The trial of this claim, which seeks to recover money damages for the alleged
battery of claimant by a correction officer at Mt. McGregor Correctional
Facility on January 22, 1998, was held in the Justice Building, Empire State
Plaza, Albany, New York on June 6, 2002.
Claimant was the only witness to testify on his behalf and gave the following
. On January 22, 1998 claimant had returned to "F" Dorm from an outside work
assignment and was waiting in line with a number of other inmates to be strip
searched as was customary. Claimant admits that while waiting he began singing
so loudly that he drew the attention of a correction officer (Ralph Recor) who
was stationed on the floor below. Claimant alleges that when Officer Recor
arrived in the waiting area he asked why claimant was singing so loudly and
allegedly began screaming at the claimant in such a loud manner that two of the
correction officers conducting the strip search appeared in the waiting area
from the adjoining room. He further alleged that while in the presence of his
fellow officers Officer Recor struck claimant several times causing him to fall
to the floor.
Claimant testified that shortly thereafter an area supervisor and a "couple" of
correction officers arrived and that he was placed against the wall, handcuffed
and taken to the infirmary. Claimant alleges that while at the infirmary he was
examined and scheduled for an X ray the following day. His injuries included a
swollen nose later diagnosed as a non-displaced fracture, a cut under his left
eye, a cracked bottom tooth, swollen lip, bruised forehead and swollen elbow.
Claimant testified that he advised the unnamed area supervisor that Officer
Recor hit him for no reason.
On cross-examination claimant again admitted to singing loudly and talking
loudly to other inmates before the incident but stated that he was never told to
be quiet in line. Claimant denied that Officer Recor directed him to assume the
pat/frisk position and further denied that he turned or attempted to strike the
officer while being frisked. Even though Officer Recor had filed a misbehavior
report against claimant two weeks prior to this incident claimant denied that he
was upset with the officer.
Claimant did offer any redirect testimony.
The defendant called only one witness, Correction Officer Ralph Recor who
testified that he was employed by the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS)
for 14 years and was assigned as a correction officer to Mt. McGregor
Correctional Facility from 1996 through 1999.
The witness stated that he was assigned to F Dorm on January 22, 1998 and, at
some point during that assignment, the witness heard loud singing and went to
investigate. Because he felt that the claimant was being disorderly and was
causing a disturbance he directed him to "get on the wall" meaning to assume the
pat/frisk position. Officer Recor alleged that after assuming the pat/frisk
position the claimant spun around with closed fists and lunged at him in
violation of facility rules which require an inmate in a pat/frisk position to
remain in such position until otherwise directed. He testified that he stepped
back, struck the claimant out of concern for his own safety and pushed him to
On cross-examination Officer Recor testified that he was not a participant in
the strip search process being conducted in a separate room. He admitted that
such a search is generally conducted by four correction officers and that two
such officers appeared from the strip search room after claimant was put back on
the wall in a pat/frisk position following the altercation.
Following Officer Recor's testimony the defendant orally moved to dismiss the
claim for failure to prove a prima facie case. The Court reserved decision on
the motion and now denies it choosing to address the merits of the case upon the
evidence offered including the aforementioned testimony and claimant's exhibits
1-4 which were received in evidence without objection.
Resolution of this matter ultimately rests upon issues of credibility (
, Williams v State of New York
, 291 AD2d 586). The claimant
alleged that he was attacked by Officer Recor without provocation or warning.
The correction officer testified that he struck claimant in self-defense
motivated by fear for his own safety. Claimant alleged that the altercation was
witnessed by two of four correction officers conducting strip searches in an
adjoining room. Officer Recor's testimony was that additional officers arrived
only after claimant had risen from the floor and re-assumed the pat/frisk
position. In addition , the documentary evidence offered by claimant,
especially Exhibits 1 (documents and reports concerning the incident) lends
support to Officer Recor's version of the events rather than claimant's version.
The Court resolves the credibility issue in favor of the defendant based
principally on its observation of the witnesses during trial as they testified.
Under these circumstances the Court declines to credit the claimant's
uncorroborated assertion that he was attacked by the officer without cause or
provocation. The Court finds that the use of force was justified under the
circumstances and that the State is not liable for claimant's injuries resulting
from the use of such force. No recovery may be had and the claim is therefore
Let judgment be entered accordingly.