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Singletary v. Iames

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 28, 2018

TAVON P. SINGLETARY, Plaintiff
v.
BRIAN G. IAMES, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge.

         This case arises out of an altercation at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”), between Plaintiff Tavon Singletary, an inmate, and two of the institution's correctional officers. Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that he was verbally harassed by Correctional Officer Saville and pepper sprayed by Sergeant Iames because he was holding open the food service pass slot in his cell door. Id. at 4. After being pepper sprayed, Plaintiff was taken to see medical personnel, where he alleges that he received inadequate medical treatment. Id. Plaintiff initiated this litigation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged Eighth Amendment violations. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, a Motion for Summary Judgment. Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 22. Plaintiff has responded, ECF Nos. 27, 33, 34, and Defendants did not file a reply. Upon review of the papers and exhibits filed, I have determined that a hearing is unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). Having construed Defendants' motion as a Motion for Summary Judgement and finding that no genuine dispute of material fact exist regarding Plaintiff's claims, I will grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and the Clerk shall close the case.[1]

         Background

         On January 22, 2015, Plaintiff held open the food service slot to his cell door with his arm. Compl. 3; Verified R. 4, 6, 11, 24, 30, ECF No. 22-2. Sergeant Iames and Correctional Officer Saville witnessed Plaintiff holding the food service slot open and his cellmate, Ronnie Wimbush, tampering with the cell's fire suppression sprinkler system. Id. at 4, 6, 11. Plaintiff alleges that Correctional Officer Saville stood by his cell door slot “licking his lips towards Plaintiff and then stated ‘you black ass nigga if the cell door was open ill f****ken kill you b***h ass black nigga.'” Pl.'s Mem. 3, ECF No. 27-1; See also Verified R. at 23-24. Sergeant Iames issued a warning to Wimbush to stop tampering with the fire suppression system and for Plaintiff to close the cell door slot. 24, 30. According to Wimbush, Sergeant Iames “told my cellmate he has 3 seconds to close the slot.” Verified R. at 30. Plaintiff did not comply and Sergeant Iames sprayed Plaintiff and Wimbush with mace. See Id. at 11, 30; Pl.'s Mem. 3. Although Plaintiff alleges that Sergeant Iames sprayed him without warning and without following prison procedures, Compl. 4, he acknowledged in a filing associated with a Request for Administrative Remedy (“ARP”) that he filed with respect to the incident, that

to avoid any further problems I said sir but Mr. B. Iames cut me off and said why all you niggas like to hold slots he had a vindictive look of revenge then said how about this ill [sic] give you three second to close the slot then pulled [out] his pepper spray then sprayed me and my cellbuddy. . . .

         Verified R. 24. Plaintiff attempted to block the pepper spray with his hands. Id. at 4. Both Plaintiff and Wimbush were handcuffed, and taken to the prison's medical facilities. There, Plaintiff was seen by Nurse Krista Bilak.[2] Plaintiff alleges that despite the fact that he was wheezing, Nurse Bilak failed to check his respiration or blood pressure, and did not provide him with any assistance. Compl. 4. However, Bilak noted in a medical record that Plaintiff suffered from asthma, his blood pressure was 148/88, pulse 106, respiration 18, and pulse oxygen level was 99. Verified R. 6, 8. Further, she recorded that his respiration was normal and his lungs clear. Id. Plaintiff also was allowed to take a decontamination shower. Id. at 3, 11.

         Plaintiff was administratively charged with violating inmate rules 116 (“possess, misuse, tamper with, damage, or destroy security equipment or property, detection equipment, or fire suppression equipment or alarm”), and 400 (“disobey an order”). Id. at 11. At the hearing on the rule violations, Plaintiff testified that he was not given a direct order, rather his cellmate was given the direct order. Id. at 15. Plaintiff questioned his cellmate, Wimbush, regarding what he was doing “at the time the slot was being held. . . .” (emphasis added, demonstrating that the slot in fact was being held open) and Wimbush denied attempting to disable the fire sprinkler. Id. at 16. In response to Plaintiff asking Wimbush whether Sergeant Iames gave an order to close the food service slot, he responded “Iames said if you don't close [the] slot in 3 second I am going to mace . . . .” Id. The Hearing Officer at the infraction hearing also “reviewed the video camera footage as requested by Singletary.” Id. at 17.[3] The Hearing Officer found that

Singletary did have his arm out of the pass through slot on the cell, which prompted Sgt. Iames to report to the cell. The video camera showed the incident clearly, as well as the documentation in the notice. Singletary's presentation even acknowledged that the slot was being breeched, as he asked Wimbush what Wimbush was doing while the slot was being held.

Id. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Officer found him Plaintiff guilty of violating Rule 116 but not guilty of violating rule 400. Id. at 16-17.

         Plaintiff then filed an ARP regarding the incident. He claimed that he was harassed by Correctional Officer Saville and that he was sprayed with pepper spray in violation of his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment. Verified R. 24-25. On February 9, 2015, the ARP was dismissed for lack of evidence and a finding that the use of force complied with Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services' policies and use of force manual. Id. at 27. Plaintiff's appeal to the Commissioner of Correction was dismissed as unsubstantiated. Id. at 32. Plaintiff's appeal to the Inmate Grievance Office was dismissed upon a finding that Plaintiff had been found guilty of inmate rule violations arising from the incident and that he was prevented under principles of res administrata and collateral estoppel from challenging through the grievance process the disciplinary finding of guilt. Id. at 38.

         Plaintiff then filed this lawsuit seeking redress pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 22. Plaintiff responded to the Motion with various filings, see ECF Nos. 27, 33, 34, and Defendants did not file a reply. Because I find there are no genuine disputes of material fact, I will grant Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment with regards to all counts as Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate a violation.[4]

         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 factual allegations, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, see United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).

         B. Motion for ...


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