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Henson v. Graham

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 28, 2018

JAMES A. HENSON, JR. Plaintiff
RICHARD J. GRAHAM, JR., et al., Defendants


          James K. Bredar Chief Judge

         Pending is a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Warden Richard Graham Jr., Chief of Security Bradley Butler, Lieutenant James Smith, Sergeant Jerry Broadwater, CO II Steven Wilson, Assistant Warden Ronald S. Weber, Correctional Case Management Specialist Shawn Gainer, Major Denny Mellot, and Melanie Gordon, MHP Counselor.[1] ECF 19. Plaintiff has responded. ECF 25.[2] 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, defendants' dispositive motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         The case was instituted upon receipt of a civil rights complaint filed by plaintiff James Henson, an inmate currently confined at the Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”). ECF 1. Plaintiff named as defendants Warden Richard J. Graham, Jr., Chief of Security Bradley O. Butler, Lieutenant J. Smith, Sergeant J. Broadwater, Steve A. Wilson, Ronald Shane Weber, Mrs. Gordon, Nurse Monica, [3] Mrs. Gainer, and Major D. Mellot. ECF 1 at 1. Plaintiff states that WCI prison authorities conspired to destroy his outgoing correspondence, six-month financial printout, and affidavits from witnesses that he intended to file in the Circuit Court for Allegany County, Maryland. Id. at 3. He attaches to his complaint a copy of an administrative remedy form (“ARP”) dated March 27, 2017 (WCI 714-17), alleging that prison authorities have destroyed his outgoing mail. ECF 1-1.

         Plaintiff also alleges in his complaint that unspecified “guards” continue to put him in life threatening situations, with known violent criminals in retaliation for his having used the prison grievance system. Id. In ARP WCI-2872-16, attached to plaintiff's complaint, [4] he alleges that in December of 2016, Wilson and Broadwater forced him into a cell with inmate Geral Griffin who sexually assaulted him. ECF 1-4. As relief, plaintiff seeks access to the courts and medical treatment. ECF 1 at 3.

         Since the filing of this complaint, plaintiff has filed numerous letters with the court. ECF 8, 10, 12-18. After the receipt of defendants' dispositive motion, he filed numerous “supplemental exhibits.” ECF 21-24, 26-28. Together, these documents contain the litany of plaintiff's complaints concerning the entirety of his incarceration.[5] The filings are difficult to decipher as plaintiff regularly files documents previously submitted in other cases and writes across them and around the margins. He references cases, administrative grievances, and filings dating back to the early 2000s. The filings refer to plaintiff's numerous previously filed cases to support his allegations of regular and continuous problems with prison staff. Those complaints, to the extent they have previously been litigated, will not be considered here.[6] Lastly, to the extent the documents refer to events occurring after the specific events complained of in plaintiff's initial complaint, they are not properly before the court and also will not be considered.

         B. Defendants' Response

         1. Administrative Remedies

         Plaintiff filed an administrative remedy on March 27, 2017 (WCI-0714-17), raising the same allegations as he does in the instant complaint concerning the destruction of his outgoing mail addressed to the Circuit Court for Allegany County. ECF 1 at 3; ECF 19-3, p. 15. The ARP was dismissed on March 28, 2017, for having not been filed in the appropriate time frame. ECF 19-3, p. 15. The instant case was filed on March 31, 2017. Plaintiff filed a headquarters appeal to the Commissioner of Corrections on April 1, 2017. Id., at 16. The appeal was dismissed on April 7, 2017. Id.

         Plaintiff filed ARP WCI 2872-16 on December 22, 2016, concerning the sexual assault upon him by his cellmate. ECF 19-3, p. 33. The ARP was dismissed on December 27, 2016, as containing matters outside of the process. Id. His headquarters appeal was dismissed on January 12, 2017. Id., p. 35.

