Peña v. Greffet

Decision Date16 May 2015
Docket NumberNo. CIV 12–0710 JB/KBM.,CIV 12–0710 JB/KBM.
Citation108 F.Supp.3d 1030
Parties Crystal PEÑA, Plaintiff, v. Dale GREFFET and Carlos Vallejos, in their individual capacities; Arlene Hickson, in her individual and official capacities; and Corrections Corporation of America, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Mexico

Zachary A. Ives, Garcia Ives Nowara, Mark Fine, Charlotte Itoh Fine Law Firm, Albuquerque, NM, for Plaintiff.

Michael S. Jahner, Yenson, Lynn, Allen & Wosick, PC, Albuquerque, NM, for Defendant Dale Greffet.

Deborah D. Wells, Kennedy, Moulton & Wells, PC, Albuquerque, NM, Christina G. Retts, Struck Wieneke & Love, Chandler, AZ, for Defendants Carlos Vallejos, Arlene Hickson, and Corrections Corporation of America.

AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION1

JAMES O. BROWNING, District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Vallejos' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Claims in the First Amended Complaint, filed March 18, 2013 (Doc. 32)("MTD"). The Court held a hearing on June 20, 2013. The primary issues are: (i) whether Plaintiff Crystal Peña has alleged a plausible excessive force claim under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, where she alleges that Defendant Carlos Vallejos, a correctional officer in a facility in which she was an inmate, pushed her against a wall for refusing to answer his questions and for walking away from him; and (ii) whether these same allegations state a plausible claim for battery. The Court will dismiss the Eighth Amendment claim but leave the battery claim intact. The Eighth Amendment does not require officers to use the minimum force necessary or even reasonably proportional force, but, rather, it requires only that they refrain from "malicious and sadistic" violence, and that they direct their efforts to achieving a sincere penological end. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7, 112 S.Ct. 995, 117 L.Ed.2d 156 (1992). There are legitimate reasons—or at least reasons less invidious than "malic[e] and sadis[m]"—for a prison guard to push an inmate against a wall when she refuses to answer his questions and walks away from him. Peña's allegations are consistent with cruelty, malice, and sadism, but they do not suggest those motives, i.e., the allegations are also perfectly consistent with prison disciplinary measures that are not only legal, but normal, as well. Peña has thus failed to nudge her allegations over the line from conceivable to plausible, and the Court will, accordingly, dismiss her claim. Because Peña has already had one opportunity to amend her claim to add additional facts tending to show plausibility, the Court concludes that further opportunity to amend would be futile, and the Court will therefore dismiss the claims with prejudice. As to the battery claim, however, the standard to which officers are held is more rigorous: the officer must not use any more force than he or she reasonably believes to be necessary. Peña has alleged facts that, if combined with reasonable inferences in her favor—e.g., that Vallejos gave Peña no advance warning or additional opportunity to stop, and that Vallejos' "slamming" was violent and severe—give rise to a plausible inference that Vallejos used more force than he reasonably believed necessary to respond to Peña's obstinance. The Court will therefore decline to dismiss the battery claim.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Court takes its facts from the Amended Complaint for Civil Rights Violations and Common Law Torts, filed February 28, 2013 (Doc. 30) ("Complaint"), as it must at the motion-to-dismiss stage, see Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir.2009) ("[F]or purposes of resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we accept as true all well-pled factual allegations in a complaint and view these allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." (citing Moore v. Guthrie, 438 F.3d 1036, 1039 (10th Cir.2006) )). In July, 2009, Peña was a post-conviction prisoner at the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility ("NMWCF"). See Complaint ¶ 3, at 1–2. At all times material to Peña's allegations, Defendant Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA") operated and maintained the NMWCF pursuant to a contract with the State of New Mexico, and was bound to comply with certain New Mexico Corrections Department ("NMCD") policies. Complaint ¶ 4, at 2. CCA employed Defendant Arlene Hickson as the NMWCF's warden, and, as such, she was the head supervisor of the facility. See Complaint ¶ 5, at 2. During the time period throughout which the underlying conduct took place, CCA employed Vallejos and Defendant Dale Greffet as corrections officers at the NMWCF. See Complaint ¶ 6, at 2.

