012.

Plaintiff suspected he was not receiving all of his mail because he "wrote to certain people and he didn't get [any] response back [from]... a few girls... [and] businesses." In addition, Plaintiff's friend "Stacy" told him that she had not received any of the four or five letters Plaintiff had sent her, and that she had sent him letters, which Plaintiff did not receive. Plaintiff testified that no one except Stacy told him they had sent mail that he had not received.

While Plaintiff was an inmate at GRVC, Defendant was the primary mail officer on duty from Monday to Friday, and frequently distributed Plaintiff's mail, usually after lunch. When Defendant was unavailable, other correction officers filled in and distributed mail to the inmates.

Plaintiff and Defendant offer conflicting evidence concerning Defendant's alleged interference with Plaintiff's mail. Plaintiff asserts that he first suspected that Defendant was stealing his mail because she spoke to him disrespectfully. Plaintiff testified that "[t]hings started to get out of hand when [Plaintiff] suspected that [Defendant] was... messing with [his] mail." Plaintiff observed that Defendant was friendly with some inmates and delivered their mail, but heard that she was "playing with" the mail of inmates she did not like.

According to Plaintiff, when he confronted her, she "would look at [him] with the mail in her hand, and keep walking." On March 5, 2012, Defendant made two statements to Plaintiff, both of which he interpreted as admissions that she was withholding his mail. Defendant made the statements when Plaintiff was questioning or accusing Defendant about his mail, apparently not for the first time, and she responded, "[y]ou keep asking me stupid questions, you aint' getting your f*ckin' mail." Defendant also said "you crazy, take ya' medication, cause you got that right, you won't be getting no f*ckin' mail from me." According to Plaintiff, he could not "prove" that Defendant was interfering with his mail until she made these statements. Plaintiff stated that during this exchange he was being "volatile" and "probably having bipolar disorder." After that incident, Plaintiff did not recall receiving mail from Defendant again, although he did receive mail from other correction officers. Plaintiff was transferred out of GRVC approximately one week after the confrontation with Defendant.

According to Defendant, near the end of Plaintiff's incarceration at GRVC, he accused her of stealing his mail, spit on the glass separating them, and threatened to kill her, at which point Defendant gave Plaintiff's mail to a different correction officer for delivery. Defendant states that after this incident, Plaintiff would "yell and threaten [her]" and on multiple occasions, threatened to kill her and her family. Defendant denies withholding, tampering, or otherwise interfering with Plaintiff's mail.

II. Procedural History

On December 19, 2013, Defendant filed her Motion, 56.1 Statement, and supporting papers, including excerpts from Plaintiff's deposition. On January 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed his opposition to the Motion ("Opposition"). Plaintiff's Opposition consisted of six declaratory sentences reiterating the assertions in his Complaint. Plaintiff filed no supporting affidavits or other evidence, and no opposition to Defendant's 56.1 Statement. On January 29, 2014, Defendant filed her reply to Plaintiff's Opposition. On March 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed a "response" to Defendant's reply, asserting that he "did overhear [Defendant] ...

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