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Wright v. Webb

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 1, 2018

WAYNE WEBB, et al. Defendants


          Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         In response to the above-captioned civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Defendants Webb, Bishop, Iames, LaRue, and Metz move to dismiss or for summary judgment. ECF No. 13. Plaintiff opposes the motion. ECF No. 25. The Court finds a hearing unnecessary to determine the matters pending. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.

         I. Background

         The facts as pleaded in the Complaint are accepted as true for purposes of this opinion. Plaintiff John Wright, an inmate committed to the custody of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) and confined in North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI), alleges that on July 1, 2014, he received a disciplinary ticket for possession of a weapon that was based on falsified information. ECF No. 1 at p. 2. Wright's cell was searched by Officers Marvin Metz and Shane LaRue and supervised by Sergeant Iames. Id. at p. 4. The search was prompted by the receipt of a “snitch note” which reported that Wright possessed a weapon and that Wright was “gonna get a staff member.” ECF No. 1-2 at p. 2.

         After removing Wright from his cell and handcuffing him, Metz and LaRue entered the cell to conduct the search. Shortly after, LaRue came to the cell door and asked Iames “what it's (sic) gonna be?” to which Iames responded, “let it roll . . . let's teach this bitch a lesson.” ECF No. 1, p.4. LaRue went back into the cell and returned with a closed laundry bag which contained a weapon inside. Id.

         Wright was then removed from the tier and escorted to the holding cell where Iames and Metz strip searched him. ECF No. 1 at p. 4. During the strip search, Wright turned over two medical prescribed knee braces which were inspected by Metz and found to have no damage, only normal wear and tear. However, Wright attaches to his Complaint a medical note which indicates that the knee braces were found disassembled and that the knee sleeve was being used “other than for its intended purpose.” ECF No. 1-4. At the conclusion of the strip search, Iames confiscated the knee braces and commented to Wright, “I told you not to fuck with me.” ECF No. 1 at p. 5.

         Wright was then placed in segregation pending an adjustment hearing on a weapons possession infraction. ECF No. 1 at p. 5. The Notice of Infraction at issue reads in pertinent part:

On July 1, 2014 at approximately 0800 hours Sergeant B.G. Iames was sorting the housing unit mail when he came across a letter stating that the inmate in Cell 2-A-54 has a weapon hidden inside his laundry detergent and was planning on assaulting staff. I, accompanied by Sergeant B.G. Iames and Officer Metz approached cell 2-A-54 single occupied by Inmate John Wright . . . to conduct a cell search. Sergeant Iames placed handcuffs on Inmate Wright . . . while the search was being conducted. During the search, I Ofc. S. LaRue discovered a homemade weapon inside a laundry detergent bag. The weapon was made from two shaving razors and a razor handle. Inmate Wright was immediately escorted off the tier and taken to HU2 C/D holding cell and stripped searched by myself, Ofc. Metz and Sergeant Iames.

ECF 1-5 at p. 2 (emphasis supplied). The informant's “letter” does not mention that the weapon was hidden in a laundry bag, only that “A-54 has a weapon says he's gonna get a staff member for fucking with him says he wants one of those bitches on daylight.” ECF 1-2 at p. 2.

         The disciplinary hearing on this infraction was postponed after Wright requested the original color photograph of the alleged weapon. Id. The hearing resumed on July 10, 2014, over which Officer Sipes presided. Id. Wright asserts that Sipes agreed that the weapon did not come out of the laundry bag, contrary to LaRue's report, and that the snitch note did not indicate the location where the weapon was hidden. In addition, Wright also asserts that Sipes' review of video footage from the search was material to Sipes finding Wright not guilty of the weapon charge. Id. Wright also avers that the video footage of the search established that the knee braces were not in his cell, but were rather on his person and were not damaged beyond normal wear and tear. ECF No. 1 at p.6. As a result, Wright was found not guilty as to the infraction related to his damaged knee braces. Id.

         On July 16, 2014, Wright filed a grievance, known as an ARP, alleging officer misconduct surrounding the weapons possession infraction. ECF No. 1-7. The Warden dismissed the ARP based on the findings of the Internal Investigations Unit (IIU). Id. at p. 2. Wright appealed the Warden's response to the Commissioner of Correction, Wayne Webb, alleging that his claim had never been investigated by the IIU and that the Warden was involved in covering up the incident. ECF No. 1, p. 7. Wright's appeal was found to be meritorious in part because IIU had not investigated his case. ECF No. 1-7 at p. 6. In addition, the Commissioner's response confirms that officers had filed a false report against him, but did not disclose what, if any, disciplinary measures were taken against staff. Id. The response further indicates that the Warden would be reminded to report all staff misconduct to the IIU and that “no further action or remedy will be taken through the ARP process.” Id.

         Wright filed an appeal with the Inmate Grievance Office (IGO) on November 16, 2014. ECF No. 1 at p. 7. A hearing was held on the grievance on February 9, 2015, and his grievance was subsequently dismissed. Id. Wright states he filed for judicial review and “hearing was granted with Memorandum due by June 24, 2016.” He does not provide the result of the judicial review. Id.

         Wright notes that NBCI conducted an internal investigation of his claim that a false report was filed against him and during that investigation the video footage was erased. Id. He states that erasure of the video is contrary to policy which requires that video footage be preserved for five years. Id. As relief, Wright seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at p. 8.

         Defendants do not dispute that LaRue improperly claimed in the written notice of infraction that an informant had disclosed where the weapon was located in Wright's cell because LaRue had not seen the informant's note before writing it. See ECF No. 13-3 at pp. 16 - 19 (IGO decision in IGO No. 20142087, findings of fact).[1] Defendants also do not dispute that the IIU failed to investigate the claim as initially asserted but rather argue that failure was rendered moot by the internal investigation conducted after Wright filed ...

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