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Younger v. Green

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 19, 2019

KEVIN YOUNGER, Plaintiff,
v.
JEMIAH L. GREEN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In the morning hours of September 30, 2013, Sergeant Kwasi Ramsey (“Ramsey”), Sergeant Jemiah Green (“Green”), and Correctional Officer Richard Hanna (“Hanna”) of the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) entered Plaintiff Kevin Younger's (“Plaintiff” or “Younger”) prison cell in the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic & Classification Center (“MRDCC”). After evacuating his cellmate, the officers threw Younger from his top bunk to the concrete floor, bludgeoned him with handcuffs and other tools, and slammed his head against a toilet bowl. Ramsey, Hanna, and Green have been convicted of their crimes;[1] the acting Warden of MRDCC, Tyrone Crowder (“Crowder”) has been removed from his post;[2] and a jury assembled in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City has found the State of Maryland liable for Younger's injuries.[3]

         In this action, Younger pursues claims against his assailants (Defendants Ramsey, Green, and Hanna) and against the Division of Correction officials whom he contends are responsible-Warden Crowder, Major Wallace Singletary (“Singletary”), and Lieutenant Neil Dupree (“Dupree”). In his Amended Complaint (ECF No. 140), he alleges violations of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Crowder, Dupree, and Singletary (Count One);[4] an identical claim asserted against Ramsey, Green, and Hanna (Count Two); Excessive Force, in violation of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, Article 24, against Ramsey, Green, and Hanna (Count Three);[5] violations of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, Article 24, against Crowder, Dupree, and Singletary (Count Four); Battery against Ramsey, Green, and Hanna (Count Five); Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against Ramsey, Green, and Hanna (Count Six); Conspiracy against Ramsey, Green, and Hanna (Count Seven); Negligent Retention, Training, and Supervision against Crowder, Dupree, and Singletary (Count Eight); Negligence against Crowder, Dupree, and Singletary (Count Nine).

         Now pending before this Court are a Motion to Dismiss all Claims in the Amended Complaint Against Defendant Tyrone Crowder (ECF No. 154); a Motion to Dismiss all Claims in Amended Complaint Against Defendant Wallace Singletary (ECF No. 155); and Defendant Dupree's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 156). The parties' Motions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated herein, all three Motions (ECF Nos. 154, 155, and 156) are DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         In ruling on the pending motions to dismiss, the factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be accepted as true and those facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Wikimedia Found. v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker (U.S.), Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 422 (4th Cir. 2015)). This Court may also consider documents attached to a motion to dismiss so long as they are “integral to the complaint and authentic.” Thompson v. United States, RDB-15-2181, 2016 WL 2649931, at *2 n.4 (D. Md. May 10, 2016), aff'd 670 Fed.Appx. 781 (4th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).[6]

         I. Younger's Assault by Ramsey, Green, and Hanna.

         On September 29, 2013, Younger witnessed a fight between two inmates and a correctional officer. (Id. ¶ 22.) During the fight, the correctional officer was seriously injured. (Id.) Subsequently, the two inmates who participated in the confrontation were transferred from the general housing unit and placed in various cells in MRDCC. (Id. ¶ 24.) Younger and at least two other prisoners were also transferred from the general housing unit to other cells. (Id. ¶ 25.) In particular, Younger was placed in the “5 Dormitory” with another individual. (Id. ¶ 26.)

         On September 30, 2013 at approximately 6:30 a.m., Officer Hanna arrived at MRDCC, cleared the security checkpoint, and climbed the stairs toward the roll call room. (Id. ¶ 27.) Ramsey was waiting at the top of the stairs. (Id.) When they met, Ramsey informed Hanna that “they had some business to handle” and that he “sought to exact revenge on the prisoners he and other supervisory staff believed to be involved” in the prior day's altercation. (Id.) These prisoners and their cell locations were identified on a list in Ramsey's possession. (Id. ¶ 28.) At some point, Green joined Hanna and Ramsey and the three officers proceeded to the armory. (Id.) Inside, Ramsey obtained handcuffs and a large mace canister. (Id.) Upon exiting, the armory control officer did not require Ramsey to sign the logbook as was required. (Id.) From the armory, Ramsey, Green, and Hanna proceeded to the elevator to the seventh-floor housing unit. (Id.)