The boyfriend of Peña's mother raped Peña when she was a young child on two separate occasions. See Complaint ¶ 7, at 2. Before the events in the Complaint, Peña had been diagnosed with debilitating mental illnesses. See Complaint ¶ 8, at 2. In the spring of 2009, while Peña was isolated in the NMWCF's segregation unit, Greffet befriended her and initiated, cultivated, and encouraged an intimate relationship with her contrary to CCA's and NMCD's policies and procedures. See Complaint ¶ 9, at 2. The claims alleged in the Complaint arise from five distinct incidences: (i) Greffet's alleged sexual abuse at the NMWCF in July/August, 2009; (ii) Greffet's alleged sexual abuse in Alamogordo, New Mexico, around Labor Day weekend, 2009; (iii) Greffet's alleged sexual abuse in Albuquerque, New Mexico, around August, 2010; (iv) Vallejos' alleged assault and battery in a hallway at the NMWCF in June, 2011; and (v) Peña's being placed and kept in segregation following her sexual abuse report in 2011.

1. The July/August, 2009, Alleged Sexual Abuse at the NMWCF.

Beginning in July of 2009, Greffet began to make advances and sexual comments to Peña about her physical appearance, which, for a period of time, Peña resisted. See Complaint ¶¶ 1011, at 2. In July and August of 2009, Greffet began to sexually fondle2 Peña. See Complaint ¶ 12, at 3. During the same time frame, Greffet made numerous false statements to Peña, including expressing his intent to enter into a committed relationship with her and his desire that they raise children together after her release from custody. See Complaint ¶ 13, at 3. Peña, relying on these statements, came to believe that Greffet was committed to a monogamous relationship with her in which the two of them would raise children. See Complaint ¶ 14, at 3. Peña was particularly susceptible to these advances, because of her history of sexual victimization, her diagnosed mental illnesses, and her aspiration to live a life of love and normalcy. See Complaint ¶ 15, at 3. At some point during late July or early August of 2009, Greffet called Peña into the commanding officer's office in front of the master control area of the NMWCF, and, sitting at the desk, revealed his erect penis to Peña, and told her to look and see the effect that she had on him. See Complaint ¶¶ 16–17, at 3. With Peña under the desk, Greffet orally sodomized her. See Complaint ¶ 18, at 3.

2. The Labor Day Weekend, 2009, Alleged Sexual Abuse in Alamogordo.

On or about late August of 2009, Peña paroled to Ruidoso, New Mexico, from the NMWCF.See Complaint ¶ 19, at 4. After Peña paroled, Greffet obtained Peña's telephone number from Peña's aunt, who was incarcerated at the NMWCF. See Complaint ¶ 20, at 3. Greffet contacted Peña and pressured her to meet him. See Complaint ¶ 20, at 3. On Labor Day weekend of 2009, just before Peña entered into an in-patient treatment program in Alamogordo as a condition of her probation, Greffet rented a motel room for the two of them. See Complaint ¶ 21, at 4. During their stay in the motel room, Greffet raped3 Peña on four occasions. See Complaint ¶ 22, at 4. In the motel room, Peña resisted Greffet's efforts to orally and anally sodomize her, but relented when Greffet persisted. See Complaint ¶ 23, at 4.

On or about October of 2009, Peña's parole was revoked, and she returned to the NMWCF, where Greffet continued to work. See Complaint ¶ 24, at 4. After returning from parole, Greffet continued to falsely state his commitment to Peña and his intent to raise children with her, to make sexual advances toward her, and to sexually fondle her. See Complaint ¶ 25, at 4. On or around April of 2010, Greffet left his position at the NMWCF. Before he left, however, Greffet again expressed his plans to live with Peña and to raise children with her. See Complaint ¶ 26, at 4.

3. The August, 2010, Alleged Sexual Abuse in Albuquerque.

On or about August of 2010, the NMWCF again released Peña on probation. A condition of her probation was that she enroll in an in-patient treatment program for her mental health. See Complaint ¶ 27, at 4. Peña reported to and tried to qualify for the Maya's Place treatment program in Albuquerque. See Complaint ¶ 28, at 4. During this time frame, Greffet raped Peña on three occasions, again notwithstanding her resistance to anal sodomy. See Complaint ¶ 29, at 4. Greffet conceived a child with Peña during this time frame. See Complaint ¶ 29, at 4. Eventually, Maya's Place rejected Peña because, as she suffered from mental illness rather than drug dependence, she did not fit the program's criteria for admittance. See Complaint ¶ 30, at 5.

Because she was unable to enter a treatment program and thereby satisfy her condition of probation, Peña turned herself into law enforcement in September of 2010. See Complaint ¶ 31, at 5. As she was surrendering to authorities, Peña fainted, was taken to the emergency room, and learned for the first time that she was pregnant. See Complaint ¶ 33, at 5. Greffet promised to bond her out from Doña Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she would be held, but never did so. See Complaint ¶¶ 32, 36, at 5. The next day, from jail, Peña told Greffet that she was pregnant. See Complaint ¶ 34, at 5. Greffet thought that aborting the baby was the best option, and, accordingly, Peña and...

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