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Canter v. Shoppert

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 22, 2017

MS. CHARLES CANTER Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. SCHOPI'ERT, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Currently pending before the Court is Sgt. Richard Schoppert. CO II Brian Barrett. Warden Frank Bishop. Assistant Warden Jeff Nines, Chief William Bohrer, Charlotte Zies. CO II .Fared Zais, and Capt. Gregory Werner's (collectively. "Defendants'"), [1] Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 33, in response to Plaintiff Charles Canter's civil rights Complaint. A hearing on this motion is unnecessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D, Md. 2016), For the reasons that follow. Defendants' motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be denied in part and granted in part.

         I. Background[2]

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Charles Canter is an inmate committed to the custody of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) and at all times relevant to the Complaint was confined to North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI). ECF No. 19 at 2.[3] Canter, who identifies as a transgender female.[4] claims that, on June 18. 2016. she was confined to Housing Unit One. C-tier. ECF No. 1 at 4. When Canter's breakfast tray was delivered to her cell, she realized it was not the meal she was supposed to receive pursuant to her medical diet of 2, 400 calories per day. Canter asked Officers Crowe and Hill to call Dietary Officer Pratt regarding the mistake. Id. at 5.

         Hill complied with Canter's request and informed Canter that Pratt was coming to Canter's cell to address the issue with the breakfast tray. Upon being so informed. Canter placed her breakfast tray "long ways" in the feed up slot of the cell door to prevent the slot from being closed, id. Crowe came to Canter's cell and ordered her to take the tray out of the slot so that he could close the feed-up slot. Canter refused and explained she wanted to speak with the sergeant on duty. Crowe told Canter that the sergeant "ain't gonna come down" and Canter again refused to allow the slot to be closed, hi.

         Officer Barrett then came to Canter's cell and ordered her to close the feed-up slot. id. at 6. Canter refused and Barrett allegedly responded, "fuck you no one's gonna come and see you." Barrett then walked away from the cell toward the "cage" that divides C-tier from B-tier and grabbed a security shield, which he attempted to pull through the doorway of the cage. id. Barrett was unable to get the security shield through the doorway so he walked in a different direction and obtained a smaller security shield, which he placed on the outside of Canter's cell door. Id.

         Barrett latched the shield on the right side of Canter's door. but could not latch the left side of the shield because the sliding door for the feed-up slot was opened too far. According to Canter. Barrett became angry and frustrated and began kicking the shield. Barrett again told Canter to move her hand and the tray, but Canter refused. Barrett then moved the shield and kicked the sliding door three to five times, "sharp[ly], " with extreme force. Id. at 8. As a result of Barrett's actions, the hard rubber food tray bent and Canter's forearm, hand, and wrist were caught between the feed-up slot door and the door frame. Canter could not remove her hand from the slot and states that the tray was "warped around my arm." cutting off the blood circulation to her hand. Id.

         Canter cursed at Barrett for trapping her arm in the door and demanded to see a Lieutenant so that she could Hie a claim for use of excessive force against Barrett. Id. at 7.[5] Canter claims that Barrett responded that Canter should not have had her hand in the slot, smiled. and walked away. Canter claims that her arm was left caught in the slot for about twenty minutes before Hill returned to deliver a brown-bag lunch to another inmate. Derrick Dirton. Id.

         When Hill reached Dirton's cell, Dirton informed Hill that Barrett smashed Canter's hand in the feed-up slot and stated that Canter needed medical attention. Id. Hill came to Canter's door, saw her hand smashed in the slot, and attempted to open the slider so that Canter could remove her hand. Hill could not open the sliding feed-up door because Barrett had damaged it when he kicked the door. Hill told Canter he would go get the Sergeant and walked away. Id.

         Thirty minutes after Hill left. Defendants Schoppert and Barrett arrived at Canter's door. Id. at 7. 9. They observed Canter's arm smashed with the tray and saw that Canter's hand was turning purple. Canter claims that Schoppert defended Barrett and said that Barrett would not violate policies and procedures as Canter had claimed. Id. at 9. Barrett also denied kicking the slot closed onto Canter's arm. Schoppert asked Canter what injuries she sustained and Canter showed him her left arm which was bruised and had an impression of the food tray on it. Canter then requested that she be given medical attention, allowed to write a statement regarding the incident, and allowed to speak with a supervisor, Id.

         Canter claims that Schoppert denied all of her requests and, in response, the entire tier held their feed-up slots open so that Canter would be provided medical attention. In addition. Canter covered her cell window in protest. Id. at 9.

         Canter was examined by a registered nurse who determined that Canto's left arm. wrist, hand, forearm, and fingers were bruised both internally and externally. The nurse provided Canter with an Ace bandage and instructed Canter to use it for seven days and to put in a sick call slip to be seen again if the injuries did not improve. Id. at 10. Canter was subsequently informed by Warner that the matter had been referred to the Internal Investigation Division (IID) for the purpose of determining whether criminal charges would be filed. Id. at 11-12.

