Claimant, George Williams, seeks damages for injuries he sustained on August 14,
1997, during his incarceration at Sing Sing Correctional Facility ("Sing Sing"),
when Correction Officers Timothy McDonough and Timothy Burns allegedly used
excessive force on claimant after he was handcuffed. The claim also alleges
that the force used violated claimant's State Constitutional right to be free
from cruel and unusual punishment. The trial of this claim was bifurcated and
this Decision pertains solely to the issue of liability.
Claimant testified that he had been given an erroneous receipt regarding the
balance in his commissary account. Commissary Officer Williams discovered that
the receipt belonged to another inmate named Williams ("Williams"). According
to claimant, the other inmate Williams was irate and accused claimant of
stealing the receipt. Claimant testified that he remained calm and the matter
was resolved. He further testified he did not raise his voice to the Commissary
Officer because she was a
observed Correction Officer McDonough nearby and attempted to explain the
situation to him. McDonough directed claimant to proceed with him in the
direction of the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"). Claimant stopped moving and
started crying because he thought he was headed for placement in SHU. When they
were 12 feet from SHU, Correction Officer Burns approached and directed claimant
to raise his hands for a frisk. According to claimant, he did not resist and he
was handcuffed behind his back. Claimant maintains that, despite his
compliance, McDonough grabbed claimant's cuffed hands and pushed them up toward
his neck. Claimant heard a pop, felt pain radiate down his right side to his
hand and started screaming. He thought his arm had been broken. According to
Claimant, McDonough then pulled his pin radio to call for assistance. Several
correction officers and Sergeant Crawford responded to the scene. Claimant was
taken to the facility infirmary and later transported to St. Agnes Hospital. He
sustained a fracture to his right arm (humerus) (Ex. 1).
McDonough testified that he was the escort officer in the SHU and was
directed to clear the A block corridor because an extraction team was scheduled
to pass through the area. He explained that an extraction team was comprised of
four or five correction officers, with shields and chemical agents, who are
dispatched to remove inmates who have refused to exit their
As McDonough was clearing the hallway of all inmates, he observed
claimant in the A block corridor and directed him to walk toward the SHU
corridor. McDonough explained that he had to act quickly and had no other
alternative for claimant's placement. According to McDonough, claimant became
hostile and abusive while waving his hands in defiance of McDonough's order for
claimant to keep his hands in his pockets. Concerned about his own safety,
McDonough directed claimant to put his hands on the wall for a frisk. As
McDonough tried to perform the frisk, claimant removed his hands from the wall.
McDonough tried to bring claimant's hands behind his back to be handcuffed.
Contrary to claimant's testimony, McDonough stated that he did not have a pin
radio to call for assistance. Burns entered the area and, after a struggle with
claimant, claimant was cuffed. McDonough recalled that claimant did not stop
resisting until after there was a popping sound in claimant's arm. Claimant was
escorted to the Sing Sing emergency room. McDonough denied pushing claimant's
cuffed hands higher than the small of his back. Claimant was issued a
Misbehavior Report for his confrontation with inmate Williams and the refusal to
follow a direct order of a correction officer (Ex. A).
Burns testified that he was stationed just inside the main door to the SHU and
heard a commotion in the hallway. He opened the door and observed claimant
taking his arms off the wall and arguing with McDonough. McDonough could not
complete the frisk because
claimant kept trying to turn and remove his hands from the wall. Burns
proceeded to assist McDonough and they decided to cuff claimant. Burns placed a
cuff on claimant's left wrist, but he continued struggling. McDonough pulled
claimant's right arm. Burns heard a "pop" and then claimant stopped resisting.
Claimant's hands, which were in the small of his back, were both cuffed. Burns
did not have a pin radio to summon help.
Correction Officer Richard Romaine, the SHU
supervisor, testified that he heard a commotion in the SHU corridor and followed
Burns to the scene. Romaine observed McDonough's difficulty as he attempted to
frisk claimant. Claimant was not complying; he was pushing off the wall;
removing his hands; and turning his head.
Romaine noted that Burns took claimant's left arm and pulled it to the small
of his back while applying the handcuffs. McDonough took claimant's right hand.
Claimant was struggling and McDonough was having difficulty. Ultimately, the
handcuffs were applied and both of claimant's hands were at the small of his
back. Neither officer forced claimant's hands up his back and Romaine never
observed the officers strike claimant. Romaine did have a pin radio, but he did
not activate it during this incident. Claimant was escorted to the
Upon listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they
did so, the Court finds that the credible evidence establishes that, while
claimant sustained a fractured arm, the amount of force used was not excessive
under the circumstances presented (see
, Passino v State of New
, 260 AD2d 915) and there was no violation of claimant's State
Constitutional rights (see
, Brown v State of New York
, 89 NY2d
Accordingly, defendant's motion to dismiss, upon which decision was reserved,
is now GRANTED.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED DISMISSING CLAIM NO. 98432.