         2. Mail Claims

         Robin Wotring, Mail Room Officer Clerk II at WCI, avers that the mailroom processes plaintiff's mail in accordance with Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services procedures. ECF 19-3, p. 13, ¶¶ 2, 3 (Wotring Decl.); ECF 19-3, pp. 61-75 (Executive Directive OPS.250.0001 § 05D). Wotring states that, to her knowledge, plaintiff's mail was never withheld, delayed, or not processed so long as the mail was in compliance with approved DPSCS policies and directives. ECF 19-3, p. 13, ¶ 4. Wotring explains that mail arriving at the NBCI/WCI mailroom is logged and forwarded to the proper housing unit for distribution to the inmates. ECF 19-3, p.14, ¶ 5. A “legal log record” is maintained by mailroom staff documenting the name and DOC number of the inmate receiving the legal mail, the name of the sender, the date the document was received by the institution, and the signature of the inmate indicating receipt of the document. Id. In the case where legal mail is returned to the institution due to having an incorrect address or incorrect postage, the mail is logged and handled as legal mail. The mail is returned to the inmate, unopened, for him to sign the log and to open in the presence of custody staff. ECF 19-3, p. 14, ¶ 7. Outgoing mail is logged only if sent by indigent inmates. Id., ¶ 5.

         Wotring avers that, to the best of her knowledge, neither she nor anyone employed in the mailroom has hindered the delivery of or the sending of plaintiff's mail. Id., ¶ 6. Plaintiff's mail is handled the same as all the other inmates' mail. Id.

         Plaintiff sent and received over 166 pieces of mail from February 1, 2017, through August 2, 2017. ECF 19-3 at 76-131 (Legal mail log for plaintiff from February 1, 2017, to August 2, 2017). Moreover, the Circuit Court for Allegany County received mail from plaintiff during the time at issue. ECF 19-2.

         Butler and Smith each aver that they did not destroy plaintiff's mail or instruct anyone to destroy plaintiff's mail. ECF 19-3, p. 10, ¶ 6; ECF 19-3, ¶ 12, ¶ 6. Gordon and Gainer also specifically deny handling inmate mail or destroying or otherwise tampering with plaintiff's mail. ECF 19-3, p. 7. ¶ 3; ECF 19-3, p. 6, ¶ 13.

         3. Failure to Protect

         Shawn Gainer, Correctional Case Management Specialist at WCI, states that the Case Management Department maintains records of validated inmate enemies throughout DPSCS. ECF 19-3, p. 4, ¶¶ 1, 3 (Gainer Decl). Enemy alerts are maintained by case management staff in accordance with the Case Management Manual-DOC 100.0002. Id., ¶ 4; see also ECF 19-3, pp. 58-60 (DOC Case Management Manual-DOC 100.0002). When an inmate alleges another inmate is an enemy, an investigation is conducted by staff to determine whether the allegation is true. ECF 19-3, p. 5, ¶ 5. If the situation is validated, the inmates are separated until the enemy situation can be remedied either through transfer of one or both of the inmates or by some other suitable alternative. Id., ¶ 6. In the case where inmates have a serious physical altercation, they are considered enemies until interviewed by custody or case management staff for potential addition to their enemy lists. Id., ¶ 7. In accordance with the case management manual, an enemy may not be added to a requesting inmate's enemy list unless verified. Id., ¶ 8; ECF 19-3, p. 60. As of the filing of defendants' dispositive motion, plaintiff had 7 verified enemies on his enemy list. ECF 19-3, p. 5, ¶ 9; ECF 19-3, p. 56 (Enemy Alert and Retraction Screen). Plaintiff is currently housed at WCI and, at the time of the filing of defendants' dispositive motion, none of plaintiff's verified enemies were housed at WCI. ECF 19-3, p. 5, ¶ 11.

         Butler and Smith each aver that neither of them nor, to their knowledge, any other correctional officer has threatened to assign or actually assign plaintiff to a cell with a known enemy. ECF 19-3, p. 10, ¶ 5 (Butler Decl.); ECF 19-3, p. 12, ¶ 5 (Smith Decl.). Gainer also denies threatening to assign or actually assigning plaintiff to a cell with a known enemy. ECF 19-3, p. 5, ¶ 12. Weber and Graham aver that each has never willfully ignored a documented threat to plaintiff's safety. ECF 19-3, p. 2, ¶ 8 (Weber Decl.); ECF 19-3, p. 224, ¶ 8 (Graham Decl.).

