Charles McClinton, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 109628 that
Defendant's agents tampered with his legal documents, illegally searched his
cell, and wrongfully confined him while he was an inmate at Sing Sing
Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing). Trial of the matter was held at
Sing Sing on January 13, 2006.
Claimant testified that on or about July 1, 2004 his cell was searched while he
was at the "A-Block gym"
by Correction Officer M. Seward at approximately 10:00 a.m. A letter Claimant
needed to use as evidence in proceedings in Suffolk County was seized, including
appeal documents. Because these materials were taken, Claimant said he could not
proceed with his "440 motion." When Claimant returned to his cell from the gym
at approximately 10:15 a.m. he realized that it had been searched because items
had been moved, including his "legal work," and CO Seward admitted as much.
Claimant said he asked CO Seward for a contraband receipt, but was told that he
would not get one because he would be getting "a ticket." When Claimant asked
the officer what he would be getting a ticket for, there was no response, and CO
Seward walked away saying he would be back. CO Seward did not return. "About 45
minutes later . . . [Claimant] yelled down the company for him." An "unknown
female officer" came to Claimant, and told him that if he continued to make
noise "it would get bloody." Claimant then asked for a sergeant. About 10 to
15 minutes later, a Sergeant J. McNamara arrived, told Claimant to put his hands
behind his back, handcuffed him, and took him to "the OIC" or "Officer Inmate
Control." Claimant explained that "the ‘Officer Inmate Control' is the
place where the sergeant has an office; it's a control area on H-company, where
mail is separated, inmates are interviewed; basically it is where the officers
At the OIC Claimant said that the sergeant came out with some papers that he
immediately recognized as those he had in his cell. The papers were letters
from the victim in his criminal case that Claimant told the sergeant he needed.
They were not returned. Claimant was then put back in his cell, and about 10
to 15 minutes later he was escorted to the special housing unit (SHU). Claimant
then filed an inmate grievance that was not responded to. He also filed an
inmate claim for his personal property but received no answer. Claimant said he
"kept ‘getting treatment' from different officers" and he would file
grievances that were not responded to.
On or about September 8, 2004 he was "shipped out to Green Haven" to the
S-block - "which is a box" - and put in an inmate claim for the same incident.
This time they responded by giving him a claim number, but also told him that
they were short of staff and he would need to file with the Court of Claims,
which he had already done on July 19, 2004. He continued pursuing grievances as
well as administrative appeals of his "sentence of 60 days in SHU
Claimant indicated that he has continued to pursue his administrative claims to
this day. He indicated that since his property was seized, he has suffered from
depression and sleeplessness, and has been frustrated in his attempts to have
his grievances responded to so that he can pursue his appeals.
Claimant presented a substantial amount of documentary evidence that has been
reviewed by the Court. [
Exhibits 1-5; 7-8;11-17; 19,21]. These include the envelope
postmarked September 8, 2003, that contained the letter at issue [Exhibit 2] as
well as other letters with envelopes apparently from the same person.[See
Exhibits 1 and 3]. Other documents appear to relate to Suffolk County Court
proceedings or an appeal to the Appellate Division. [See
Exhibits 4, 5,
7, 8, 21]. A medical authorization [Exhibit 16], and records from Cental New
York Psychiatric Center [Exhibit 15] have also been offered.
The only documents that appear relevant to this claim, however, and which seem
to be related to the disciplinary hearing conducted concerning the misbehavior
report issued to Claimant on July 1, 2004, are Exhibits 11, 12, 13, 14, and 17.
Copies of these documents are also contained in Defendant's Exhibit A, described
as the "hearing packet" for Claimant.
On cross-examination, Claimant conceded that he was aware of the cell search
procedures allowed by Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) directives, and
aware that such searches could be made at any time. He claimed to be unaware
that the search of his cell was done pursuant to an investigation. Claimant said
that he was aware that the misbehavior report indicates he is a member of the
Bloods. Claimant said that he did not write threatening letters to the victim,
although the misbehavior report indicates that this was the case.
When asked what specific items were taken from his cell, Claimant indicated it
was a letter he had received from the victim while he was in Suffolk County
Correctional Facility, stating that she "never wanted to be Blood, they never
wanted to be stone, they tried everything in their power to get the charges
dropped." He admitted this refers to the Bloods gang. He said many of his
associates are in the Bloods, but he is not; he "is Muslim." He admitted that
only 8 or 10 pages of letters were taken and not returned, and knew they were
considered contraband because he was told that his writing had a lot of "Blood
related characteristics - the ‘threes' for the ‘c'-s' for example -
and that the way . . . [he] wrote looks like gang-related materials". Claimant
also confirmed he continues to have mental health issues, and takes medication.
No other witnesses testified on Claimant's direct case.
Sergeant McNamara, correctional sergeant and housing sergeant at A Block
associated with the crisis intervention unit of Sing Sing, a unit involved in
hostage negotiations as well as in-service training in inmate religions,
organizations and unauthorized inmate groups or organizations testified first.
He himself is an in-service trainer in these areas. He has been employed by DOCS
for 24 years, and has been a sergeant since 1989.
