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Fletcher v. Dykes

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 9, 2018

JAMONTE JAMAR FLETCHER, Inmate Identification No. 422-651, Plaintiff,
v.
C.O. II CHASE DYKES, C.O. II JOSEPH TILGHMAN, C.O. II DOMINICK TIMMONS and WARDEN RICKY FOXWELL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jamonte Jamar Fletcher, currently incarcerated at Eastern Correctional Institution ("ECI") in Westover, Maryland, has filed suit under 42 U.S.C § 1983 ("§ 1983") against ECI Warden Ricky Foxwell ("the Warden") and ECI correctional officers Chase Dykes, Joseph Tilghman, and Dominick Timmons (collectively, "the Officer Defendants"). Fletcher's claims arise from a March 11, 2017 cell search by the Officer Defendants, the conditions of his subsequent confinement in ECI Cell 4C1, and the denial by prison officials of his various requests for relief. Presently pending before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, and Fletcher's "Request for Leave to Reply to Defendants Reply to Plaintiffs Opposition to Defendants Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment," which the Court construes as a Motion for Leave to File a Surreply. Upon review of the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Fletcher's Motion for Leave to File a Surreply and grant in part and deny in part Defendants' Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         I. March 11, 2017 Cell Search and Transfer

         On March 11, 2017, Defendants Dykes and Tilghman arrived at Fletcher's cell and announced that they were going to conduct a random search for contraband. Fletcher and his cellmate were thoroughly patted down by the officers, and the cell search revealed no contraband. Dykes then grabbed Fletcher, stated that he would conduct a strip search, and forced Fletcher to strip down to his "shorts, boxers, and socks" and searched him a second time. Am. Compl. at 1, ECF No. 3-l.[1] According to Fletcher, Dykes found no contraband. Fletcher then stated "see I do not have anything on me." Id. Dykes replied that Fletcher was "making him nervous" and conducted a third search of Fletcher's body, including "grabbing [his] private parts and rubbing his hand between the crack of [his] butt." Id. After this third search, Fletcher told Dykes "see now you know I don't have anything." Id.

         The parties disagree on what happened next. According to Fletcher, Dykes ordered Fletcher to hand him "the shorts and drop the boxers then squat and cough." Id. Fletcher, positioned with his back facing Dykes, complied by handing Dykes his shorts over his shoulder, dropping his boxers to the ground, and coughing. Dykes then grabbed him by the neck and put him in a chokehold. Dykes, Tilghman, and Defendant Timmons, who had arrived at the cell after the search began, then "began slamming [Fletcher's] head against the lockers, bunk and floor." Id. at 2.

         In a Notice of Inmate Rule Violation, affirmed under penalty of perjury, Dykes provided a different account of the incident. Dykes claims that Fletcher became "non-compliant" "when he was asked for his pants." Not. Inmate Rule Violation at 9, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1, ECF No. 41-5. Timmons arrived and noticed "what appeared to be a home-made weapon hanging out of [Fletcher's] pants." Id. Fletcher allegedly reached for the weapon, which caused Dykes "to gain[] control of [Fletcher's] head" and give "verbal commands to comply" while "Timmons gained control of [Fletcher's] hands which caused the weapon to fall out of [Fletcher's] grasp." Id. The officers recovered a "home-made weapon made of metal approximately 6" in length and 2" in width sharpened to a point with a cloth wrapped handle," which was then taken to an evidence locker at the prison. Id.

         According to Fletcher, no weapon was found. Nevertheless, the three officers then hogtied him and took him out of the cell. At some point during this transit, Fletcher was dropped on his head by the officers from a height of 2 ½ feet. According to Fletcher, he asked, "[W]hat did I do? I didn't do anything" and offered to not write up a complaint if the officers would let him return to his cell. Am. Compl. at 2. The officers replied that "[they] would but everyone on the tier already saw them handcuff and force [Fletcher] out the cell and off the tier and they have to cover their own asses." Id.

         Fletcher states that he was then taken to an office in the prison and interrogated by the three officers, including asking him "where are the drugs and weapons?" Id. Fletcher claimed that he did not know what the officers were talking about and requested his glasses. Fletcher's legs were then shackled and he was walked outside in what he describes as 20 degree weather wearing only his boxers and socks. At some point during this walk, Fletcher told one of the Officer Defendants that his "private parts are hanging out," to which the officer laughed and stated "his zipper is broken and his privates are hanging out, too." Id.

         Fletcher was then taken to ECI's medical facility, where he told a nurse that he had been assaulted by Dykes, Tilghman, and Timmons. Nurse Tracey L. Hall noted that Fletcher was "found to have a large reddened abrasions to [his] right anterior shoulder and [a] single 3 cm scratch to his right lateral neck." 3/11/17 Med. Report at 2, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1A, ECF No. 41-6. Nurse Hall also noted that Fletcher "was not fully cooperative with questioning" and stated that he had "no pain." Id.

