New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HINTON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-015-561, Claim No. 98051


After trial Court found use of force by C.O. justified under the circumstances and dismissed claim seeking recovery for personal injury sustained by inmate at hands of correction officer. Case turned on credibility of witness which favored the State.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
LaDarren Hinton, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Belinda Wagner, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 14, 2002
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

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 testimony[1]
. 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 the floor.

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 (
see, 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 dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

August 14, 2002
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]Neither party provided a transcript of the trial and the synopsis of the testimonial evidence is drawn from the Court's own notes and the digital recording of the trial.