On July 1, 2004 he was working as an A-Block housing sergeant, and directed the
search by CO Seward of Claimant's cell based upon information that Claimant
might be associated with an unauthorized organization, specifically the Bloods
gang. CO Seward was told to seize any documents that may prove or disprove such
association. As the authorized supervisor, Sergeant McNamara said he is
authorized to direct such searches upon suspicion pursuant to DOCS directives.
Shown Defendant's Exhibit A, the "hearing packet" concerning Claimant's
misbehavior ticket, the witness identified the documents confiscated on July 1,
2004. He said that some of the signs and symbols are peculiar to the
unauthorized organization - or gang - called the Bloods. For example, on one
page could be seen the letter "C" with an arrow through it pointing downwards:
this is a sign of disrespect to the Bloods' enemies, the Crips. On another page,
the letter "c" is replaced throughout with the number "3"; this too is peculiar
to writings by Blood's associates, and is also a sign of disrespect to the
Crips. On the original copies these peculiarities would have been highlighted in
yellow for the hearing. As contraband, Sergeant McNamara explained, the
documents could not be returned to Claimant.
After the cell search on July 1, 2004 Sergeant McNamara said the inmate became
loud and threatening, and he was brought to the OIC area. Claimant continued to
be belligerent, announcing that he had a relative in the administrative
department and threatening that he was "gonna take care of you." Sergeant
McNamara told claimant that if the documents were part of his appeal it could be
sorted out at the hearing, but the present assessment was that they were
unauthorized contraband. A misbehavior report was issued. There was no use of
force needed to handcuff Claimant.
On cross-examination, Sergeant McNamara could not say how long it was between
his being notified of a misbehavior report being written and coming up to see
Claimant, as he had "several other duties going on." He confirmed that there
were two officers assigned to the gallery at the time of the incident.
No other witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.
From a review of the hearing packet [Exhibit A] and Exhibits 11-14, 17 and 19,
it appears that the claimant was issued a misbehavior report [Exhibit 14] on
July 2, 2004 based upon the July 1, 2004 incident, and a hearing was commenced
on July 8, 2004 and ended on July 13, 2004. Claimant was found guilty of
"unauthorized organizations/ activities" [Exhibit 11; Exhibit A] and - according
to the form - sentenced to two (2) months keeplock; three (3) months in SHU;
and loss of packages phones and commissary privileges for two (2) months; and
loss of recreation for one (1) month.
Portions of the sentence overlapped and also
appear to have been suspended or deferred.
Claimant appealed this determination to the Commissioner [Exhibit 13] and a
Memorandum decision appears to have been issued on September 1, 2004 modifying
the determination in terms of the sentence imposed. [Exhibit 17].
The quasi-judicial acts of correction employees taken in furtherance of
authorized disciplinary measures are entitled to absolute immunity.
Arteaga v State of New York
, 72 NY2d 212, 219-220 (1988). If officers
act inconsistently with their own rules and regulations, or otherwise act
outside the sphere of privileged actions, liability may attach. The fact that
charges are ultimately dismissed does not give rise to a cognizable cause of
action when there is no evidence defendant acted inconsistently with its own
rules and regulations. Arteaga v State of New York, supra
Holloway v State of New York
, 285 AD2d 765 (3d Dept 2001); cf.
Gittens v State of New York
, 132 Misc 2d 399 (Ct
To establish a
case of wrongful confinement, a "species" of the tort of
false imprisonment, [Gittens
., at 407], a claimant must
show ". . . (1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the . . . [claimant]
was conscious of the confinement, (3) the . . . [claimant] did not consent to
the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged . . . "
Broughton v State of New York
, 37 NY2d 451,456 (1975), cert
423 US 929 (1975).
From the facts presented it would appear that correction officers acted within
the bounds of New York State Department of Corrections rules and regulations.
The misbehavior report served upon Claimant, alleging facility rule violations,
triggered the requirements of a Tier III disciplinary hearing, in accordance
with 7 NYCRR § 254.1
; as well as the "timeliness" provisions of 7 NYCRR
§251-5.1. Any hearing must be commenced within seven (7) days of the
confinement, unless delay in its commencement is "authorized" by "the
commissioner or his designee." [7 NYCRR § 251-5.1(a)]. Similarly, the ". .
. hearing must be completed within 14 days following the writing of the
misbehavior report unless otherwise authorized by the commissioner or his
designee . . . [T]he record of the hearing should reflect the reasons for any
delay or adjournment, and an inmate should ordinarily be made aware of these
reasons unless to do so would jeopardize institutional safety or correctional
goal." [7 NYCRR § 251-5.1(b)].
The dispositions entered after the timely concluded
are just the type of quasi-judicial determinations shielded by the immunity
principles of Arteaga v State of New York
. Because of the
appeal process, the sentences were modified.
Based on the trial testimony and documentary evidence herein, Claimant has
failed to establish a
case of wrongful confinement or any wrongful conduct on the
part of Defendant's agents. He has not convinced the Court that the seizure of
any documents was without authorization, nor has he convinced the Court that
proceedings in another forum - and it is unclear what kind of proceeding because
Claimant referred to both a "440 motion" at trial, and referred to a habeas
corpus proceeding in his papers - was prevented or prejudiced by the seizure of
the twelve (12) pages of letters.
Accordingly, Claim Number 109628 is dismissed in its entirety.
Let judgment be entered accordingly.