         Butler, Chief of Security at WCI, and Smith, Housing Unit #4 manager at WCI, aver that cells located at Housing Unit #4 are all double celled, except for a few designated handicapped single cells. ECF 19-3, p. 9, ¶¶ 1, 3 ECF 19-3, p. 11, ¶¶ 1, 3. When an inmate assaults another inmate, they are identified as verified enemies and placed on each inmate's “Enemy Alerts and Retractions” screen on the “Offender Case Management System (OCMS).” ECF 19-3, p. 9, ¶ 4; ECF 19-3, p. 11, ¶ 4. Inmates can sign an enemy retraction. Id. Where both inmates sign the retraction indicating they do not consider the other inmate to be an enemy, then the designation of enemy may be removed by case management. Id. In the event one inmate refuses to sign the retraction, then the inmates remain assigned as enemies. Id.

         On December 18, 2016, the Internal Investigation Division (“IID”) of DPSCS was contacted as a result of plaintiff's reporting to a nurse, while he was being treated for a possible seizure, that he was sexually assaulted by his cellmate. ECF 19-3, p. 132. Lt. McKenzie attempted to interview plaintiff, but he refused to be interviewed. Id.

         Plaintiff was transported to the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center for a sexual assault examination. Id. Examination revealed that plaintiff had a one-centimeter abrasion to his left cheek, two four-centimeter abrasions to his left inner wrist, a two-centimeter abrasion to his left shoulder, pain in both knees, and two circular shaped, purple colored bruises to his right inner knee. Id., pp. 138-139, 193. No. evidence of anal/rectal trauma was noted, and no signs of sperm or seminal fluid were found. Id., p. 139, 191. The investigator retrieved plaintiff's white thermal shirt which had blood on the sleeve. Id., p. 139.

         Plaintiff's cellmate declined to waive his rights to an attorney in order to be interviewed. Id., pp. 139, 199. The investigator noted, however, that the cellmate had dried blood and a puncture to the top of his head and scratches on his nose, cheek, and right inner arm. Id., p. 139; see also ECF 19-3, p. 170.

         Prior to being interviewed by IID, plaintiff told the nurse at WCI that his cellmate beat him in the head, and he alleged there was anal penetration and fellatio during the attack.[7] Id., p. 140, 153. He also reported that his assailant ejaculated in his mouth. Id.

         The investigator interviewed plaintiff, who advised that on December 16, 2016, after count, his cellmate produced a weapon and told plaintiff that if he did not perform oral sex he would kill him. ECF 19-3, p. 140. Plaintiff did as instructed, reporting that his assailant wore a blue glove finger for protection. Plaintiff reported that the same thing happened the following day and he was unsure if his assailant had ejaculated. Id. Plaintiff reported that on December 18, 2016, his assailant “told him he wanted some ‘ass' and when he told him no his cellmate began to assault him.” Id. Plaintiff advised the investigator that he told Officer Imer he wanted to see a lieutenant but his request was declined. Plaintiff stated that he had boxers on and his cellmate got on his back. Plaintiff denied there being penetration but also stated that he passed out so he was not sure if anything happened. Id. Plaintiff reported that during the struggle he grabbed his assailant's hand, which caused the assailant to stab himself in the head. Id. The investigator closed the case with a finding of “unsubstantiated” and referred the case to the Allegany County State's Attorney's Office for their review and recommendations. Id., p. 141. The State's Attorney's Office declined to charge plaintiff's cellmate in relation to the alleged sexual assault. ECF 19-4.

         4. Retaliation

         Defendants deny retaliating against plaintiff. Butler and Smith each aver that neither they nor, to their knowledge, did any other officer retaliate against plaintiff for using the prison grievance or court system. ECF 19-3, p. 10, ¶ 5; ECF 19-3, p. 12, ¶ 5. Gordon also denies falsifying mental health reports or records or retaliating against plaintiff. ECF 19-3, p. 7 ¶ 4. Weber states that he never filed a false report against plaintiff and did not conspire with officers or case managers to maintain or determine plaintiff's segregation status. ECF 19-3, p. 3, ¶¶ 6, 7. Graham avers that he has never filed a false report against plaintiff or conspired with officers or case management to maintain plaintiff's segregation status or cell assignment. ECF 19-3, p. 224, ¶ 7. Gainer also denies retaliating against plaintiff for using the prison grievance or court systems. ECF 19-3, p. 5, ¶ 12.

         Mellott and Broadwater were not employed at WCI during the time complained of in plaintiff's complaint. Denny Mellott retired from state service on January 1, 2016. ECF 19-3, p. 1, ¶ 2 (Winters Decl.). Jerry Broadwater left state service on June 9, 2011. Id.[8]

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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 that 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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