         The three officers then “systematically moved about MRDCC to each of the five prisoners' cells, brutally assaulting and beating each of the prisoners, including Mr. Younger.” (Id. ¶ 29.) Between 6:40 and 7:00 a.m., Ramsey, Green, and Hanna entered Younger's cell, “grabbing Mr. Younger by his shirt and legs, and throwing him from the top bunk onto the concrete floor.” (Id. ¶¶ 30-33.) “Ramsey, Green, and Hanna proceeded to attack Mr. Younger, striking him on the head, face, and body, with handcuffs, radios, and keys, and slamming his head against the toilet bowl in the cell, ” all the while verbally abusing him. (Id. ¶ 34.) They also “kicked and stomped” on Younger as he lay helpless. (Id. ¶ 35.) As a result of the beating, “Mr. Younger's cell was covered in blood, and Mr. Younger was bleeding profusely from his head and face.” (Id. ¶ 37.)

         Younger did not receive medical treatment immediately following his assault. Ramsey, Green, and Hanna left him “in a pool of blood on the concrete floor of his cell, having difficulty breathing, without medical care or attention.” (Id. ¶ 38.) After the three officers assaulted the prisoners on Ramsey's list, they returned to the second floor and stood outside of the roll call room. (Id. ¶ 43.) With this positioning, the officers ensured that they would be able to escort the prisoner victims to the medical unit. (Id.)

         During roll call that morning, Lieutenant Neil Dupree and Major Wallace Singletary displayed photographs of the injured correctional officers and the inmates who they believed were involved in the altercation on the previous day. (Id. ¶¶ 49, 50.) Dupree and Singletary also circulated pictures of the five prisoners who were removed from the general housing unit following the September 29, 2013 fight-including Younger-and represented that these prisoners were responsible for the altercation. (Id. ¶¶ 51, 52.)

         Between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m., medical alerts began to sound for each of the five prisoners attacked by Ramsey, Green, and Hanna. (Id. ¶ 55.) A tier officer eventually discovered Younger. (Id. ¶ 44.) In the company of other officers, Green pushed Younger in a wheelchair toward the medical unit. (Id. ¶¶ 45, 46.) When Dupree arrived in response to the medial alerts, he observed correctional officers bringing Younger down the stairs toward the medical unit and asked Ramsey what had happened. (Id. ¶ 57.) Ramsey claimed that Younger had “fell, ” and Dupree allegedly “accepted this explanation, despite Mr. Younger's injuries being markedly inconsistent with the asserted explanation, even to a medically untrained eye.” (Id. ¶ 58.) Dupree allegedly failed to seek emergency attention, launch an investigation into Younger's injuries, or interview Younger and his cellmate. (Id. ¶¶ 60, 61, 62.) In the medical unit, Green brought Younger an Incident Report form and a pen. (Id. ¶ 46.) Green then ordered Younger “to note that he sustained his injuries by falling from his bunk bed.” (Id.) After receiving some medical care that morning, Younger was returned to his cell by Green and Ramsey. (Id.)

         During the afternoon roll call that day, Warden Crowder chastised the correctional officers involved in the altercation of September 29, 2013. (Id. ¶ 53.) He criticized the officers for being “soft” and told them that they “should had [sic] beat the inmates” who were allegedly involved in the fight. (Id.) That evening, Crowder entered Younger's cell, where he was cowering in fear underneath of his bunkbed. (Id. ¶ 66.) Younger told Crowder that he had been beaten and that he had helped the correctional officer who had been injured on September 29. (Id. ¶ 68.) During their discussion, Crowder indicated that prison leadership was aware that he had assisted the officer and assured Younger that he would be moved to another cell block. (Id.) Younger was relocated that evening. (Id.) On October 1, 2013, Younger sought and obtained medical assistance by advising the chief of security about his attack. (Id. ¶ 70.)

         Although prison leadership was aware that Younger had assisted the injured officer on September 29, 2013, Younger nevertheless faced administrative charges. (Id. ¶ 71.) During his disciplinary hearing, he was not permitted to call witnesses or present evidence. (Id. ¶ 72.)

         Younger was physically incapable of presenting a defense during the hearing because he was still recovering from his injuries. (Id.) As punishment for the charges, Plaintiff was sentenced to 120 days (four months) in solitary confinement, during which time he could not access full medical services. (Id. ¶¶ 72, 76.) On October 24, 2013, Plaintiff was criminally charged with second degree assault for his alleged involvement in the same September 29, 2013 incident. (Id. ¶ 73.) The State later dismissed these charges. (Id. ¶ 93.)

         II. Widespread, Documented Inmate Abuse at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic & Classification Center.

         Younger alleges that his assault took place in the context of civil rights abuses and “vigilante justice” fostered by Defendants Crowder, Singletary, and Dupree at MRDCC. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13, 14, 21, ECF No. 140.) This culture manifested in frequent inmate abuses and disregard for prison protocol. Officers allegedly utilized a special call code on their MRDCC radios to signal a “select group of first responders who would dole out extrajudicial punishment on prisoners with whom they had an issue.” (Id. ¶ 14.) The officers allegedly did not fear punishment for their actions, instead “believ[ing] that they could improperly assault prisoners and then cover up those incidents with impunity.” (Id. ¶ 21.) The staff at MRDCC also disregarded annual in-service trainings, which some supervisory personnel considered “a joke” and “a waste of . . . time.” (Id. ¶ 20.)

