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Talley v. Constanzo

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 2, 2019

QUINTEZ TALLEY
v.
C/O CONSTANZO; C/O BROCCOLIER; DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS; and LT. REBER

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE J.

         Plaintiff Quintez Talley, a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, [1] filed this civil action asserting claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also brings various state law claims. He has sued the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) and three of its officials, Corrections Officer (“C/O”) Jonathan Constanzo, former-Corrections Officer Kyle Bruccoliere, [2] and Lieutenant Andrew Reber.[3]

         Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). Because Talley failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, we shall grant the motion and dismiss the federal law claims. We shall decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims and dismiss those without prejudice.

         Background[4]

         While Talley was in the custody of the DOC at the State Correctional Institution (“SCI”) at Graterford, another inmate informed him that defendants Bruccoliere and Constanzo could obtain commissary items for prisoners in excess of the prisoner limits in exchange for giving these C/Os a portion of the prisoners' items.[5] Talley made arrangements with them to obtain excess commissary in exchange for an unspecified portion of his commissary items.[6] He placed orders with them on June 13 and June 27, 2017.[7]

         At some point, upon his return from the mental health unit (“MHU”) at SCI-Camp Hill, Talley realized that about one-third of his commissary food items had been removed from the place where only Bruccoliere and Constanzo knew they were stored.[8] On August 22, 2017, after Talley's relationship with Bruccoliere and Constanzo “soured, ” Constanzo denied Talley his dinner tray.[9]

         On August 24, 2017, Talley complained orally and in writing to defendant Reber regarding the “coercion and/or extortion” by Bruccoliere and Constanzo.[10] In retaliation, Bruccoliere and Constanzo harassed Talley by encouraging other inmates to call him a “rat” and “snitch, ” and encouraging other inmates and DOC personnel to harass him.[11] He also accuses Bruccoliere and Constanzo of taking four of his legal books worth $187.80 that had been mailed to him and signed for on December 20, 2017. They also caused one additional bag of commissary to go to the “POC against [Tally's] wishes.”[12]

         Based on these allegations, Talley filed this civil action pursuant to various federal and state laws. This is the ninth federal action of fifteen he has filed since 2016.

         Talley alleges that defendant Bruccoliere violated the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act when he told Talley he would only get commissary if he was compensated with some of it.[13] Talley alleges defendants Bruccoliere and Constanzo also violated the ADA and Rehabilitation Act when they “spread the false allegation that [Talley] was a rat and snitch” and for taking Talley's commissary after Talley's report to defendant Reber.[14] Talley alleges defendant Reber violated the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act by failing to protect him from being “coerced, ” “robbed, ” and “extorted” of additional commissary and his legal books.[15]

         Talley contends that the DOC, Bruccoliere, and Constanzo violated RICO when Bruccoliere and Constanzo withheld a percentage of the June 13 and June 27 commissary, took his four books, and had an additional bag of commissary taken to the POC.[16] This allegation contradicts Talley's assertion that he had sought out the two officers to make a deal to circumvent the commissary limits, a deal he made.

         Talley alleges numerous constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. First, he claims defendants Bruccoliere and Constanzo violated the First Amendment by threatening to poison his food and starting rumors that he was a “rat” and “snitch.”[17]Second, Talley alleges Bruccoliere and Constanzo violated the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments by taking his four legal books with no probable cause.[18] Third, Bruccoliere and Constanzo violated Talley's Eighth Amendment rights by telling other prisoners he was a “rat” and by forcing him to pay a fee for exceeding his commissary limits, and Reber violated these rights by failing to protect him from the extortion.[19]

         Talley also claims that Bruccoliere and Constanzo committed the torts of coercion and/or extortion when they exercised their authority over him to receive a percentage of his two commissary orders in June 2017.[20] Additionally, Talley claims that Bruccoliere and Constanzo converted the food items he had stored in the MHU while he was at SCI-Camp Hill.[21] Talley lastly alleges that Bruccoliere and Constanzo engaged in a conspiracy when they “worked in cohesion to deprive [Talley] of his commissary through extortionate tactics . . . in an attempt to deprive [him] of the right to his own property.”[22]

         Talley seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages.

