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Hunnicutt v. Desantiago

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 26, 2019

CARNELL HUNNICUTT, Plaintiff,
v.
FNU DESANTIAGO, MORIAMA VALERIANO, D.L. RICHARDSON, FNU GONZALES, D. MUNGIA, and GEO GROUP, INC., Defendants.

          Carnell Hunnicutt Southern N.M. Correctional Facility Las Cruces, New Mexico Plaintiff pro se.

          April D. White YLAW, P.C. Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for the Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on: (i) the Plaintiff’s Amended Pro Se Civil Rights Complaint, filed October 9, 2018 (Doc. 9)(“Amended Complaint”); (ii) the Defendants FNU DeSanitago, Moriama Valeriano, D.L. Richardson, and GEO Group, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss and Memorandum of Law in Support, filed September 20, 2018 (Doc. 2)(“Original MTD”); and (iii) the Defendants FNU DeSanitago, Moriama Valeriano, D.L. Richardson, and GEO Group, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint and Memorandum of Law in Support, filed October 18, 2018 (Doc. 10)(“MTD”). Plaintiff Carnell Hunnicutt alleges prison supervisors retaliated against him after he filed grievances and he then engaged in an explosive argument with Correctional Officer FNU DeSantiago. Having carefully reviewed the matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court will grant the MTD and dismiss this case with prejudice.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Hunnicutt originally filed this action on July 13, 2018, in New Mexico’s Fifth Judicial District Court, No. D-506-CR-2018-1259. See Complaint (Tort), filed July 13, 2018 (Doc. 1-1)(“Original Complaint”). FNU DeSantiago, Moriama Valeriano, D.L. Richardson, and GEO Group, Inc. removed the action to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 on September 20, 2018, within the requisite thirty days of service. See Notice of Removal ¶ 5, at 2, filed September 20, 2018 (Doc. 1)(“Notice”). DeSantiago, Valeriano, Richardson, and GEO Group filed the Original MTD on the same date. See Original MTD at 1. On September 9, 2018, Hunnicutt filed the Amended Complaint. See Amended Complaint at 1. The Amended Complaint focuses on a conflict between Hunnicutt and DeSantiago, a correctional officer at the Lea County Correctional Facility. For the limited purposes of this ruling, the Court assumes Hunnicutt’s allegations are true. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         The conflict appears to trace back to September 29, 2016, when Hunnicutt filed a grievance against DeSantiago. See Amended Complaint ¶ 11, at 2. DeSantiago allegedly treated Hunnicutt “as if [he] was special management status”; kept him “from appointments”; and “contain[ed] [him] in the unit.” Amended Complaint ¶ 11, at 2. Hunnicutt then filed a grievance against Lea County Correctional Grievance Coordinator Valeriano for “circumventing [New Mexico Corrections Department] grievance policy to shield her co-workers[’] abuse of authority.” Amended Complaint ¶ 12, at 2. Hunnicutt also alleged Valeriano was not properly trained for her job. See Amended Complaint ¶ 13, at 2. Between January, 2017 and March, 2017, Hunnicutt filed two additional grievances against DeSantiago and one additional grievance against Valeriano. See Amended Complaint ¶¶ 14-16, at 2. He alleges DeSantiago is racist and “deliberate[ly] indifferen[t], ” and that she stated in front of other inmates that Hunnicutt “isn’t right in the head and files a lot of grievances.” Amended Complaint ¶¶ 14, 16, at 2. Hunnicutt further alleges Valeriano violated grievance policies and/or did not resolve the dispute. See Amended Complaint ¶ 15, at 2.

         On April 8, 2017, Hunnicutt met with Lea County Correctional Sergeant Mungia and accused DeSantiago of “unprofessionalism and racist behavior.” Amended Complaint ¶ 17, at 2. Mungia promised to speak with DeSantiago, but Hunnicutt felt that a conversation would not resolve the problem. See Amended Complaint ¶ 18, at 2. Hunnicutt told Mungia, “check [your] staff or I will . . . . I will not tolerate Defendant DeSantiago continued [sic] disrespecting me and talking to me like crap.” Amended Complaint ¶¶ 18-19, at 2-3. Hunnicutt then filed a grievance against Mungia, alleging that an earlier informal complaint “disappeared” from Hunnicutt’s possession. Amended Complaint ¶ 20, at 3. Hunnicutt also alleges that Mungia ignored the Lea County Correctional handbook, which requires prison staff to report abuse. See Amended Complaint ¶ 23, at 3. It is not clear how those grievances were resolved, but Hunnicutt was not satisfied with the results.

