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Mathis v. Somerset County Detention Center

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 8, 2019

RAYMOND WARREN MATHIS, DOC #462742, SID #2957325, Plaintiff,
v.
SOMERSET COUNTY DETENTION CENTER, WARDEN HICKMAN, CO II RICK KATO, CO II BAHAMONDE, CO II TORNEY, OFC. MATTHEWS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ELLEN L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The self-represented plaintiff, Raymond Warren Mathis, an inmate currently incarcerated at Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Maryland, filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Somerset County Detention Center (“SCDC”); Warden Louis A. Hickman; CO II Rick Kato; CO II Pedro J. Bahamonde; CO II An Taun Torney; and Ofc. David Matthews. ECF 1. In his unverified Complaint, Mathis claims that when he was being held at SCDC, defendants used excessive force against him by tasing him without warning, banging his head into the wall and floor, and beating him while his hands were cuffed. Id. Mathis also claims that Warden Hickman discriminated against him. Id. He seeks monetary damages and asks the court to impose sanctions on the individual defendants. Id. at 7.

         On April 30, 2018, defendants moved to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment. ECF 12. Mathis responded on May 15, 2018. ECF 14. However, because defendants submitted unsigned affidavits in support of the original motion, the court denied their motion, without prejudice, subject to renewal upon the submission of signed affidavits. ECF 16.

         On July 27, 2018, defendants filed a “Renewed Motion To Dismiss or, Alternatively, For Summary Judgment” (ECF 17). It was supported by a memorandum (ECF 17-1) (collectively, the “Motion”) and 30 exhibits. Mathis responded on January 18, 2019. ECF 25. No. reply was submitted.

         By Order dated February 8, 2019, the court again denied defendants' Motion, without prejudice, and subject to renewal upon submission of video footage of the incidents giving rise to Mathis' claims. ECF 26. On February 26, 2019, the court received correspondence from defendants indicating that they do not possess videos of the incidents in question as they had been “recorded over before suit was filed.” ECF 28. The court construed defendants' correspondence as a renewal of their Motion, and granted Mathis additional time to respond. ECF 30. In March 2019, the court received correspondence from Mathis alleging that defendants are lying about the availability of the video footage in question. ECF 31; ECF 32. Defendants did not reply.

         The matter is now ripe for disposition.[1] Upon review of the record, exhibits, and applicable law, the court deems a hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). Defendant SCDC shall be dismissed and defendants' renewed Motion shall be granted.[2]

         I. Factual Background

         At the relevant time, Mathis was a pretrial detainee at SCDC. See Commitment Pending Hearing, ECF 17-3.[3] In his Complaint, Mathis claims that defendants used excessive force against him during incidents on December 1, 2017, December 11, 2017, and January 11, 2018. Complaint, ECF 1 at 3-6. In addition, he claims that Warden Hickman has discriminated against him and allowed SCDC staff to abuse him. Id. at 4-5.

         First, Mathis alleges that on December 1, 2017, following an altercation at approximately 1:30 p.m., four correctional officers restrained him. Id. at 3. According to Mathis, two of those officers slammed him on his bed with his arms underneath him. CO II Bahamonde then asked him to put his hands behind his back, and when Mathis said that he could not, Bahamonde tased him and hit him “with the drive stun.” Id. at 3-4.

         Defendants do not dispute that Corrections Officers II Bahamonde, M. Bozeman, E. Phillips, and S. Ridgeway responded to Mathis on December 1, 2017. See ECF 17 at 4-5. According to defendants, the officers headed to the rear of the Master Control Room after hearing Mathis banging on the door in an aggressive manner. See Infraction Report, ECF 17-6; Bahamonde Affidavit, ECF 17-7. Bahamonde states that Mathis told the officers he was “going to be a problem” if he did not get his shower and promised to start a fight. Id. Based on Mathis' threats, Bahamonde opened Mathis' cell door, withdrew his X-26P Taser from its holster, and ordered Mathis to put his hands behind his back. Id. Mathis refused to comply and instead stated that his shirt was wet so he could not be tased. Id. The officers tried to get Mathis' hands behind his back but Mathis physically resisted and prevented them from doing so. Id. Bahamonde then discharged his taser to Mathis' back, moved forward, and directly applied the taser to Mathis' back (i.e., drive stun). Id. Mathis continued to resist and remained combative but was subsequently handcuffed by the officers. Id. The officers then escorted him to the processing area where he was placed into a holding cell. Id. Mathis threatened to “slap” Bahamonde if he ever saw him on the street and stated that he would “Street Charge” for him “happily.” Id. Mathis was placed in the portable restraint chair to end his threatening behavior and to protect staff and himself. Id. He was examined and cleared by medical staff and later returned to his cell. Id.

