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Allen v. Sturgis

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 9, 2018



          James K. Bredar, Chief Judge

         Pending before the court is an unopposed motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment filed by defendants.[2] ECF No. 26. Upon review of the pleadings 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. Complaint Allegations

         James Edward Allen, a former inmate, filed this civil rights complaint alleging that during the 8-4 shift on January 21, 2016, while housed at the Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI), Correctional Officer Mister demanded a search of Allen's disciplinary segregation cell. Allen claims this occurred because Allen was found not guilty in a prior administrative hearing presumably triggered by Mister's writing a rule infraction. Allen states that, per protocol, he was handcuffed at the hands and feet and removed from his cell. He contends that he exchanged words with Correctional Officer Sturgis and Sturgis slammed Allen's head into the concrete several times. Allen alleges that Sturgis later slammed his head again, possibly causing his shoulder to break or his rotator cuff to tear. He further asserts that Correctional Officers Sturgis and Collins took turns kneeing him in that back and then, with the help of Lieutenants Bromley and Daugherty, as well as Correctional Officer Mister, beat him, cut off his clothes, put a bag over his head and placed him in a cell, naked, for several days. Allen alleges that his face was bleeding and swollen with a gash over his nose and he had a bleeding toe, broken or sprained shoulder, and cuts and bruises all over his body from head to feet. He claims that he was placed in a cell with a broken window during the first snow storm in January of 2016 and was not given food, toiletries, or needed medical attention.[3] ECF No. 1, pp. 5-6. Allen claims he was assigned to the cell for one week, and was only give a snack and toilet paper “after many hours, more than a day . . . .” He appears to claim that he sent a note to his family, who complained to Warden Green and Sergeant Holmes, but no changes were made or investigation conducted. Allen seeks punitive damages to be determined (TBD), but sets out the amount of $50, 000.00 in damages. Id., p. 8.

         II. Defendants' Response

         Mister states under oath that on January 21, 2016, while escorting an ECI inmate back to his cell, he noticed a “fishing line” being pulled from cell 4-B-14 to cell 4-B-20. Mister removed the note or “kite” from the line and Allen, who was housed in cell 4-B-14 asked Mister “why did you take my kite; I don't have problems with you.” ECF No. 26-4, Mister Decl.[4] Mister affirms that he opened the note, which read:

“Haw Cuzz Dis what I wanted to holla achu about I know ya come off real soon I got blades 4 sell, I usually sell ‘em $15 unsharpen $20 sharpen but I'll sell ya one already made up for 25 flagz cuzz dis deal is for you no one else keep between us.”

ECF No. 26-4, Mister Decl., ¶ 4.

         Mister affirms that he wrote a ticket against Allen for Rule #406 and #105 violations, which entail the possession of or passing contraband. Mister maintains that at no time has he or any other officer in his presence retaliated against Allen. Id., ¶ 5 & ECF No. 26-5. Allen was found guilty of both rule violations and sentenced to a cumulative 90-day segregation period and received an indefinite suspension of his visitation privileges. ECF No. 26-5.

         On January 22, 2016, Allen received another infraction from Sturgis for violating Rules #104, #105, and #400. The infraction was based upon the following incident. On January 21, 2016, Allen was being escorted back to his cell following a cell search by Sturgis and Collins. According to the infraction notice, Allen became verbally abusive and attempted to pull away from the correctional officers. ECF No. 26-6, ECF No. 26-11, Sturgis Decl., ECF No. 26-12, Collins Decl., ECF No. 26-13, Daugherty Decl. Allen was guided to the ground and, after leg irons were applied, he was assisted to his feet and placed in cell 4-B-1, where he again resisted staff and once more had to be guided to the floor. He was placed on Staff Alert Level I status. ECF No. 26-6 & ECF No. 26-20. Allen's clothing had to be cut off due to his non-compliance with orders and he stated: “I get out in six months and I'm gonna come kill all you Mother Fucker[s]!” The infraction noted that two fingernail clippers were found in Allen's right sock during the search. Staff left the cell without further incident and Allen was informed he would be receiving an infraction. Allen was found guilty of Rule #104 and #400 violations and received 90 days' segregation.[5] ECF No. 26-6.

         The use-of-force investigation report reveals that after the incident, Allen complained of left shoulder pain, and medical staff was contacted and responded to the unit. Nurse Fenoch reported that Allen was awake, alert, and oriented, able to rotate his left shoulder and fingers, and denied numbness or tingling. ECF No. 26-7; see also ECF No. 26-9, Whitelock Decl. and ECF No. 26-17, Enoch Decl. Allen was prescribed a five-day regimen of Motrin and was seen again on January 30, 2016, for complaints of facial and shoulder discomfort. Enoch noted “healed areas noted to bridge of nose” and that Allen was able to close and open his mouth. Allen was seen the following months for complaints of left shoulder, lower back, and jaw pain. X-rays were ordered, but Allen was transferred out of ECI before the radiology tests were done. ECF No. 26-18.

         Photographs taken at the time of the incident indicate that a mesh bag (a spit mask) was placed on Allen's head. ECF No. 26-7. Digital Video Discs (DVD) provided show Allen being escorted by correctional officers, attempting to pull away from the escort, being taken to the ground, becoming verbally abusive, having a spit mask placed on his head as a precaution, and complaining of shoulder pain and the need to stretch his shoulder. The DVD further reveals a prison nurse arriving to evaluate Allen's left shoulder discomfort, a correctional officer explaining the procedures and protocols involving Staff Alert Level I status to Allen, Allen's clothing being cut off and his being secured in the cell. ECF No. 26-8. In another DVD, captioned as the “cell search escort, ” Allen is shown being escorted on the B Unit. ECF No. 26-22.

         The Use of Force incidents were investigated by the Internal Investigative Division (IID) of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. ECF No. 26-21 & ECF No. 26-22. No. evidence was found to support the claims of officer misconduct.

         III. Standard for ...

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