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Younger v. Green

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 19, 2019

JEMIAH L. GREEN, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Kevin Younger alleges that Sergeant Kwasi Ramsey (“Ramsey”), Sergeant Jemiah Green (“Green”), and Correctional Officer Richard Hanna (“Hanna”) of the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) assaulted him while he was incarcerated in the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic & Classification Center (“MRDCC”). In addition to Ramsey, Green, and Hanna, Younger also sues three supervisory employees: former MRDCC Warden Tyrone Crowder (“Crowder”), Major Wallace Singletary (“Singletary”), and Lieutenant Neil Dupree (“Dupree”). In August 2017, this Court dismissed the State of Maryland from this action on sovereign immunity grounds, prompting Younger to sue the State in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland. (Mem. Op. of Aug. 22, 2017, ECF No. 72.) In June 2019, a jury returned a verdict in Younger's favor. (Verdict Sheet, ECF No. 166-5.)

         In August 2019, following proceedings in the State action, Defendants Crowder, Singletary, and Dupree moved to dismiss the claims against them.[1] This Court denied the Motions in November 2019. (Mem. Op. of Nov. 19, 2019, ECF No. 188.) Now pending are three Motions[2] for Summary Judgment: Defendant Crowder's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 185); Defendant Dupree's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 186); and the Motion for Summary Judgment for all Claims in Amended Complaint against Defendant Wallace Singletary (ECF No. 187). The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated herein, Defendant Crowder's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 185) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, Summary Judgment is ENTERED in Crowder's favor on Younger's claim that Crowder exhibited deliberate indifference to Younger's medical needs and the false charges entered against him, but is DENIED as to all other claims asserted against him. Defendant Dupree's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 186) and the Motion for Summary Judgment for all Claims in Amended Complaint against Defendant Wallace Singletary (ECF No. 187) are DENIED in toto.


         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this Court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769 (2007); Hardwick ex rel. Hardwick v. Heyward, 711 F.3d 426, 433 (4th Cir. 2013). This Court also takes judicial notice of the State action, Younger v. Maryland, No. 24-C-17-004752 (Balt. City Cir. Ct.), filed Sept. 21, 2017. This Court has recited the factual allegations in this case in two prior opinions. (ECF Nos. 72, 188.) For purposes of adjudicating the pending Motions for Summary Judgment, this Court presents an overview of the events and communications preceding Younger's assault.

         During the trial in the State action, Richard Hanna testified that MRDCC was “pretty lawless” and that officer misconduct “goes from the top down.” (Hanna Test., Trial Tr. June 5, 2019, 22:13-15, ECF No. 195-18.) Hanna testified at length on these matters, claiming that he carried out ordered hits against inmates “twice a week on average.” (Id. at 22:5-9.) Hanna's comments at trial echo his earlier representations to an Internal Investigative Unit (“IIU”) Detective following Younger's assault on September 30, 2013, in which he confessed to attacking Younger and described his assaults against other inmates that day. (Hanna Statement to Det. Wright, Feb. 26, 2015, ECF No. 195-17.)

         Long before Ramsey, Green, and Hanna assaulted Younger on September 30, 2013, Warden Crowder was made aware of the assailant's violent proclivities and the general lawlessness pervading MRDCC. Between 2006 and 2009, Crowder served as Assistant Warden to Warden Felicia Hinton. During that time, Hinton recalls that Green “body slammed an inmate onto the floor” and knocked a handcuffed inmate to the ground. (Hinton Dep. 24:1-5, ECF No. 195-9.) Hinton discussed Green's behavior with Crowder sometime prior to 2013 and specifically told Crowder that Green “was trouble.” (Id. at 133:8-12, 170:19-21.) As one of her last acts as Warden in 2009, Hinton moved Green to the overnight shift so that he would have fewer contacts with inmates. (Id. at 26:16-27:4, 113:14-17.) As soon as Hinton left MRDCC, Crowder-now acting as Warden-transferred Green back to the dayshift. (Id. at 113:14-22.)

         Suzanne Fisher, a DPSCS employee of 42 years who retired in 2015, also brought her concerns to Crowder. Fisher served as Assistant Warden to Warden Crowder from 2010 until 2013. (Fisher Dep. 11:9-20, ECF No. 195-12.) She became the Warden of MRDCC after Crowder was removed from the position in October 2013. (Id. at 11:18-12:4.) Fisher recalled that several officers, including Green and Ramsey, “always appeared in uses of force” reports (Fisher Statement to Det. Murray, 24:23-25, ECF No. 195-7.) In her interview with an investigator shortly after the Younger assault, Fisher explained that she had brought her concerns with these officers to Crowder. (Id. at 25:1-4.) In response, Crowder merely indicated that reports concerning the officers were to be expected because they were often first responders. (Id. at 25:5-6.) Fisher pressed the issue, responding: “I know, but if you're suspending ‘em [sic] for uses of force, then you know you've got an issue. Excessive use of force, when you're suspending people, then you know you have an issue.” (Id. at 25:6-8.) Several years later, during the State Court trial, Fisher claimed that she was only concerned that the officers would fail to transport inmates to the medical facility on time or “mess[] with their food.” (Fisher Test., Trial Tr., June 4, 2019, at 230:10-14, ECF No. 185-14.)

