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Houck v. Warden, WCI Manager

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 11, 2018

JAMES HOUCK, #421-024, 1474477 Plaintiff,



         James Houck is incarcerated at Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland. Houck filed this Complaint, ECF No. 1, with a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis on January 4, 2018. ECF No. 2. The Court will grant Houck's Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, ECF No. 2, because it indicates that he is indigent.

         Houck claims that he is unsafe in the general prison population at WCI because of an August 17, 2017 incident with his then cellmate Joey Poindexter, ECF No. 9, [2] and because he was allegedly improperly reassigned from protective custody (“PC”) to the general prison population at WCI where he has enemies who pose threats of serious harm to him, ECF No. 1.[3] Houck asks to be housed in a single cell in PC or transferred to another correctional facility and awarded damages. ECF No. 1 at 5.[4]

         Pending before the Court are Houck's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 14, and the Division of Correction's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 10.[5] Also pending before the Court are Houck's self-styled “Motion for Settlement and Transfer to a New Facility, ” ECF No. 25, “Motion for Settlement for Money Judgment, ” ECF No. 26, and numerous “supplements” and correspondence filed by Houck, see e.g. ECF Nos. 5, 6, 7, 12, 15, 16, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29.[6] No. hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, Houck's Motion for Summary Judgment, Motion for Settlement and Transfer to a New Facility and Motion for Settlement for Money Judgment are denied, and summary judgment is granted in favor of Defendants.

         I. BACKGROUND [7]

         A. Factual background

         At a November 20, 2013 hearing, the Honorable Michael J. Algeo of the Circuit Court of Montgomery County sentenced Houck and recommended “that the Department of Corrections take whatever steps are necessary to house [Houck] in a secure and safe environment” because Houck had testified against two individuals-Trenton Robinson and Corey Yates-in a separate criminal case. ECF No. 10-4 at 7, 8, 19, 41-42. Besides Corey Yates and Trenton Robinson, Houck has two other documented “enemies”: Tyree Edge and Dayvon Irving. ECF No. 10-1 ¶ 8; see also ECF No. 10-1 at 6; ECF No. 10-4 at 4, 7-8. Houck alleges that these individuals pose threats of serious harm to him and that they reside in the WCI general prison population, ECF No. 15 at 3 and ECF No. 17 at 1, however none of these four documented “enemies” is incarcerated in WCI's general population. ECF No. 10-1 ¶ 8. Houck also alleges that the following individuals should be on his “enemies list” because they pose threats of serious harm to him: Joey Poindexter, Robert Crowder, Thomas Robinson, Jordan Kamara. ECF No. 1 at 3-4. Poindexter, Houck's former cellmate, is now housed in PC at WCI in a housing unit separate from the one where Houck is located. ECF No. 10-1 ¶ 8. Kamara, Crowder, Robinson and Watkins are not housed at WCI. ECF No. 10-1 ¶ 8.

         On August 17, 2017, Houck was placed on PC administrative segregation after a fight with his cellmate, Joey Poindexter. Walker Decl. ECF No. 10-1 ¶ 4. Houck's description of this incident changed several times; first he told WCI's Correctional Case Management Supervisor, Corey Walker, that he had an argument with Poindexter, then that he had a physical altercation with Poindexter, and finally, that he had a claim under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). ECF No. 10-1 ¶ 4.

         Detective Sergeant R. Shifflet of the Internal Investigation Division (IID) investigated Houck's claims, ultimately found them unsubstantiated, and closed the case on January 22, 2018. ECF No. 10-1 ¶ 4. Shifflet found that on August 17, 2017, Sergeant J. White heard banging in cell 5B09. White went to the cell where he found Houck unconscious and Poindexter standing at the back of the cell. ECF No. 10-2 at 25. Prison medical staff arrived, placed Houck in a neck stabilization collar, and took him to the medical unit on a stretcher. ECF No. Id. at 27-38. Houck was given oxygen and awoke within 2-3 minutes. Id. at 26. Houck was able to state his name, location and DOC number. Id. at 26-28, 39. Houck informed Nurse Bernice Swan in the medical unit, that he had been raped repeatedly over the previous few days. Id. at 38. Houck was taken to the Emergency Department at Western Maryland Regional Medical Center (WMRMC) for testing per PREA protocol. Id. at 25. Staff sealed the cell as a crime scene pending IID investigation. ECF No. 10-2 at 27. Houck was instructed not to remove his clothes or drink until he was seen by medical staff at the hospital emergency room. Id. at 26, 28, 39. Detective Sergeant R. Shifflet concluded that no video evidence existed of the assault because the incident occurred inside the cell. Id. at 25, 27.