         Mathis next claims that on December 11, 2017, while he was out for recreation at approximately 3:05 p.m., he asked Officer Kato for a towel to use after his shower. ECF 1 at 4. Mathis states that Kato told him he would ask another officer to bring it because he was working “master control.” Id. At approximately 3:50 p.m., Mathis had not received his towel and he asked other officers about it. Id. According to Mathis, the officers told him to lock up because his recreation time was up. Id. Mathis alleges that Kato then grabbed him by the arm, followed by a choke hold, and slammed him to the floor. Id. According to Mathis, Kato began banging his head into the wall, slamming his face into the floor, and punching him in the head and ribs. Id. Mathis states that he sustained bruised ribs and knots on his head and face as a result. Id.

         Defendants do not dispute that Officer Kato was working in the Master Control Room on December 11, 2017. See ECF 17-1 at 5. In his Affidavit, Kato stated that during that afternoon, he remotely opened the door to F-block to allow another inmate to go to the Medical Unit. See Infraction Report, ECF 17-8; Kato Affidavit, ECF 17-9. After the inmate exited, Mathis held the door open and refused to allow it to close. Id. Mathis was ordered to enter the block several times but refused to go in. Id. Thereafter, Kato called down to processing and informed Officer Ross McIntyre, the Officer-In Charge, that Mathis was refusing to allow the main door to F-block to be closed. Id. McIntyre directed Corrections Officer II Lisa Stacy to report to the Control Room and ordered Kato to come down to the floor. Id. Officers Kato, McIntyre, and Tyler then collectively ordered Mathis to “lock-in” three separate times but he refused. Id.

         Subsequently, Kato grabbed Mathis' elbow and said, “Come on and lock-in!” Id. Mathis instead tensed his body and made a fist. Id. Kato quickly ordered Mathis to put his hands behind his back so that he could be handcuffed. Id. When Mathis pulled away, Kato placed him in a bear hug and took him to the floor with assistance from the other officers. Id. Kato held Mathis down while the other officers handcuffed him. Id. The officers then escorted Mathis to the Interview Room, placed him inside, and locked him to the restraint bar on the wall, for the officers' safety as well as his own. Id. According to Kato, medical staff were notified and Mathis was later medically cleared by HSA Montre Brown. Id. After being seen by medical, Mathis threatened the officers, saying that he would “shoot them with a gun” when he got out, that he lived nearby, and he “would find [them].” Id. Mathis was later returned to his cell and kept on lockdown, which had already been ordered because of another incident. Id.

         Mathis claims that on January 5, 2018, he wrote Warden Hickman to ask why he was sanctioned for rules that other inmates violate and for which they receive no consequences. ECF 1 at 4. Mathis alleges that Warden Hickman has discriminated against him because the Warden's response on January 8, 2018 stated, “it is none of your concern or any of your business.” Id. Mathis attached a copy of that correspondence as an exhibit. ECF 14 at 2. The Warden stated in the letter that SCDC staff took Mathis off lock down early last time and informed him that if his behavior did not improve, he would not be given any special attention. See Id. According to the Warden, Mathis not only “mess[ed] up on the blocks [he] received another infraction while on lock down” and, therefore, SCDC staff may look at his request to be removed from lock down at a later date. Id.

         Mathis' final claim relates to an incident that took place on January 11, 2018. ECF 1 at 5-6. He claims that at approximately 6:20 a.m., Officer Matthews came to his cell to deliver breakfast but would not hand over Mathis' juice. Id. According to Mathis, Matthews left the cell door open and instructed Mathis to “go get [the juice].” Id. CO II Torney then came by and asked Mathis to go back into his cell. Id. Mathis states that after he entered his cell, Torney followed, locked the door, then drive stunned him in the arm with a taser. Id. When Mathis asked to see a supervisor, Torney directed him to “cuff up.” Id. Torney then tackled Mathis with the help of two other officers, dragged him out of the cell, and placed him in a holding cell next to the nurse's station. Id. Mathis claims that he asked for medical attention while sticking his arm out of a slot, but Officer Matthews drive stunned him again. Id.