         Crowder also learned of Ramsey and Green's violent tendencies from Raymond Peré, who worked as an Investigative Captain between 2012 and 2013. (Peré Dep. 13:16-20, ECF No. 195-14.) Peré reported directly to Crowder. (Id. at 13:21-22.) In the spring of 2013, Peré notified Crowder that he was concerned with “unnecessary or avoidable uses of force.” (Id. at 29:8-13.) In his October 2013 interview with an investigator, Peré recalled reporting an instance of “excessive use of force”[3] to Crowder in which an officer “sprayed [an] inmate through the [food] slot” even though the prisoner was “in a cell . . . in a secure area.” (Peré Statement to Det. Murray 13:9-14:2, ECF No. 195-10.) Crowder disregarded Peré's concerns, responding “oh, that's a knee jerk reaction.” (Id. 14:1-2.) In the same interview, Peré also recalled telling Crowder “you got some staff here like [sic] to put their hands on inmates. . . . They take the opportunity, when it arises, to put their hands on inmates . . . . [Y]ou need to do something with ‘em.” (Id. 16:5-20.) When Peré perceived that Crowder had not taken appropriate action, he administered impromptu use of force training to Green and other officers. (Id. at 17:13-18.)

         The actions of Ramsey, Green, and Hanna were well documented. At the time of Younger's assault, Ramsey and Green had four pending criminal assault investigations. (IIU Case Histories for Green and Ramsey, ECF No. 195-6.) In the investigation report produced following Younger's assault, Detective Murray wrote: “During this investigation, I requested and received a copy of the Use of Force reports that had occurred at MRDCC between September 2012 and October 2013. There were approximately thirteen (13) Use of Force incidents during that period of time. Out of those thirteen (13) Use of Force incidents, one incident did not include Sergeant Ramsey, Sergeant Green, or CO II Hanna.” (IIU 13-35-01347 at 14, ECF No. 195-2.) In the State Court trial, Crowder testified that he had an “opportunity to see all written use of force reports before they were completely final.” (Crowder Test., Trial Tr., June 10, 2019, 284:15-19, ECF No. 195-4.)

         Despite repeated warnings and well-documented red flags, Crowder is alleged to have failed to take adequate steps to protect Younger and inmates like him from assaults by correctional officers. On September 29, 2013, Correctional Officer Alade Ganiyu was assaulted by inmate Raymond Lee. (Younger Dep. 30:15-37:17, ECF No. 185-5.) The next day, on September 30, 2013, Ramsey, Green, and Hanna assaulted Younger and other inmates in misplaced retaliation for the assault on Officer Ganiyu. (Hanna Dep. 62:7-15, ECF No. 185-3; Younger Dep. 67:6-68:21.) Later that day, Ramsey and Green returned and transported Younger to the medical unit, where he was treated by a nurse and Virenda V. Chhunchha, M.D. (Younger Dep. 96:9-13; Chhunchha Dep. 21:3-4, ECF No. 185-15.) Following his assault, Younger was administratively charged in connection with the assault against Ganiyu and was required to serve a term of solitary confinement.


         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). 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) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus, summary judgment is proper “only when no ‘reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Monon Corp. v. Stoughton Trailers, Inc., 239 F.3d 1253, 1257 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255)). When considering a motion for summary judgment, a judge's function is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence exists on a claimed factual dispute to warrant submission of the matter to a jury for resolution at trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

         In undertaking this inquiry, this Court must consider the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Libertarian Party of Va., 718 F.3d at 312; see also Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). However, this Court must also abide by its affirmative obligation to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from going to trial. Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993). If the evidence presented by the nonmoving party is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment must be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. On the other hand, a party opposing summary judgment must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see also In re Apex Express Corp., 190 F.3d 624, 633 (4th Cir. 1999). As this Court has previously explained, a “party cannot create a genuine dispute of material fact through mere speculation or compilation of inferences.” Shin v. Shalala, 166 F.Supp.2d 373, 375 (D. Md. 2001) (citations omitted).


         I. Admissibility of IIU Reports.

         Defendant Crowder argues that there is no “admissible evidence” indicating that he knew about “widespread and pervasive premeditated and retaliatory assaults on inmates.” (Crowder Mot. 17, ECF No. 185-1.) In his Response, Plaintiff characterizes this argument as a “preview” of Crowder's expected attempts to exclude Internal Investigative Unit reports concerning Younger's assault, and counters that the IIU reports are admissible as public records under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8). (Younger Resp. 41, ECF No. 195.) Crowder has since filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude some of these materials from evidence at trial, contending that the IIU reports do not fall within the ambit of Rule 803(8). (ECF Nos. 205, 206.)

         At this stage, this Court need not resolve whether the IIU reports, or some portion thereof, would be admissible at trial. At summary judgment, “the relevant question is not the admissibility of the evidence's current form but whether it can be presented in an admissible form at trial.” Manzur v. Daney, PWG-14-2268, 2017 WL 930125, at *1 n.2 (D. Md. Mar. 9, 2017) (quoting Steven S. Gensler, 2 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules & Commentary, R. 56 (West 2017)). Much of the relevant material presented in the IIU reports may be presented in the form of witness testimony. For example, Plaintiff intends to call Fisher, Hinton, and Peré at trial (see Plaintiff's Proposed Witness and Exhibit List, ECF No. 191), each of whom may testify to the same matters disclosed in the course of the IIU investigations. Accordingly, this Court will consider the IIU reports in their entirety, including statements made to IIU detectives, to resolve the pending summary judgment motions.

         II. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies.

         Dupree seeks dismissal of Younger's claims based on his failure to fully exhaust his administrative remedies in accordance with the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. (Dupree Mot. 3-16, ECF No. 186-1.) The PLRA provides in pertinent part that:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). For purposes of the PLRA, “the term ‘prisoner' means any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(h). The phrase “prison conditions” encompasses “all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular ...

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