         Younger alleges that Crowder, Dupree, and Singletary were aware that Ramsey, Green, and Hanna had been suspected of use-of-force abuses long before Younger's assault. Younger claims that Crowder, Dupree, and Singletary knew that Green and Ramsey had been the subject of “active criminal assault investigations, and numerous excessive use of force investigations, some of which were sustained.” (Id. ¶¶ 96, 97.) He further alleges that Crowder, Dupree, and Singletary were aware that Hanna had “been involved in previous use of force complaints and investigations.” (Id. ¶ 98.)

         Crowder, in particular, allegedly ignored repeated warnings about Green and Ramsey from MRDCC staff. In September 2012, the assistant warden at MRDCC notified Crowder “that she was concerned about seeing the same officers' names, including Green and Ramsey, appearing in use of force reports.” (Id. ¶ 17.) When Crowder attempted to rationalize Green and Ramsey's behavior as the work of “first responders to fluid situations, ” the assistant warden pressed: she noted that the officers were “previously suspended for this conduct and suspensions indicate a real problem.” (Id.) In May 2013, the investigative captain approached Crowder and recommended additional use of force training, noting that Ramsey and Green had repeatedly appeared in use of force incident reports. (Id. ¶ 18.) When Crowder refused to respond, the investigative captain conducted impromptu use of force training for these officers. (Id.) In July 2013, the investigative captain told Crowder that Green should receive a disciplinary sanction for his involvement in another use of force complaint, complaining “that other involved officers lied to cover for Green and that foreclosed any ability to discipline Green.” (Id. ¶ 19.)

         The nature of Dupree's job ensured that he was exposed to information about Ramsey, Green, and Hanna's misconduct. Dupree was required to prepare a “Scrutinized/Compromised Staff Report” for DPSCS headquarters. (Id. ¶ 100.) The report listed all correctional staff at MRDCC who were under investigation or were suspected of violating prison policies and protocols. (Id.) While preparing the report, Dupree would “synthesize information” concerning staff misconduct and review a draft with the warden before finalizing it. (Id.) Younger alleges that the names of Ramsey, Green, and Hanna were contained in the Report. (Id.)

         Dupree also personally assisted Ramsey, Green, and Hanna with their retributory assaults. (Id. ¶ 101.) Dupree frequently forwarded staff complaints about prisoners to the trio, who would respond with violence. (Id.) Dupree was allegedly aware that Ramsey, Green, and Hanna would abuse inmates after he forwarded them information of this kind and that the medical staff were complicit in their activities, but did nothing to stop them. (Id.)

         Finally, Younger alleges that Singletary had knowledge of Ramsey, Green, and Hanna's misconduct but did not attempt to prevent it. (Id. ¶ 103.) For example, Singletary was allegedly present when Ramsey, Green, and Hanna beat a prisoner who was shackled in a three-point restraint. (Id.) Singletary also allegedly knew that Ramsey, Green, and Hanna would leave prisoners in the showers for hours at a time. (Id.) Although Singletary was their most senior supervisory, he allegedly failed to report these incidents. (Id.)

         III. Criminal and Civil Proceedings.

         Following Younger's assault, prison staff were subject to administrative and criminal investigations. On October 1, 2013, the Intelligence and Investigative Division of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) launched an investigation following the assault of Younger and other prisoners. (Id. ¶ 87.) The investigation concluded that on the morning of September 30, 2013, Ramsey, Green, and Hanna assaulted five prisoners, including Younger, whom they believed were involved in the fight on the previous evening. (Id. ¶ 88.) The investigation also concluded that Crowder failed to take appropriate steps following the September 29, 2013 assault and “did not ensure the safety of the five inmates and . . . failed to instruct staff to check the welfare of the five named inmates in the assault.” (Id. ¶ 90.) On October 7, 2013, the State demoted Crowder and placed him on administrative leave. (Id. ¶ 91.)

         On September 17, 2014, Ramsey, Green, and Hanna were criminally indicted for their assault of the five prisoners.[7] (Id. ¶ 92.) Prior to the indictments, Younger provided testimony to secure Green, Ramsey, and Hanna's convictions. (Id. ¶ 93.) On May 6, 2015 Hanna pled guilty to conspiracy to commit first degree assault. (Id. ΒΆ 94.) On April 1, ...


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