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Reid v. Secretary, Department of Public Safety

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 19, 2017

JAMES ALPHONZO RED, #332-888, #178-7103 Plaintiff



         Self-represented Plaintiff James Alphonzo Reid is incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. Pending is his Complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. S1983, which presents Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims. (Complaint, ECF No. 1). Defendants, the Secretary of Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("Secretary of the DPSCS"), Correctional Officer II Gordon Ullery and Correctional Officer II John Yailder, by their counsel, move pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss the Complaint or, in the alternative, move pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 16). Reid has filed a Response in opposition. (ECF No. 26). Also pending is Reid's Motion to Subpoena Video Footage. (ECF No. 25).

         Having considered the pleadings and supporting documents, this Court finds a hearing is unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Subpoena Video Footage IS DENIED. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) IS GRANTED.


         Reid presents claims arising from his stabbing on June 21, 2016, and seeks damages in the amount of $350, 000. (ECF No. 1). Reid describes the stabbing incident as follows. He was eating his dinner in prison chow hall #1, when a security code was called. Officers Ullery and Yailder, who were supervising the chow hall, "ran out to assist the code." ECF NO.3. Ullery and Yailder left the chow hall and closed the doors for about five minutes. Ullery and Yailder then returned, opened the doors, and stood outside the chow hal1. Reid states that "[o]ut of know where" [sic], another inmate ran up behind Reid and stabbed him in his neck, back, armpits, and arm. Id. at 3. "It happened so fast, I jumped up looking to see was there any officer's [sic] that could assist me and there was none, I couldn't see who stabbed me, I could only see a[n] image of the guy that stabbed me in front of me holding a knife...." Id. To protect himself, Reid grabbed a meal tray from the table and swung it at his assailant. Reid asserts he stood trying to protect himself for about three minutes. Id. at 4. As Reid and his attacker stood on opposite sides of a dining table, "[t]he officer with the glasses ran behind me and told me to get down on the chow hall #1 floor [while] the man that stabbed [me] was standing there with a knife in his hand." Id. at 4. Reid remained standing because he was afraid the inmate with the knife would continue the attack. Id. at 4. Reid maintains he raised his hands in the air and slowly turned around while explaining to the officers that he was the stabbing victim. Id. When Reed turned around, the officer "with the glasses, " who he identifies as Ullery, sprayed his face with pepper spray. Mat 4, 7.

         Reid claims Ullery and Yailder should have been in the chow hall supervising the inmates when the attack occurred. ECF NO.5. Reid claims that by using pepper spray on him, Ullery placed him in greater danger because the inmate who stabbed him had not been subdued. Id. at 4. Further, Reid avers that had "the administration" placed him and every other member of the Bloods, a prison gang, on administrative segregation after another inmate, Gregory Tilghman and others Blood members were assaulted on June 4, 2016, Reid would not have been stabbed. Id. at 6; see also Plaintiffs Opposition ECF No. 26 at 12.

         Reid claims the officers wrote a "false report" charging him with violating Inmate Rule #102 (assault on inmate) and Rule # 400 (disobeying an order). Id. at 5. Pending a hearing on the rule violations, Reid was placed in administrative segregation. Id. at 6. Reid claims this placement on administrative segregation constituted cruel and unusual punishment.. Id. A hearing officer later found Reid not guilty of the charges after determining that he was attacked by inmate Arnold and was the victim of the assault. Id; see also Inmate Hearing Record, ECF No. 16-3 at 34-36, 3..


         Defendants' exhibits include declarations executed by Officers Ullery and Yailder, and other verified records including the Serious Incident Report, the Intelligence and Investigative Division ("IID") Report, Use of Force Reports, the Notice of Inmate Rule Violations signed by Reid, and a DVD recording of the incident. ECF 16-1, 16-2, and 16-3. Reid viewed a copy of the DVD on August 3, 2017. Declaration of Randy Durst, Correctional Case Manager, ECF No. 19. In his opposition, [2] Reid claims the DVD recording of the incident was altered. ECF No. 26 at 8. He avers the video shows the incident out of order. Specifically, Reid asserts the video fails to show the inmates walking in the chow line, the earlier called security code, Ullery and Yailder abandoning their posts in chow hall #1, or Ullery and Yailder returning to the chow hall after the code. Id. Reid also disputes Ulleryss assertion that he ordered him to stop fighting before he used pepper spray on Reid's face. Id. at 9-10.

