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Hewes v. Belknap County

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

February 15, 2018

Becky Hewes, Plaintiff
v.
Belknap County and E. Justin Blanchette, Defendants

          Lawrence A. Vogelman, Esq.

          Corey M. Belobrow, Esq.

          ORDER

          Steven J. McAuliffe United States District Judge.

         Becky Hewes filed suit against Belknap County and E. Justin Blanchette, asserting both federal and state claims. Belknap County has moved to dismiss the complaint.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must “accept as true all well-pleaded facts set out in the complaint and indulge all reasonable inferences in favor of the pleader.” SEC v. Tambone, 597 F.3d 436, 441 (1st Cir. 2010). Although the complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), it must allege each of the essential elements of a viable cause of action and “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation and internal punctuation omitted).

         In other words, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Instead, the facts alleged in the complaint must, if credited as true, be sufficient to “nudge[] [plaintiff's] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Id. at 570. If, however, the “factual allegations in the complaint are too meager, vague, or conclusory to remove the possibility of relief from the realm of mere conjecture, the complaint is open to dismissal.” Tambone, 597 F.3d at 442.

         BACKGROUND

         Hewes is currently an inmate at the New Hampshire State Prison for Women. Between September, 2014, through July, 2015, and again from May 29, 2015, through July 2, 2015, Hewes was housed at the Belknap County Jail in Laconia, New Hampshire. At all times relevant to the complaint, Justin Blanchette worked as a sergeant in the Belknap County Sheriff's Department.

         Taking the facts as pled in the complaint at face value, the background can be described as follows. On September 18, 2014, Blanchette was charged with transporting Hewes from the Belknap County Jail to a dentist appointment. Hewes and Blanchette were alone in the department van, and, on the way to the dental office, Blanchette let Hewes use his cell phone to make personal calls. Blanchette also stopped the van and gave Hewes a cigarette to smoke. On the return trip after the appointment, Blanchette allowed Hewes to sit in the front seat without handcuffs, and again let her use his cell phone. As they drove back to the jail, Blanchette flirted with Hewes, discussing personal relationships and sex.

         At some point during the drive, Blanchette drove down a dirt road. He told Hewes that, before they arrived back at the jail, he needed to handcuff her and move her to the back of van. Blanchette stopped the van, took off his belt, unzipped his pants, and had Hewes perform oral sex on him. Blanchette then instructed Hewes to take off her pants, and he had sexual intercourse with her in the back of the Sheriff's transport van.

         On July 2, 2015, Hewes was sentenced in the Belknap County Superior Court. Following sentencing, Hewes was to be transported to the New Hampshire State Prison for Women in Goffstown. Blanchette was tasked with driving Hewes from the Belknap Superior Court to Goffstown in the Sheriff's SUV. During the ride to the Goffstown prison, Blanchette allowed Hewes to use his cell phone while she rode in the back of the car, and told Hewes that he had two cigarettes for her.

         Blanchette stopped the car on a dirt road not far from the Belknap County courthouse, and allowed Hewes to smoke a cigarette. While Hewes smoked, Blanchette began talking to her about sex and relationships, and, after Hewes finished her cigarette, and Blanchette began driving again, he again allowed Hewes to use his cell phone.

         Hewes then suggested that Blanchette drive to her friend's abandoned house in Goffstown, so that she could smoke the second cigarette. As they neared the Goffstown prison, Blanchette asked Hewes for directions to her friend's house. He drove to the house, took off Hewes's handcuffs and gave her the second cigarette. Hewes and Blanchette entered the house, and ...


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