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Young v. Secretary, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 26, 2015

ANTOINE YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Pending is a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 27), filed by Defendants Secretary, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Gary D. Maynard, J. Michael Stouffer, J. Phillip Morgan, joined by Hearing Officer John Sandstrom and Correctional Officer II Steven A. Wilson (ECF No. 33). Plaintiff has responded.[1] ECF Nos. 31, 32 & 35. Upon review of the papers and exhibits filed, the court finds an oral hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' dispositive motion will be granted.

Background

Antoine Young is an inmate held at the Western Correctional Institution ("WCI"). Plaintiff alleges that on April 11, 2011, he received a notice of an inmate rule violation charging him with assault on another inmate and possession of a weapon. ECF No. 1, p. 4. Plaintiff states that his clothes were confiscated during the investigation, and Officer Clark advised that everyone involved in the incident had what appeared to be blood on their clothes. Clark never stated he actually saw what happened, but merely saw a group of inmates surrounding another inmate. Clark never saw Plaintiff actually assault another inmate or possess a weapon. Plaintiff maintains that the only evidence was the confiscated clothing. Id. On April 18, 2011, Plaintiff appeared before Hearing Officer Sandstrom. Clark testified that he did not say that he saw Plaintiff assault another inmate or possess a weapon. Plaintiff asked to produce the confiscated clothes but his request was denied. He was found guilty of the rule infractions. Id.

Plaintiff claims that on May 31, 2011, Defendant Wilson came to his cell door and stated that his property and clothing were unallowable and would be confiscated. Id., pp. 4-5. Plaintiff asked why, because the items were allowable since they were not contraband. Wilson replied that Plaintiff "should not have got a ticket and... shouldn't have got [him]self more than 180 days." Id., p. 5.

Plaintiff alleges that Gary D. Maynard, J. Michael Stouffer, J. Philip Morgan, and D. Harrison Pratt were all aware of Plaintiff's complaints regarding his adjustment hearing and the confiscation of his property, but took no corrective action. ECF Nos. 5, 7, 10.

As relief Plaintiff seeks reinstatement of his lost good conduct credits, damages of $25 per day for each day spent on lock up, and $5, 000 for the confiscation of his property. ECF No. 1, p. 4.

The record evidence demonstrates that on April 11, 2011, as inmates were returning from breakfast, inmate Mathew Blackburn was surrounded by four other inmates, including Plaintiff, and assaulted. ECF No. 27, Ex. 1; Ex. 1-2. Clark observed a group of inmates surrounding Blackburn, who then fell to the ground. Id., Ex. 1-2. Officers responded to the area, separated the inmates, and handcuffed the inmates who had been surrounding Blackburn, including Plaintiff. Id. Blackburn's injuries suggested some type of weapon was used in the assault. Id; Ex. 1-3. Officers White, Bosley, and Clark frisked the inmates and searched the area but no weapon was found. Id. Plaintiff's sweatpants and shirts were confiscated as evidence during the investigation of the assault. Id., Ex 1-5. During the investigation it was believed that all involved in the assault had blood on their clothes which would be used as additional evidence of their involvement in the incident during later adjustment hearings. No blood was found on Plaintiff's clothes. Id., Ex. 1-2.

On April 13, 2011, Plaintiff was served with a Notice of Inmate Rule Violation and Disciplinary Hearing Notice. Id., Ex. 1-2. The Notice advised Plaintiff of the claims against him, his right to representation at the hearing, his right to present evidence, and his right to present witnesses in his defense. Id. Plaintiff was charged with violating rule 102 (assault or battery on another inmate) and rule 105 (possession of a weapon or an article modified into a weapons). Id. Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing was held before Hearing Officer John Sandstom on April 18, 2011. Id., Ex. 1-6. Plaintiff pled not guilty and waived his right to representation and the use of witnesses. Id. He sought to admit his clothing as evidence, but the clothing had been lost. He testified that no blood was on his clothing. Id., Ex. 1-6, p. 2.

During the hearing, the photographs of Blackburn's injuries were presented along with Clark's testimony regarding the assault. Id., p. 3. The Hearing Officer determined that Plaintiff was part of the group of inmates who participated in the assault on Blackburn. Id., p. 3. He was found guilty of both rule violations and sentenced to one year of disciplinary segregation and the loss of 120 good conduct credits for the rule 102 violation. Id., Ex. 1-6, p. 4. He was also sentenced to a one year concurrent term of disciplinary segregation for violation of rule 105. Id. Plaintiff was also sanctioned with the loss of visitation privileges for one year beginning April 18, 2011, which was not particularly designated to either rule violation. The Reduction in Violence Committee, reviewed Plaintiff's case and imposed an additional sanction of 60 days cell restriction. Id., Ex. 1. Plaintiff appealed the ruling to the Warden, who affirmed the Hearing Officer's decision and sanctions. Id.

Plaintiff filed an Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO") Appeal of the disciplinary hearing on June 3, 2011. Id., Ex. 3. A video hearing on Plaintiff's appeal was conducted by Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") D. Harrison Pratt on August 24, 2011. Id. Plaintiff presented two issues: whether the hearing officer's finding of guilty was based on substantial evidence; and whether the sanctions imposed were excessive. Id., Ex. 3, Ex. A.

Judge Pratt found there was "significant evidence" of Plaintiff's involvement in the attack Id., p. 5. Plaintiff was among the inmates Clark witnessed surrounding the victim "prior to him falling to the ground injured and bloody." Id. Plaintiff's presence allowed for a reasonable inference that Plaintiff was complicit in the attack. Plaintiff's testimony that there was no blood on his clothes was insufficient to overcome the evidence supporting the finding that he participated in the attack. Id. Pratt found, however, that the testimony and evidence was insufficient to prove Plaintiff possessed a weapon. Pratt noted that no weapon was found, and concluded that the injuries sustained by Blackburn could have been caused by fists, which did not meet the definition of a weapon. He concluded that the rule 105 violation must be vacated and Plaintiff's sanctions adjusted accordingly. Id.

As Plaintiff's disciplinary segregation sanction for violation rule 105 was to run concurrent to the sentence imposed for the rule 102 violation, dismissal of the weapon violation did not change the number of days Plaintiff was sanctioned to disciplinary segregation. Id. Under Maryland regulations, the rule 102 violation only allows for loss of visitation for up to 180 days; as such, Plaintiff's sanctioned loss of visitation was amended from one year to 180 days. Id. The sanctions imposed by the RIV regarding cell restriction were affirmed by Pratt. ...


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