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Rich v. Torain

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 26, 2018

DAVELLE RICH, #422641, #3079073 Plaintiff
v.
OFFICER DIRON TORAIN, [1] WARDEN FOXWELL, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAULA XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this Complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff Davelle Rich alleges that Correctional Officer Diron Torrain and Warden Foxwell (“Defendants”) violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution while incarcerated at the Southern Maryland Pre-Release Unit (“SMPRU”).[2] Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, or Alternatively, a Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 16. Defendants' Motion is unopposed.[3] This case is ready for disposition and the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, IS GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Rich contends that on February 4, 2016, he spoke to Warden Foxwell, who was touring the housing unit, about the conditions at SMPRU. ECF No. 1 at 4. Immediately afterwards, Rich was ordered to be transferred to another facility. When Rich questioned why he was being transferred “without first some type of hearing, ” Torain “attacked” him. ECF No. 1 at 5. Rich alleges he suffered injuries to his chest, right shoulder, forehead, eyes, right side of the neck, and other unspecified parts of his body. ECF No. 1 at 5. Rich avers that Torain used excessive force against him, and that Foxwell is also culpable because “…it is obvious that he sent Defendant Torain” to assault Rich. ECF No. 1 at 5. Rich also asserts that Defendants' actions deprived Rich of due process because the force used against him imposed an “atypical and significant hardship” upon him. Id. at 5. He asks this Court to award compensatory and punitive damages and unspecified injunctive relief. Id. at 3.[4]

         Defendants, in response, have submitted two Internal Investigation Division (“IID”) Reports concerning the February 4, 2016 incident, both of which concluded that Rich assaulted Torain by punching him in the face. (ECF No. 16-4 at 7; ECF No. 16-5 at 9). Defendants also submit a Serious Incident Report (SIR) prepared after the incident (ECF No. 16-7); sworn declarations from Foxwell, Torain, and eye witness, Officer Amanda Valentin (ECF Nos. 16-11, 16-12, 16-13, 16-14, 16-15, 16-16); Rich's medical and prison records (ECF Nos. 16-8, 16-9, 16-10, 16-17, 16-18); and photographs taken after the incident (ECF No. 16-7 at 22-36).

         Collectively, Defendants' submissions present the following facts. On February 4, 2016, at approximately 12:50 pm, Warden Foxwell was touring the SMPRU when Rich began yelling at him. Rich was “behaving in a manner not consistent with that of an inmate classified to prerelease security” and Foxwell instructed Captain Mallard Hast to transfer Rich to another facility. Foxwell Declaration, ECF No. 16-16 ¶3; Torain Declaration, ECF No. 16-11 ¶ 2; ECF No. 16-4 at 22, 24. Hast directed Torain to place Rich in a holding cell while officers packed Rich's belongings for his transfer. ECF No. 16-4 at 12, 22.

         As Torain approached, Rich jumped up from his bunk and attempted to run away. T orain ordered him to stop, but Rich did not comply. When Torain reached out to grab Rich by the arm, Rich punched Torain's right jaw. Officer Valentin witnessed Rich strike Torain on the right side of his face with a closed fist. ECF No. 16-4 at 26; ECF No. 16-13; ECF No. 16-5 at 8. Torain then “bear hugged” Rich to prevent further attack. ECF No. 16-4; ECF No. 16-11 ¶ 2. Other officers arrived to assist. Hast witnessed Torain and Rich “wrestling across the top of a bottom bunk bed.” ECF No. 16-4 at 22. Officer Boateng, Captain Hast, and Valentin helped Torain gain control of Rich, handcuff him and place him in the holding cell. ECF No. 16-4 at 12, Torain Declaration, ECF No. 16-11 ¶2. Rich spat at Torain, Boateng, and Martz through the slot in the holding cell. ECF No. 16-4 at 27, 28, 32, 34, 45, 72, 73, 76.

         From this altercation, Torain sustained a gash to his right shin. ECF No. 16-4 at 1. Rich suffered redness to his face, forehead, and the back of the neck. ECF No. 14-6 at 1. Contemporaneous photographs of their injuries depict a red gash across Rich's chest and a gash on Torain's leg. ECF No. 16-4 at 40, 43. Renee Walker, R.N. treated Torain for his leg abrasion and Boateng because Rich has untreated Hepatitis C and had exposed Boateng to his saliva when he spat in his cell. ECF No. 16-4.

         At 2:45 p.m. on February 4, 2016, corrections personnel transported Rich to Brockbridge Correctional Facility (BCF). There, he was seen by medical personnel and placed on administrative segregation pending an adjustment hearing. ECF No. 16-16 ¶4; ECF No. 16-4 at 73, 90. Contemporaneous medical records reflect that Rich's vital signs were normal, he was alert and oriented, his lungs were clear, and there were no signs of acute distress. Rich sustained scratches on his forehead, neck, and chest which were treated. ECF No. 16-4 at 31; ECF No. 16-8 at 2-3.

         On Feburary 24, 2016, Rich was criminally charged in the Charles County District Court with second degree assault on Torain. Id. at 78-9; ECF No. 16-6 at 106. Rich pleaded guilty to this charge on November 9, 2016 and was sentenced him to one year and one day of incarceration. ECF No. 16-17, ECF No. 16-18. Also on February 24, 2016, Rich was served a Notice of Inmate Rule Violation (NOIRV). ECF No. 16-4 at 12-13; ECF No. 16-9. On March 8, 2016, Rich pleaded guilty to violating rules 100 (engaging in a disruptive act), 101 (assault or battery on staff), 400 (disobeying an order), 405 (disrespect or use of vulgar language). ECF No. 16-9 at 3. Hearing Officer David Igbeare also found Rich guilty after the adjustment hearing of violating inmate rules 312 (interfering with staff performance of duties) and 402 (refusing an order for inmate facility movement). ECF No. 16-9 at 7, 10. Igbeare imposed two 90-day sentences of disciplinary segregation to be served consecutively and revoked 90 days of Rich's diminution or “good time” credits. Warden Foxwell later reduced the disciplinary segregation to two 30-day consecutive sentences. ECF 16-16 ¶ 5; ECF No. 16-9 at 8.

         Five days later, on February 29, 2016, Rich's aunt, Tamey Rich, reported to the DPSCS PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) Hotline that Rich had been assaulted by several correctional officers on February 4, 2016. ECF No. 16-5 at 1. As a result, an investigation (IID No. #16-35-00464) was opened and assigned to Det. Sgt. Kevin Baylin. ECF No. 16-5 at 1, 7. Baylin ultimately determined that Rich had assaulted Torrain and closed the PREA investigation. ECF No. 16-5 at 9.

         II. Standard of Review

         Defendants' motion will be treated as one for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Defendants have submitted materials outside the original pleadings and Rich was given the opportunity to object or otherwise respond to such evidence. See Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). Accordingly, the Court may, in its discretion, review the motion under the summary judgment standard.

         Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, that “no genuine dispute as to any material fact” exists when construing all facts and all justifiable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see also Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 585-86 (2009); Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). 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, 313 (4th Cir. 2013). A genuine issue of disputed material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). At this stage, the Court must determine whether sufficient evidence exists on to a material fact which requires resolution by the finder of fact at trial. Id. at 249. A mere “scintilla of evidence” suggesting a material dispute is not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson 477 U.S. at 251-52. Nor does the Court consider bare ...


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