         Defendants' exhibits provide a different account of the June 21, 2016 incident. Officers Ullery and Yailder were in the chow hall when Bobby Arnold and James Reid started fighting. Ullery and Yailder responded immediately. Yailder called to the Master Control Tower over the radio for staff assistance (a "10-10 code" for fighting between inmates). Ullery ordered the inmates to stop fighting, but neither complied. Declaration of Gordon Ullery, ECF 16-2 at 2. Ullery then sprayed Reid, the inmate in the altercation nearest to him. Reid complied, laid on the floor, and was handcuffed. Yailder also was exposed to the pepper spray and left the area. Ullery Decl., Id. at 2-3, Declaration of John Yailder, ECF No. 16-2 at 4-5.

         Inmate Bobby Arnold refused to stop fighting and started punching inmate Larmar Sampson. Ullery ordered them to stop, but neither inmate complied. Additional corrections officers arrived. IID Report, ECF No. 16-3 at 7. After Yailder deployed pepper spray to Sampson's face, Sampson complied. Another officer administered pepper spray to subdue Bobby Arnold, who was placed in hand restraints. Reid, Sampson, and Arnold were taken to the medical department.. Reid was transported later that day to the Maryland Regional Medical Center for treatment of his wounds, and released to the prison infirmary several hours later. ECF No. 16-3 at 45. Reid, Sampson and Arnold were placed in administration segregation pending an adjustment hearing. Id. at 5. Reid received a Notice of Inmate Rule Violation on June 21, 2016, charging him with violating Rules 102 and 400. Reid refused to sign for receipt of the Notice. Id. at 33. The adjustment hearing was held one month later on July 21, 206.. ECF No. 16-3.

         Ullery and Yailder attest to having no advance warning that a fight was going to occur between Reid and Arnold. Further, Ullery and Yailder deny ignoring a threat to Reid or any inmate present during the fight. Ullery states he did not deliberately place Reid in danger and was present from the beginning of the incident to the time it was brought under control by corrections staff. Yailder states that he did not deliberately placed Reid in danger. Yailder was present at the beginning of the altercation until he had to leave the area due to pepper spray exposure. Ullery and Yailder deny filing a false report concerning the incident. ECF No. 16-2 at 2-5.

         The dining hall was secured and searched. Correctional staff discovered a homemade weapon: a six inch piece of raw metal that was sharpened to a point at one end with the other end wrapped with gauze and tape. (ECF No. 16-3 at 6, 8). Reid's enemy list contained no known enemies prior to the attack. ECF No. 16-1 at 5. After the stabbing, Arnold was placed on Reid's enemy list. Id.

         The IID investigation included reviewing the staff reports and video footage of the incident. [3]The ensuing investigation report concluded that correctional staff had acted in accordance with policies and procedures. Id. at 33.



         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is "to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). To satisfy Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint need not include "detailed factual allegations." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). However, a plaintiff must plead more than bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint must set forth "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest" a cognizable cause of action, "even if... [the] actual proof of those facts is improbable and ... recovery is very remote and unlikely." Id. at 556 (internal quotations omitted).

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court” 'must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint' " and must" 'draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff " E.l. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th Cir. 2017). Further, a pro se plaintiffs pleadings are "to be liberally construed" and are "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Alley v. Yadkin County Sheriff Dept., No. 17-1249, ___ Fed.Appx.___, 2017 WL 4415771 (4th Cir. Oct. 5, 2017.. However, even a pro se litigant's complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege a "plausible claim for relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.


         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A material fact is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd,718 F.3d 308, 333 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A genuine issue over a material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. When considering a motion for summary judgment,, a judge's function is ...

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