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Hamlett v. Stotler

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 27, 2018

JOHN HAMLET, Plaintiff,
P. STOTLER et al., Defendants.

          JOHN HAMLETT Plaintiff pro se

          HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN Attorney General of the State of New York Attorney for Defendants

          KATIE E. VALDER, ESQ. Assistant Attorney General



         This pro se civil rights action commenced pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Plaintiff John Hamlet, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”), has been referred for Report and Recommendation by the Hon. Gary L. Sharpe, Senior U.S. District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Northern District of New York Local Rule (“L.R.”) 72.3(c).

         Plaintiff filed his complaint in this pro se § 1983 action alleging retaliation in violation of his First Amendment rights and excessive force in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment, together with a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP Application”), on August 24, 2017. (Dkt. Nos. 1, 2.) In a Decision and Order filed October 11, 2017, Judge Sharpe granted Plaintiff's IFP Application, and upon initial review of the complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), Judge Sharpe dismissed Plaintiff's retaliation claims. (Dkt. No. 11 at 10.[1]) Plaintiff's excessive force claim survived initial review. Id.

         The matter is now before the Court on the motion of remaining Defendants Clinton Correctional Facility (“Clinton”) Sergeant Patrick Stotler (“Stotler”), and Clinton Corrections Officers Joseph Collins (“Collins”) and John Doe, for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Dkt. No. 16.) Defendants seek summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust available administrative remedies before commencing the action. See Id. Plaintiff has responded in opposition to the motion claiming that administrative exhaustion was unavailable to him and Defendants have filed reply papers. (Dkt. Nos. 20, 23.)

         For reasons explained below, the Court recommends that Defendants' motion for summary judgment on exhaustion grounds be denied.


         A. Alleged Use of Excessive Force

         Plaintiff alleges that on the morning of September 10, 2014, while he was housed at Clinton, he was stopped by multiple officers while on his way to an Inmate Liaison Committee meeting as a representative of C-Block. (Dkt. No. 1 at 4.) Plaintiff claims to have been pat frisked and taken back to C-Block where he was placed in the shower area. Id. Plaintiff was thereafter placed in front of his cell while it was searched by Officer Stickney. (Dkt. No. 1 at 4.) Stickney came out of the cell with a weapon, which Plaintiff claims was planted, in his hand and called Defendant Stotler. Id. Stotler and Defendant Collins then escorted Plaintiff to the Clinic First Floor room to strip frisk him. Id. Defendant Doe, who identified himself to Plaintiff as “D. White-Cracker, ” joined the frisk and all three of them allegedly assaulted Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff claims that Collins punched him in the back in the area of his left kidney as Plaintiff was facing the wall with his legs spread and his hands on the wall, causing Plaintiff to defecate. Id. at 5. Stotler, Collins, and Doe punched Plaintiff in the back of the head. Id. Plaintiff was then taken down to the floor with his arms and legs and torso twisted in different directions by Stotler and Collins. Id. Plaintiff was then kicked, punched, and hit with a night stick multiple times by Doe and was kicked and punched by Stotler and Collins while Collins straddled him bending his wrist and fingers, twisting his ankle, and exposing his rib area to be hit by Doe. Id.

         Plaintiff was lifted to his feet and Stotler left the room. Id. With feces on his backside, Plaintiff was told to strip and squat while the officers laughed. Id. Stotler returned with clean underwear and Plaintiff was permitted to clean himself. Id. Plaintiff was told to sit in the “boss chair” and was then choked, leaving him with a sore throat and jaw. Id. Collins threatened that if Plaintiff told the nurse anything they would kill him. Id.

         Plaintiff was then taken to E-Block and placed in a cell for ten minutes before being taken to the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”). Id. According to Plaintiff, he sustained a lump on his head behind his ear and broken left rib in addition to the sore throat during the alleged assault by Defendants. Id.

         B. Grievances

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges he filed numerous grievances at Clinton after the alleged assault and sent complaints to the Clinton Superintendent. (Dkt. No. 1 at 6.) In his affidavit in opposition to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff states that he wrote his first of two grievances regarding the assault and lack of medical treatment on September 10, 2014, the day of the assault. (Dkt. No. 20-2 at 1.) The September 10, 2014, grievance, which is annexed to Plaintiff's affidavit in opposition, complained about the planting of a weapon in his cell and the subsequent assault by the “escorting Sergeant, Officer Collins, and another Unknown Named Officer.” Id. at 4. Plaintiff also complained of being denied medical care despite likely having broken ribs and suffering from dizzy spells. Id. Plaintiff asked that he be moved for his safety and be provided a camcorder, that he be given medical treatment, and that the officers be punished. Id. Plaintiff stated he wanted to file criminal charges against Defendants. Id. The grievance indicates copies were sent to Richard Langone, Esq., Clinton Superintendent Racette, and DOCCS Commissioner Anthony Annucci. Id.

         Plaintiff's second grievance, dated September 19, 2014, was more detailed regarding the retaliatory reasons for the alleged assault, the assault itself, injuries sustained by Plaintiff, and the lack of medical care for his injuries. Id. at 7. The grievance indicates that copies were sent to the New York State Commission of Correction and the Clinton County Sheriff's Office. Id. at 9. Plaintiff states in his affidavit that he gave the grievances to the corrections officers on rounds to pick up mail in SHU unit 14 where he was housed following the alleged assault, as was the procedure at Clinton. Id. at 1.

         Plaintiff was transferred from Clinton to Southport Correctional Facility (“Southport”) on September 30, 2014. (Dkt. Nos. 16-5 at 3; 16-9 at 3.) A week later, on October 7, 2014, Plaintiff was transferred from Southport to Five Points Correctional Facility (“Five Points”). (Dkt. Nos. 16-9 at 3; 16-7 at 3.) On October, 24, 2014, while housed at Five Points, Plaintiff wrote to the Clinton Inmate Grievance Program (“IGP”) supervisor requesting a number for his September 10, 2014, grievance. (Dkt. No. 23-2 at 4.) Plaintiff wrote in the letter that he had filed a grievance with the IGP regarding the September 10, 2014, assault and had sent the Superintendent a copy. Id. He noted in the letter that an investigation had been started by the Inspector General but that he had not received a number for the grievance he filed. Id. Plaintiff copied Richard Langone, Esq., on the letter. Id.

         In an October 30, 2014, memorandum, Clinton IGP Supervisor Christine Gregory (“Gregory”) wrote “[t]he last grievance on file for DIN# 08A0598 for the year 2014 was filed on 7/9/14. There is no grievance on file for you concerning an incident of 9/10/14.” Id. at 6. Plaintiff responded to Gregory's memorandum on November 11, 2014. Id. at 8. Plaintiff wrote that he had filed many more grievances since July 9, 2014, and he ...

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