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Donati v. Drummond

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 28, 2017

MICHAEL E. DONATI, Prisoner Identification No. 407-613, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPTAIN DRUMMOND, LT. JOSEPH, LT. MITCHELL, M. MUIR, Management Manager, K. ENDLICH, Manager Specialist, and SCOTT S. OAKLEY, Executive Director, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On February 14, 2016, self-represented Plaintiff Michael E. Donati, then an inmate at Eastern Correctional Institution ("ECI") in Westover, Maryland, was attacked by his cellmate. On March 24, 2016, Donati, having been transferred to another part of the prison, was again attacked, this time by his new cellmate. He now brings this civil action against Defendants Captain Shytina Drummond; Lieutenant Wendy Joseph; Lieutenant Matthew Mitchell; Correctional Case Management Manager Mike Muir; Correctional Officer Karl Endlich; and Scott S. Oakley, the Executive Director of the Inmate Grievance Office, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. S 1983, alleging that Defendants failed adequately to protect him from a known threat to his health and safety, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, and a Motion to Appoint Counsel filed by Donati. Having reviewed the parties' submissions, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and Donatiss Motion to Appoint Counsel is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On or before February 10, 2016, Defendant Captain ("Capt") Shytina Drummond received an anonymous letter stating that someone was planning to attack an inmate named "Montana" because he had "disrespected" a member of the Black Guerrilla Family ("BGF"), a prison gang, by "jacking off while his cellmate was asleep. Mot. Dismiss Ex. 2 - 3 (Drummond Decl.), ECF No. 17-4. Donatiss nickname is Montana. At that time, Donati was housed in Unit 2, located on the West Compound of ECI. Donati's cellmate was Lyndon Pettiford, who, according to Capt. Drummond, was a suspected member of the BGF, and, according to Donati, was a confirmed member of the gang. On February 10, 2016, Capt. Drummond summoned Donati to her office to inform him about the letter and to conduct a cell-change interview. Although Capt. Drummond told Donati about the contents of the letter, she would not let him see it, because it contained information unrelated to Donati, and she was concerned that its contents would reveal the identity of the anonymous informant.

         Capt. Drummond asked Donati about the allegations in the letter, which Donati denied. Donati then explained that he had told Pettiford to move out because Pettiford had been selling drugs out of their shared cell. According to Capt. Drummond, Donati stated that he was not in fear of his life. However, according to Donati, who had not seen the letter, he told Capt. Drummond that if she had information about a threat against him, she should move him to another cell, but she declined to do so. At the end of the interview, Capt. Drummond instructed Donati to complete a "Statement of Inmate" form and to sign a "Cell Change Interview Record." On the Statement of Inmate form, the words "I was told that I may be harmed if I stay in" are crossed out and followed by the statement, "I feel safe to stay in housing unit #2. Capt. Drummond informed me about a threat made against me." Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1 at 5 (Statement of Inmate), ECF No. 17-3. According to Donati, Capt. Drummond forced him to cross out his first statement on the form, then told him to write what she dictated. Donati has asserted that Capt. Drummond warned him that if he did not, there "would be consequence"" and he would "learn not to mess with the BGF." Resp. Mot. Dismiss ("Resp.") Ex. 1 ¶¶ 3-4, 7 (Donati Aff), ECF No. 20-1. Capt. Drummond and Correctional Officer Ronald Mills, who was present during the cell-change interview, have both denied those allegations.

         On the Cell Change Interview Record, Capt. Drummond checked "no" for Donatiss responses to the questions, "Have you been threatened?"" "Are you in fear for your life?, " and "Have you been assaulted?" In the "Action Taken" section of the form, which contains three options, Capt. Drummond selected the option, "Inmate ... was returned to his cell. His reason did not merit a cell change, or there was no documented threat to him." Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1 at 6 (Cell Change Interview Record). Both Capt. Drummond and Donati signed the document. Capt. Drummond then forwarded a copy of the anonymous letter, the Statement of Inmate, the Cell Change Interview Record, and her notes to several other prison officials, including Defendant Lieutenant ("Lt.") Wendy Joseph, who was the manager of Unit 2.

