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Sullivan v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 18, 2014

FRANK B. BISHOP, JR., et al., Defendants.


PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Sullivan, a Maryland inmate, filed this complaint pursuant to the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1932, after he was assaulted by a fellow inmate. Sullivan alleges violations of the Eighth Amendment in Defendants' failure to protect him from stabbing and violations of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for his administrative conviction and sentence for the assault. Defendants filed a timely motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, ECF No. 13. Although Sullivan was advised of his right to file a response to Defendants' motion and of the consequences for failing to do so, ECF No. 14, he has not opposed the motion. A hearing in this matter is unnecessary because the issues are presented adequately in the filings. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2014).[1] Construing Defendants' motion as a motion for summary judgment, and finding no genuine dispute of material fact, I will enter judgment for the Defendants.[2]


A. Plaintiff's Allegations

Sullivan is a prisoner incarcerated at Western Correctional Institution ("WCI") in Cumberland, Maryland, where he arrived on April 16, 2012. Compl. In ¶¶ 3, 7. Upon his arrival, he alleges that Warden Bishop and Security Chief Thomas ordered him placed on segregation. Id. ¶ 8. On September 29, 2012, Sullivan states he was released from "punitive" segregation and placed in general population. Id. ¶ 10. He was let out of his cell for a shower and, shortly after entering the shower area, Sullivan states he was stabbed repeatedly by an unknown assailant. ¶¶ 11-12. When Sullivan screamed for help, the assigned officer, Officer Baumgardner, allegedly was not at his post to respond. Id. ¶ 11. Sullivan was stabbed thirteen times, causing pneumothorax.[3] Id. ¶ 12. Sullivan states that he was sent to the emergency room on October 28, 2012, and remained at Western Maryland Regional Medical Center for four days. Id. ¶ 13. Sullivan claims that staff assigned to Housing Unit #5 are never at their assigned posts. Id. ¶ 15.

Sullivan was charged with violating Institutional Rules 102 and 105. Id. ¶ 17. Rule 102 proscribes assault or battery on another inmate, and Rule 105 proscribes possession of a weapon. Defs.' Mem. 2. On November 30, 2012, Sullivan was given a disciplinary hearing before Hearing Officer Sandstrom, with Officers Slate and Loudon appearing as institutional representatives, where he was convicted of both violations. Compl. ¶ 17. He was sentenced to 365 days in segregation and loss of 250 days of good conduct credit. Id. ¶ 17. Sullivan alleges that Sandstrom, Slate, and Loudon knew at the time of his hearing that inmate Michael Kirby made statements under oath at another inmate's disciplinary hearing that Kirby was the assailant who stabbed Sullivan and inmate Aaron Hatt in the shower. Id. ¶¶ 18-19. In Sullivan's opinion, the omission of these statements constitutes deliberate withholding of exculpatory evidence. See id. ¶ 19. In addition to these omissions, Sullivan alleges that Baumgardner and Shockey filed inconsistent statements under oath. Id. ¶ 14.

B. Defendants' Allegations

Defendants[4] do not dispute that Sullivan was stabbed by another inmate in the shower of his housing unit and that he suffered pneumothorax as a result and required hospitalization. Defs.' Mem. 6-7. Officer Baumgardner was the first to respond to the scene of Sullivan's assault; he was observing inmate movement from the control center located in the housing unit where Sullivan was assigned. Baumgardner Decl. 4, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 2, ECF No. 13-4; see Serious Incident Report ("SIR") 4, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 6, ECF No. 13-8. He declares that he saw inmate Aaron Hatt run from the shower into cell 5-A-28 with what appeared to be blood on his face and hands. Baumgardner Decl. ¶ 4. When Baumgardner responded to cell 5-A-28, he saw Hatt attempting to wash blood from his person and found three homemade weapons in Hatt's possession. Id, After handcuffing Hatt, Baumgardner saw Sullivan walking from the shower with blood on his head, chest, and back. Id. Baumgardner states that he saw no other inmate enter or leave the shower area and that Sullivan and Hatt were escorted to the medical unit without further incident. Id.

Defendant Officer Shockey supports Baumgardner's version of events and declares that he observed Baumgardner handcuffing Hatt and observed Sullivan exiting the shower area bleeding from the head, chest, and back area. Shockey Decl. ¶ 4, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 4, ECF No. 13-6. Shockey secured the three weapons that were found in Hatt's possession, handcuffed Sullivan, and escorted Sullivan to the medical room for attention to his wounds. Id. Baumgardner and Shockey state that prior to this incident, Sullivan and Hatt were not documented as enemies, nor was there any indication that they presented a danger to one another. Id. ¶ 5 Baumgardner Decl. ¶ 5. Following the incident, however, Sullivan and Hatt were placed on each other's enemies lists and were housed in different prisons. Id.