         Defendants move to dismiss the action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. They argue that Talley's claims are barred because he failed to follow the mandatory prerequisites of the PLRA, which applies to all complaints about prison conditions. Because the exhaustion issue arises from indisputably authentic documents, we may decide the motion to dismiss without converting it to a summary judgment motion.[23] Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 228 (3d Cir. 2004) (exhaustion “turn[ed] on indisputably authentic documents related to [prison] grievances” and court held it may consider those documents without converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment).

         Analysis[24]

         Federal Claims - Exhaustion under the PLRA

         Before filing suit under section 1983 or any other federal law, a prisoner must exhaust all available administrative remedies. The PLRA provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [1983 or any other federal law] until administrative remedies as available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(a). To properly exhaust, the prisoner must comply with all deadlines and procedural rules. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). He must pursue all available avenues in the process. Id.; see also Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1859-60 (2016); Spruill, 372 F.3d at 222. If he fails to do so, his action must be dismissed. Spruill, 372 F.3d at 227.

         Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Administrative Regulation 804 (“DC-ADM 804”) mandates that inmates “must submit a grievance for initial review to the Facility Grievance Coordinator within 15 working days after the event upon which the claim is based.”[25] If an inmate appeals the grievance officer's decision, he must do so “within 10 working days from the date of the Initial Review decision or notice of a grievance restriction.”[26]

         In their motion, the defendants attach three DC-ADM 804 grievance forms Talley submitted during his time in SCI-Graterford, none of which covers, directly or indirectly, his claims in the complaint.[27] In opposition, Talley responds that he had completed a DC-ADM 001 form on August 24, 2017, to address the conduct complained of in the complaint.[28] Defendants concede in their reply that Talley's DC-ADM 001 was an acceptable route to satisfy the PLRA's administrative exhaustion requirement.[29]Nevertheless, Talley's complaints in the August 24, 2017 DC-ADM 001 do not mention the claims or individuals forming the basis of this lawsuit.[30]

         In his DC-ADM 001, Talley first addressed the June 2017 commissary orders that Bruccoliere delivered on July 5, 2017.[31] He detailed the items in that commissary delivery, stating that Bruccoliere and Constanzo would give Talley “bits and pieces” of food over the following weeks.[32] He noted that these C/Os “use the commissary that they have to cook food [that] they feed the inmates they wish to gain favor with.”[33]

         Talley then complained that on August 22, 2017, Constanzo had told him to stand at the back of his cell to retrieve his tray, which Talley found “odd” since they were “just cooking”-presumably commissary food-with each other.[34]

         Talley wrote further that on August 21, 2017, he requested his legal materials.[35]He did not state to whom he made this request. Angered at the lack of response, he flooded his cell.[36] Correctional Officer Ionata and others cleaned the flooding.[37] The following morning, C/O Ionata told Talley that if he wanted his tray, he would need to stand at the back of his cell and face the wall.[38] Talley refused.[39] At this point, C/O Roberts came to Talley's cell and told him to “swing” at the C/Os and to “suck his [genitals].”[40]

         The following day, C/O “H” told Talley to stand at the back of his cell to receive his tray, which Talley again refused.[41] Hungry, angry, and feeling hopeless, Talley began to feel suicidal and used a lighter to set toilet paper on fire.[42] Several DOC personnel, including C/O Ionata, Sergeant Brown, and Lieutenant Taylor, came and laughed, did nothing to help Talley, and urged him to set more items on fire.[43] Talley was eventually taken to medical.[44]

         Talley also generally complained about a pattern in which the correctional officers did not do the required ten minute rounds; threatened to use physical force on the prisoners; and threatened to spit in the prisoners' food, creating an atmosphere where the prisoners “live in fear.”[45]

         Although Talley's DC-ADM 001, filed on August 24, 2017, does reference the June 2017 commissary orders in his pleading, it was filed too late. The form must be filed within 15 working days from the incident. For the July 5, 2017 commissary delivery from which Bruccoliere and Constanzo allegedly took a commission, the August 24, 2017 form was filed beyond the 15-day limit. Talley does not complain in his DC-ADM 001 about items stolen during his stay at SCI-Camp Hill, the additional bag of commissary that went to the POC, or his legal books.

         The DC-ADM 001 alleges harassment. None of the allegations involve the words “rat, ” “snitch” or similar harassment based on alleged directives from the defendants. Significantly, the harassment that Talley alleges ...


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