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Henson v. Puffenbarger

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 22, 2016

JAMES A. HENSON, JR. Plaintiff
v.
SGT JANET PUFFENBARGER, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending is a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Sgt. Janet Puffenbarger, C.O. II Timothy Marchinke, C.O. II Dean Rounds, Jr., and C.O. II Cody Gilpin. ECF 21. Plaintiff has responded. ECF 23 & 24.[1] Upon review of the papers filed, the Court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, the dispositive motion will be construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment and will be GRANTED.

         Background

         The case was instituted upon receipt of a civil rights Complaint filed by Plaintiff James Henson, an inmate currently confined at the North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”). ECF 1. Plaintiff states that on an unspecified date in August of 2015, Puffenbarger, Marchinke and Rounds verbally threatened him, using racial epithets. He also claims that on September 15, 2015, Puffenbarger ordered Rounds and Gilpin to handcuff Plaintiff behind his back and then ordered Rounds to put Plaintiff in a chokehold. He states Gilpin then lifted him off the ground, pushing his handcuffed wrists upward and behind his back. Thereafter, Puffenbarger, Rounds, and Gilpin maced Plaintiff and beat him. Plaintiff states that he lost consciousness and was revived with “smelling salt.” Puffenbarger ordered Rounds and Gilpin to carry Plaintiff back to the tier because he was in out and of consciousness. He states that he defecated on himself and could not stand or walk as a result of the assault. ECF 1, p. 3.

         Plaintiff states that he filed an Administrative Remedy Request (ARP), NBCI-1667-15 requesting to have the Defendants prosecuted for threatening him and for the assault. ECF 1 & 16. Plaintiff states contradictorily that he did not receive a response from the Warden (ECF 1) and that his appeal of the Warden's denial of his ARP was “blatantly destroyed by Housing Unit #1 guards to further impede [his] legal endeavor.” ECF 16, p. 2. He claims he was prevented from exhausting his administrative remedies and also claims he did not receive a response from the Commissioner of Corrections. Id.

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF 15) and Second Amended Complaint. (ECF 16) contain litanies of Plaintiff's numerous complaints concerning the entirety of his incarceration.[2]The amendments also refer to events occurring after the specific events complained of in the instant complaint and will not be considered here. Additionally, the amendments refer to numerous previously filed cases to support his allegations of regular and continuous problems with prison staff. Those complaints, previously litigated, will not be considered here.[3]

         In his request for relief, Plaintiff seeks a temporary restraining order, liens on Defendants' paychecks, removal of Defendants from the institution, criminal prosecution of the Defendants, that Defendants be placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of a criminal trial against them, termination of Defendants' employment, physical therapy, a federal investigation, protective custody, an Interstate Corrections Compact transfer, compensatory and punitive damages. ECF 1, 15, & 16.

         Defendants deny Plaintiff's allegations, averring that they neither harassed him in August of 2015, nor used any force against him on September 15, 2016. Specifically, CO II Marchinke and CO II Dean Rounds, Jr., aver that they never threatened, harassed, or intimidated plaintiff. ECF 21-3, ¶ 4; ECF 21-4, ¶ 4. Rounds further avers that he did not choke, beat, use mace or in any way assault Plaintiff on September 15, 2015, nor did he see anyone else do so. ECF 21-4, ¶¶ 5 & 6. Puffenbarger denies ordering any staff to go to Plaintiff's cell and threaten him. ECF 21-5, ¶ 4. She further avers that she did not threaten Plaintiff nor did anyone else in her presence threaten Plaintiff in August 2015. Id. She also denies assaulting Plaintiff on September 15, 2015, as alleged and denies ever ordering or directing any staff to assault Plaintiff. Id., ¶¶ 5 & 6. Gilpin also denies assaulting Plaintiff or being directed by Puffenbarger to assault Plaintiff. ECF 21-6, ¶ 4.

         Randy Durst, Correctional Case Specialist II, Inmate Grievance Office Coordinator, avers that he reviewed electronic and base file records and there are no entries or any documented incidents regarding Plaintiff occurring in August 2015 or on September 15, 2015. ECF 21-7, ¶ 6; see also ECF 21-8, NBCI Daily Events Log for September 15, 2015. Allegations of assaults involving inmates and staff are investigated by the Internal Investigative Division (“IID”). IID reviewed call logs, case history, Plaintiff's prior case history, and Barrack Index Cards, and found no record of the alleged incident. ECF 21-10.

         Plaintiff's medical records likewise fail to support his claim. On September 14, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a sick call request indicating he was on a hunger strike. A notation was made that custody staff reported Plaintiff had refused all three meals on that date. ECF 21-9, p. 4. Heather Ritchie, R.N. went to see Plaintiff in the medical area of H.U. #1 on September 15, 2015. Id., p. 3. Plaintiff was alert and laying on the examination table but was not talking. His vital signs were stable. No open areas or injuries were observed. Ritchie noted that Plaintiff was not cooperating with staff and was subsequently escorted back to his cell. A chart update entered that same date indicated that Plaintiff was accepting meal trays. Id., p. 2.

         Plaintiff filed ARP NBCI #1667-15, alleging that on August 7, 2015, Marchinke and Round came to his cell and Marchinke stated: “One of these days, I'm going to break your fucking neck nigger” and Officer Rounds kicked the cell door five times and said, “Come cuff up motherfucker.” ECF 21-12. The ARP was investigated and dismissed on August 18, 2015, as without merit. As part of the ARP investigation, Marchinke and Rounds submitted reports denying they used inappropriate language and threatened Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff filed another ARP in August of 2015, complaining that the water was turned off in his cell on August 21, 2015. ECF 21-11, p. 8. He filed no ARPs in September or October of 2015. Id.

         Standard of Review

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). The dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted does not require defendant to establish ''beyond doubt'' that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561 (2007). Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint. Id. at 563. The court need not, however, accept unsupported legal allegations, see Revene v. Charles County Comm'rs,882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal conclusions couched as ...


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