         On June 22. 2016. Canter alleges that Officer Zies came to her cell door to discuss an administrative remedy procedure complaint (ARP) and asked "what we can do about this." referring to the ARP. Canter told Zies there was nothing that could be done because she wanted "both Defendants charged with assault and neglect." Zies responded he would process the ARP and the complaint was dismissed the same day because the matter had been referred to I Id. id. at 12.

         On June 25, 2016. Canter claims that she was interviewed by I ID Detective Sergeant Chris Burton. Canter states she provided two affidavits to Burton from inmate witnesses who observed the incident and told Burton he should speak with them, but that Burton never did so. id. at 12-13. Canter also provided Burton with a copy of the ARP. sick call slips, and request slips and asked Burton to review the surveillance video from the tier cameras. Burton assured Canter that the video footage would be provided to him on CD Rom for his review. Id. Canter then asked Burton to conduct polygraph tests on Barrett. Schoppert. and Canter herself. Id. at 13. Burton told Canter that polygraph tests were unnecessary "because the evidence supported [Canter's] sequence of events." Burton then asked Canter to state for the record whether she wanted to pursue criminal charges. Id. Canter claims that Burton saw her injuries and assured her that the case would be presented to the State's Attorney for Allegany County who would decide if criminal charges would be pursued. Canter informed Burton that she was in fear for her life and safety. Burton concluded the interview and Canter was taken back to her cell, Id.

         Defendants provide a copy of IID's investigative report, which summarizes Detective Chris Burton's investigation, and states that the video surveillance was viewed by the detective investigating the claim. ECF No. 33. The report claims that the video confirms that Barrett kicked the door closed, but it could neither be confirmed nor denied that Canter's arm was in the slot at the time the door was kicked. ECF No. 33-3 at 9. Burton interviewed several individuals throughout his investigation. Barrett denied that Canter's arm was in the slot at the time he closed it: rather, he claimed that Canter was at the back of her cell near the window attempting to incite other inmates to protest. Id., Burton also interviewed Officers Crowe and Hill. Id. at 8. Crowe stated that he never saw Canter's arm stuck in the slot. Id. Burton noted that the injury Canter received to her arm was a bruise, but that medical staff could not determine the age of the bruise. Id. at 9. 11-13 (medical report). 16 (photograph of Canter's bruised wrist). Burton determined that the injury sustained was inconsistent with Canter's account of Barrett kicking the door closed on her arm. Id. at 9. Based on this conclusion. Burton recommended the case be closed without filing criminal charges against Barrett. Id.

         After her injury. Canter alleges that retaliatory actions have been taken against her for the 11 ling of the instant complaint and names Warden Frank Bishop, Assistant Warden Jeff Nines. Security Chief William Borher. Case Manager C. Zies, Officer .tared Zias. and Intelligence Officer Werner as defendants. BCF No. 19. Canter claims thai Defendants have used intimidation, including the use of a jailhouse informant, to convince her to drop the instant lawsuit, which was filed on July 12. 2016. Specifically. Canter's complaint was dismissed upon receipt of a voluntary dismissal received in this case which Canter asserts she never filed. Sue ECF No. 6. Canter claims that another inmate, at the behest of Defendants Zies and Barrett, sent the voluntary dismissal to the Court. ECF No. 19 at 5. Upon receipt of that information, ECF No. 12, this Court reopened the case.[6] ECF No. 14. After an investigation into the matter, officials at NBC I determined that the pleading was written and tiled by inmate Walter Hall. ECF No. 18.

         Defendants argue that Canter's Complaint fails to state claims, and that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. ECF No. 33-1. They further allege that Canter was not placed on administrative segregation as form of retaliation, but because she had enemies in the general population of NBCI from whom she needed to be separated. ECF No. 33-1 at 1 8. They assert that administrative segregation is not a form of punishment as inmates so assigned still enjoy many privileges similar to those in general population. Id.

         B. Procedural Background

         On July 12. 2016. Canter tiled the instant Complaint with the Court, naming Burton. Schoppert and Barrett as defendants. ECF No. 1. On November 9. 2016. Canter filed an "Amendment Complaint." ECF No. 19. in which she additionally named Bishop. Nines. Bohrer. Zies. Werner and Zais as defendants. Canter claims that Barrett used excessive force when he kicked the slot door closed on her left arm in violation of Canter's rights under the Eighth Amendment. She further claims that Schoppert violated her Eighth Amendment rights when he covered up the incident, refused to notify a supervisor, and denied Canter medical attention for her injury, Id. At 15-16.

         Canter further claims that this Court is permitting Defendants to obstruct justice because they have not been forced to turn over video surveillance of the prison tier where the initial assault took place. ECF 19 at 6. Canter claims that Defendants have refused to turn over the video surveillance to the IID for purposes of criminal charges being filed against Barrett and have refused to comply with the Order of this Court to turn over the surveillance footage. Canter claims that Barrett has threatened to beat her to death or spray her with mace if she does not drop the matter regarding criminal charges and the instant case. Id. at 9. When Canter told Case Manager C. Zies about the threats. Zies told her that there was nothing that could be done to protect Canter unless Barrett assaults her and it is captured on video. Id. at 8-9.

         As relief. Canter seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as monetary damages. Canter additionally asks this Court to watch the surveillance video from the tier camera and to refer the matter to the ...


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