         While in the medical unit, Fletcher was questioned by Lieutenant Donald Adams. According to Fletcher, Lt. Adams refused to allow Fletcher to write a statement about the incident. An "Offender's / Detainee's Statement" form, signed by Lt. Adams, states that Fletcher "refused to write [a] statement." Statement at 2, Mot. Dismiss Ex. IB, ECF No. 41-7. Adams then took photos of Fletcher's injuries and directed the officers to put Fletcher in an orange jumpsuit. The jumpsuit, however, covered only Fletcher's legs because the officers refused to uncuff Fletcher to allow him to put his arms through the top half of the jumpsuit.

         II. Staff Alert Confinement

         Fletcher was then taken to Cell 4C1 on ECI Housing Unit 4. Fletcher claims that while in that cell, which he describes as "the butt-naked room" lacking a light, mirror, or mattress, Am. Compl. at 3-4, he was denied clothes, forced to sleep on a concrete floor with only a thin blanket, and subjected to cold conditions from a window that would not close that caused him to put paper bags on his feet in an effort to stay warm. He further asserts that he was denied showers, given his food in wax paper bags without any utensils, and denied sanitary items such as a toothbrush and soap, which caused him to have to eat his food with his hands without washing them after using the toilet. Fletcher states that he was moved from Cell 4C1 to 4B11 on March 17, 2017 but did not receive his first shower until March 20, 2017.

         In a March 11, 2017 memorandum, Lt. Adams stated that he was putting Fletcher on "Staff Alert" status because Fletcher "attempted to retrieve a homemade weapon observed in undershorts as Ofc. C. Dykes & Ofc. J. Tilghman were conducting a strip search." 3/11/17 Mem. at 1, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 3, ECF No. 41-9. Cell 4C1 is one of the cells used for inmates on Staff Alert status, from which mirrors were removed because inmates were removing the metal from them. On March 15, 2017, Lt. Adams stated that Fletcher's behavior had improved and downgraded his status from "Staff Alert Level I to Staff Alert Level II." 3/15/17 Mem. at 2, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 3, ECF No. 41-9. Adams again downgraded Fletcher's status on March 17, 2017 and removed him from Staff Alert status completely on March 21, 2017.

         According to a log of Fletcher's time on Staff Alert, which tracks Fletcher's out of cell activity, showers, and daily behavior, Fletcher was offered both recreation and a shower on March 15 and March 17, 2017, but was not ready when they were made available. The maintenance logbook for Cell 4C1 contains no repair orders for a broken window or a lack of hot water during March or April 2017.

         III. Complaints and Disciplinary Proceedings

         Fletcher filed an Administrative Remedy Procedure complaint ("ARP") on March 18, 2017. In the ARP, Fletcher recounted the cell search, the alleged assault by Dykes, Tilghman, and Timmons, and the conditions of Cell 4C1. The Warden responded to Fletcher's ARP on March 27, 2017 by stating that Fletcher's "request for Administrative Remedy has been reviewed and is hereby dismissed for procedural reason[s]; this issue is being investigated by IID," referring to ECI's Intelligence & Investigative Division. ARP No. ECI-0682-17 at 1, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 7, ECF No. 41-13. "Since this issue is being investigated by IID," the Warden continued, "no further action will be taken through the ARP process." Id.

         Fletcher was charged with three violations of prison disciplinary rules for possession of a homemade knife. At his disciplinary hearing, a picture of the knife was introduced as evidence, but Fletcher's medical records were deemed not relevant. Although Fletcher sought to call as a witness Thomas Vito, another ECI inmate who allegedly witnessed the March 11, 2017 incident, the institutional representative reported to the Hearing Officer that Vito declined to testify. In a signed declaration, submitted by Fletcher as part of a Motion for Summary Judgment that was previously denied by the Court, Vito stated that he "never denied to participate in the in-house hearing as a witness." Vito Decl. at 1, ECF No. 31. He further stated that "[o]n two occasions an officer verbally asked me if I want to be a witness. At which both times I agreed."[2] Id.

         The Hearing Officer found Fletcher guilty of violating rules 105 (possession of a weapon) and 400 (disobeying a direct lawful order). As punishment, Fletcher received 220 days of administrative segregation, revocation of good conduct credits of 185 days, and the suspension of visitation privileges for one year. Fletcher's appeal of this decision to the Warden was denied.

         Throughout this period, Sgt. William Justice of the IID was separately investigating the March 11, 2017 incident. After interviewing Dykes, Timmons, and Fletcher, Sgt. Justice obtained a criminal summons charging Fletcher with possession of a deadly weapon. The charges resulted in a disposition of nolle prosequi on September 29, 2017. See State v. Fletcher, No. D-022-CR-17-000301 (Dist. Ct. Somerset Cty. 2017), available at http://casesearch. courts.state.md.us/casesearch/inquiryByCaseNum.jis.[3]

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion for Leave to File a Surreply

         As a preliminary matter, the Court addresses Fletcher's Motion for Leave to File a Surreply. This Court's Local Rules provide that surreply memoranda are not permitted unless otherwise ordered by the Court. D. Md. Local R. 105.2(a). Surreply briefs are generally disfavored in this District, Chubb & Son v. C & C Complete Servs., LLC,919 F.Supp.2d 666, 679 (D. Md. 2013), but they may be permitted "when the moving party would be unable to contest matters presented to the Court for the ...


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