         On July 6, 2017, Hunnicutt and DeSantiago were both assigned work in housing pod 3-B. See Amended Complaint ¶¶ 24-25, at 3. Hunnicutt was working on the paint and detail crew. See Amended Complaint ¶ 25, at 3. At some point, DeSantiago told the unit to lock up for maintenance. See Amended Complaint ¶ 25, at 3. Hunnicutt stated that he was working with the maintenance crew and needed to finish his job, which the Warden assigned. See Amended Complaint ¶ 25, at 3. DeSantiago ignored him again and yelled “lock up.” See Amended Complaint ¶ 26, at 3. Hunnicutt packed his tools in his work cart. See Amended Complaint ¶ 27, at 3. He refused, however, to leave his “Class A” tools unattended, per the Warden’s instructions. See Amended Complaint ¶ 27, at 3. DeSantiago again instructed Hunnicutt to “lock up or leave, ” as two maintenance technicians entered the unit. Amended Complaint ¶ 28, at 4. Hunnicutt told DeSantiago to ask the maintenance technicians whether Hunnicutt was working with them on the maintenance crew, but DeSantiago just glared at Hunnicutt. See Amended Complaint ¶ 28, at 4. Hunnicutt finally agreed to leave and began pushing his cart towards the door. See Amended Complaint ¶ 29, at 4.

         The Amended Complaint alleges that, as Hunnicutt was pushing the cart, Hunnicutt and DeSantiago engaged in the following exchange:[1]

DESANTIAGO: “You think you’re special -- that’s why you got packed up in housing [pod] 4, because you couldn’t make it.”
HUNNICUTT: “No one packed me up, and I doubt if anyone in New Mexico was man enough to pack me up.”
DESANTIAGO: “You think you’re so smart, if you’re so smart, why are you in prison?”
HUNNICUTT: “[A] judge put me here, why is someone your age working a base job?”

Amended Complaint ¶¶ 30-33, at 4.

         Hunnicutt and DeSantiago then entered housing pod D and continued the argument in the D-space area near Robert Pryor, Officer Jimenez, and Officer Gonzales. See Amended Complaint ¶ 34, at 4. DeSantiago called Hunnicutt a “piece of sh*t” and stated: “My people work harder than you, look at us Mexicans. We are strong.” Amended Complaint ¶¶ 35-36, at 4. Hunnicutt laughed at DeSantiago, which made her angrier. See Amended Complaint ¶ 36, at 4. She continued:

DESANTIAGO: “F**k you. You need to take your blackass back to Africa.”
HUNNICUTT: “If it’s true that you people are so strong, why do they sit in the unit (not working) and shoot suboxone all day and f**k each other?”

         Amended Complaint ¶ 36, at 4. DeSantiago then called Hunnicutt’s mother a “n**ger w*ore” who “collects welfare[s]” and stated:

DESANTIAGO: “[Your father is a] black n**ger piece of sh*t making babies and abandoning them.”
HUNNICUTT: “Go back to Mexico with [your] racist attitude. [Are you] even a citizen of the United States?”

Amended Complaint ¶¶ 39-40, at 5.

         Until this point, none of the nearby Lea County Correctional officers intervened in the verbal altercation. See Amended Complaint ¶¶ 37-38, at 4-5. DeSantiago then told a nearby Hispanic inmate: “That n**ger is talking about our people (the Mexican race).” Amended Complaint ¶ 41, at 5. The inmate removed his shirt, raised his fist, and made a comment like he wanted to fight. See Amended Complaint ¶ 42, at 5. Hunnicutt said: “Bring it, because [you’re] going to lose.” Amended Complaint ¶ 42, at 5. Hunnicutt’s friend weighed in, telling DeSantiago: “I don’t know why you told that inmate that, he ain’t going to do ...


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