         Defendants do not dispute that Officer Matthews delivered a food tray to Mathis on the morning of January 11, 2018. See Torney Narrative, ECF 17-10; Matthews Affidavit, ECF 17-12. When the door to the block opened, Matthews entered and handed Mathis his tray. Mathis then proceeded to walk past Matthews, holding his tray in one hand and two empty cups in the other. Id. Matthews twice ordered Mathis to stop, but Mathis continued to walk away. Id. Matthews took hold of Mathis' right arm and escorted him back to his cell. Id. Once Mathis was in his cell, he handed the empty cups to the officer and began shouting. Id.

         At that time, Officer Torney, who had been in the Control Room, came into the block and told Mathis to back up. Id.; see also Incident Report, ECF 17-11; Torney Affidavit, ECF 17-12. Torney repeatedly told Mathis to back up and Mathis finally complied. Id. Torney told Mathis to give him the tray and that he would ensure that Mathis got his juice. Id. While Torney was placing the tray in the dayroom, Mathis moved forward so that half of his body was outside of the cell. Id. Torney ordered Mathis to go back into the cell, but Mathis refused. Id. Despite repeated commands, Mathis refused to move and became more aggressive, tensing his body and directly facing Torney. Id. Torney grabbed Mathis' shoulder and pushed him into the cell towards the bunk, while Officers Matthews and Phillips stepped in to assist in handcuffing him. Id. Once Mathis was handcuffed, he was escorted to the processing area, during which time he remained combative, flipping over a mop bucket and a stack of food trays, and causing Officer Phillips to fall to the floor. Id. Once the officers reached processing, Mathis attempted to enter the Nurse's Office, but was held back. Id. The officers placed Mathis in the holding cell and reported the incident. Id.

         Each of the above incidents resulted in a separate Notice of Infraction, as well as separate Use of Force Reports. As to the first incident, the Infraction Hearing was held on December 5, 2017, and was conducted by Officer Travis Whittington. See Notice of Infraction, ECF 17-14; Adjustment Hearing, ECF 17-15, 17-16; Infraction Report, ECF 17-17. Mathis was found guilty of violating rules 1 (assault), 7 (threats), 8 (resisting/interfering), 17 (disobeying an order), and 21 (disrespect). Id.; see also SCDC Inmate Handbook, ECF 17-5.

         The second Infraction Hearing, held on December 13, 2017, was conducted by Lieutenant Bruce Parkinson. See Notice of Infraction, ECF 17-18; Adjustment Hearing, ECF 17-19, 17-20; Infraction Report, ECF 17-21. Mathis refused to appear at the hearing and the waiver form, which Mathis refused to sign, was completed by staff. Id. Mathis was found guilty of the infractions and, as discipline, he received 110 days on lockdown. Id.

         The third hearing, held on January 16, 2018, was also conducted by Lieutenant Parkinson. See Notice of Infraction, ECF 17-23; Adjustment Hearing, ECF 17-24, 17-25; Infraction Report, ECF 17-26. Mathis again received discipline in the form of lockdown. Id.

         Mathis' medical records do not indicate that he sustained any significant injuries in his altercations with the officers. See ECF 17-27. On December 1, 2017, a nurse noted that Mathis' bruises from the taser were cleaned and bandaged, and that Mathis “d[id] not have any complaints” at the time. Id. at 1-2. Mathis was checked for bruises and, while restrained in the portable restraint unit, his respiration was monitored and his range of motion was checked upon release from restraint. Id. He was then cleared to shower. Id. On December 12, 2017, Mathis was prescribed Motrin and directed to apply ice to the taser-contacted area for two days. Id. at 3. Mathis was also seen by medical staff on January 18, 2018, for reasons unrelated to the incidents at issue here. Id.; see ECF 17-1 at 8 n.2 (stating that any information contained in the medical records that is unrelated to Mathis' claims has been redacted).

         Each use of force was reviewed by Warden Hickman. See Use of Force Reports, ECF 17-28, 17-29, 17-30. As to each incident, he found “the use of force was justified as outlined by the Policy of the Somerset County Detention Center in preventing injury to the inmate and the destruction of property.” Id.

         On February 15, 2018, Mathis was transferred from SCDC to the Division of Correction. See ...


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