         Debi A. Wolford, a forensic nurse, examined Houck at WMRMC. Wolford's medical notes indicate that Houck had an injury to his face and complained of right eye and right knee pain. ECF No. 10-2 at 19. Digital photographs were taken of Houck's injuries. Id. at 47-48. The medical notes indicate the presence of a blue pen mark and a small pin point hole on his skin at the chest and small newer abrasions on the left buttock. Id. at 20. Several areas of dried blood were noted at the back of Houck's undershorts. Id. at 5. Houck refused to give his shorts or tee shirt as evidence, explaining that they would not be returned to him if sent to the crime lab for processing. Id. When Wolford asked whether he was reporting a sexual assault, Houck answered “I was choked out but yea, when I came to my pants were down so yea.” Id. at 19. Houck added “I woke up on the floor with officer [sic] around me over me. I was out of breath I wasn't functioning seems like I was going to die my pants were down my drawers were up.” Id. Houck told her that “on August 6 and August 8th Poindexter appropriated [sic] me about sexual harassment” and threatened to kill him. Id. Houck consented to a sexual assault examination. Id. at 19, 22. Houck returned to WCI later that day, placed in the infirmary, and assigned administrative segregation status. ECF No. 10-2 at 25.

         On August 17, 2017, Shifflet individually interviewed Houck and Poindexter. Houck told Shifflet that he was not sure what had happened to him because he passed out during the incident. ECF No. 10-2 at 5. Houck denied being in pain. Id. Shiflett observed a pen mark on Houck's shirt and small red mark on his chest. Id. Houck alleged Poindexter had been asking him for sex all week. Id. Houck said Poindexter attacked him because he had confronted Poindexter about being in his locker. Id. Shifflet asked Inmate Houck whether he had been sexually assaulted, and Houck answered yes, but then stated he wasn't sure because he was unconscious. Id. Houck stated that he woke up with staff all around him rendering aid and that he realized his pants were down a little bit but his underwear was up. Id. Houck said he wanted Poindexter criminally charged for the sexual advances. Id. Shifflet told Houck that unless Poindexter admitted guilt the case would be closed. Id. Houck stated he understood that but at least it would be documented to possibly help get him transferred out of Cumberland. Id. Houck declined to provide a written statement. Id. at 44.

         Poindexter told Shifflet that he was defending himself after Houck had attacked him. ECF No. 10-2 at 5, 6, 43. Poindexter said “Houck had been acting crazy for several days by making threats and calling him vulgar names.” Id. at 5. According to Poindexter, earlier on the day of the incident, Houck had accused him of getting into his locker and threatened to kill him. Id. at 5, 43. Poindexter said “Houck had two weapons, one of which was an ink pen.” Id. at 5. Houck “backed Poindexter against the back wall of the cell and then stabbed Poindexter in the right arm with the pen.” Id. Poindexter defended himself. Id. Shifflet noted Poindexter's injuries on his right arm were consistent with his account of the incident. Id. at 5. Poindexter told Shifflet that Houck had been threatening to use PREA to get out of the facility for weeks. Id. at 5, 43.

         Nurse Swan treated Poindexter for a scratch on his right arm and several superficial scratches to his right chest. ECF No. 10-2 at 28, 41. DOC placed him on administrative segregation pending IID review. Id. at 28. Poindexter told Swan that Houck had attacked him with a pen. Swan observed Poindexter had superficial scratches on his right arm consistent with being stabbed with a pen. Id. at 41. Poindexter denied trying to rape or having any sexual contact with Houck, explaining “I don't want to look at him let ...

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