         After returning to his cell, Donati wrote a letter to Lt. Joseph asking to be transferred to another tier within Unit 2. Lt. Joseph had been on vacation starting on February 6, 2016 and continuing to February 21, 2016, so she never responded to Donatiss letter. According to Donati, he had also previously written to Lt. Joseph to complain about Pettiford's drug dealing and gang involvement and to ask to be moved. Lt. Joseph did not act on those letters because, in her estimation, Donati had not provided her with enough information to justify a cell reassignment.

         On the morning of February 14, 2016, Pettiford attacked Donati from behind by striking him in the head with a fan motor, causing profuse bleeding and multiple head wounds, some of which required stitches. According to Donati, Pettiford was later convicted of second-degree assault as a result of the attack. Once Donati was discharged from the prison medical facility, he was temporally placed in administrative segregation pending a meeting of the Administrative Segregation team. That team, which included Defendant Correctional Officer ("CO.") Karl Endlich, met on February 17, 2016 and determined that Donati should be moved to the ECI East Compound, and that Donati and Pettiford should be listed as "Keep Aparts." In accordance with prison policy, that recommendation was forwarded to Defendant Correctional Case Management Manager ("Case Manager") Mike Muir, who approved it and forwarded it to the Warden for final determination. Case Manager Muir made no decision on Donatiss specific cell placement in the East Compound.

         On February 23, 206, Donati was reassigned to an East Compound cell in Unit 7, where, he contends, a large number of BGF members were housed. Defendants do not deny that Unit 7 had BGF members, but they assert that Donati agreed that a placement in the East Compound was suitable and that Donati was placed on the C-tier of Unit 7, which housed no validated BGF members. In response, Donati notes that residents of different tiers, including of the neighboring D-tier where many BGF members were housed, routinely came into contact at meals, church, and the gym. Donati was placed in a cell with Jason Hall, whom Donati contends was an "unflagged" BGF member. Compl. Ex. 2 at 18 (2d ARP), ECF No. 1-3. According to Donati, Defendant Lt. Matthew Mitchell, the manager of Unit 7, made his specific cell assignment. Lt. Mitchell denies that he decided on Donatiss specific cell placement or had any knowledge of the February 10, 2016 threat before learning of Donatiss lawsuit. According to Donati, however, after he was placed in a cell with Hall, he wrote Lt. Mitchell at least a dozen letters asking to be reassigned because Hall was a BGF member and had threatened him, but no action was taken. Lt. Mitchell denies receiving any such complaints.

         On March 24, 2016, Hall confronted Donati, asking whether Donati had given a statement about the February 14, 2016 attack to prison officials. When Donati refused to answer, Hall stabbed him with a shank, leaving him with wounds to his head, back, arms, and hand. Donati required stiches to close wounds over his eye, behind his ear, and on his hand, and he needed 14 staples to close a wound on his head and another 14 staples for a wound on his arm. After the attack, Donati was housed first in the prison medical unit, then in administrative segregation, before he was transferred to another prison in July 2016. Donati asserts that Hall was later found guilty in state court of a weapons-possession offense.

         In September 2016, a federal grand jury indicted 80 individuals in relation to a smuggling ring inside ECI, including 18 correctional officers and 35 inmates. As relevant here, the indictment alleged that correctional officers would order retaliation against inmates who spoke up about the smuggling ring or about the distribution of contraband in the prison. Donati asserts that for years prior to the attacks on him, he had written to newspapers and the FBI about drug distribution and corruption at ECI.

         After filing internal grievances about both attacks through the Administrative Remedy Procedure ("ARP") and exhausting all appeals of the denials of his grievances up to and including to the Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO"), Donati filed suit in this Court asserting that with respect to both the February and March 2016 attacks, Defendants failed to protect him from a known threat to his health and safety, in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Donati seeks declaratory and monetary relief. All Defendants have been served with the Complaint with the exception of Defendant Scott Oakley, the Executive Director of the IGO.

         DISCUSSION

         The Defendants who have received service ("Defendants") have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. In that Motion, they present three bases for dismissal or summary judgment: (1) there is no supervisory liability for S 1983 claims; (2) they are entitled to qualified immunity; and (3) the evidence demonstrates that they did not fail to ...


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