Defendant Lieutenant Phillip Natale, the Housing Unit #15 Manager, explains that post orders for general population housing require housing unit officers to conduct security rounds of inmate living areas at least every half hour and to document the rounds in the post logbook. Natale Decl. ¶ 6, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 5, ECF No. 13-7. He further states that Baumgardner fulfilled his post duties as required and responded appropriately and in a timely manner to the altercation between Sullivan and Hatt. Id. He explains that the cell into which Hatt ran was co-occupied by two inmates, Michael Kirby and Calvin Lackner, who were placed on administrative segregation pending investigation. SIR 2, 4, 7. During an investigation into the incident by the Internal Investigation. Unit (HU"), Hatt refused to give a statement Id. at 10. As to Sullivan, IIU Detective/Sergeant Wills stated that Sullivan was "not cooperative and refused to make any statement regarding his altercation with Inmate Hatt" and that Sullivan requested in writing "that no further investigative action be taken." IIU File 7, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 14, ECF No. 13-16. Sullivan's written request, dated October 28, 2012, is included as an exhibit. See id. at 12. However, Defendants also include a November 7, 2012 statement written by Sullivan, which mirrors the allegations in his complaint. SIR 11. It is unclear what effect this later statement had on the IIU investigation, which was closed at Sullivan's request ten days earlier. However, this disputed fact is not material to the rulings explained below.

Defendants Slate and Logsdon, who were the officers present at Hatt and Sullivan's adjustment hearings, confirm that Kirby, during Hatt's hearing, admitted he was the assailant, but did not testify at Sullivan's hearing. Slate Decl. ¶ 3, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 9, ECF No. 13-11; Logsdon Decl. 3; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 10, ECF No. 13-12. Defendants refute Sullivan's allegation that they withheld exculpatory evidence by arguing that "it was ultimately the adjustment hearing officer's decision to weigh the credibility of his testimony." Defs.' Mem. 8 (citing Slate Decl. ¶ 3; Logsdon Decl. ¶ 3). Kirby testified that he assaulted Hatt and that the reason Hatt ran into his cell was so that Kirby could "patch him up a little bit." Hatt's Admin. Rec. 11-12, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 11, ECF No. 13-13. Kirby further testified that the weapons found in the cell where Hatt was washing off the blood from his wounds actually belonged to Kirby, not Hatt. Id. In rejecting Kirby's testimony, Sandstrom noted that the reporting officer saw only two inmates in the shower area, Sullivan and Hatt, and that neither was identified as Kirby. Id. Sandstrom also noted that Hatt's behavior of running into a cell to wash off the blood from an attack is not the behavior of a victim of an assault; rather, it was more likely that Hatt was a combatant in a fight and was attempting to cover-up his role in the fight. Id. For these reasons, Sandstrom rejected Kirby's testimony as "wholly not persuasive and not credible." Id.

At Sullivan's adjustment hearing, Sullivan testified that he was stabbed as he bent over to remove his shoes and that he suspected there was a third person present in the shower. Sullivan's Admin. Rec. 11, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 13, ECF No. 13-15. Because Sullivan provided no evidence to bolster his claim that a third person acted as an assailant and provided only a very brief defense, Sandstrom did not find his testimony credible. Id. at 11-12. Based on Hatt's injuries and the evidence that there were only two inmates in the shower, Sandstrom concluded that Sullivan was a combatant in a fight, not merely a victim as he claimed. See id. There is no indication that Sandstrom, who heard Kirby testify at Haft's hearing just 75 minutes earlier, considered this testimony during Sullivan's hearing. Compare id. at 10 ("Date of Appearance: 11/30/2012, 11:40:00 AM"), with Hatt's Admin. Rec. 10 ("Date of Appearance: 11/30/2012 10:25:00 AM").

Both Sullivan and Hatt received 365 days of disciplinary segregation, loss of 250 days of good conduct credit, and mandatory indefinite suspension of visits with an eligibility date for reinstatement of May 30, 2014. See Sullivan's Admin. Rec. 1; Hatt's Admin. Rec. 1. Both inmates' adjustment histories were rated as poor. Sullivan's Admin. Rec. 12; Hates Admin. Rec. 12. Additionally, it was noted by I1U in its report that Sullivan is a "validated member" of the Security Threat Group ("STG") known as Dead Man Inc. ("DM1") and that Hatt is a "validated member of an unspecified security threat group." IIU File 7, 21-22.

After Sullivan's conviction before Sandstrom, Sullivan appealed to Warden Bishop, who affirmed Sandstrom's decision, noting to Sullivan that "from my perspective this incident is a result of your on-going STG activities. I concur with [Sandstrom's] decision." Sullivan Admin. Rec. 6. Sullivan appealed this conviction to the Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO"). Oakley Decl, ¶ 3, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 17, ECF No. 13-19. It was referred to the Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH") for a hearing before Administrative Law Judge ("ALI") Georgia Brady. Id. The appeal was denied and dismissed as being "without merit" in an opinion dated September 16, 2013. Id There is no evidence that Sullivan filed an appeal for judicial review of the AEI's decision with the appropriate state circuit court. Id. Additionally, there is no record of Sullivan seeking any administrative remedies concerning the assault. See Beeman Decl. ¶ 3, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 15, ECF No. ...

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