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Cooper v. Barksdale

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

September 20, 2016

ISRAEL RAY COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN E. BARKSDALE, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge.

         Israel Ray Cooper, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Cooper alleges that the defendant prison officials assaulted him, failed to provide medical care, or failed to protect him from verbal harassment and other adverse actions in retaliation for his reports of sexual abuse, all in violation of his constitutional rights and the Prison Rape Elimination Act ("PREA").[1] Upon review of the record, the court finds that the defendants' motion for summary judgment must be granted on the ground that Cooper failed to exhaust available administrative remedies.

         I.

         Cooper is incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison ("Red Onion"), a high security facility in Pound, Virginia, operated by the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC") where the alleged violations occurred. In his verified amended complaint, Cooper sues the following Red Onion officials: Warden Earl Barksdale, W. Swiney, Tory Raiford, A. Galihar, Capt. Still, Investigator Bentley, Lt. Garry Adams, Lt. Kiser, Sgt. Hall, Sgt. Fleming, R. Kegley, C/O S. Taylor, and C/O Skylar White. As relief, Cooper seeks monetary and injunctive relief.[2]

         After 55 paragraphs of factual allegations, Cooper's amended complaint asserts four, unnumbered "LEGAL CLAIMS" that incorporate these facts. For ease of reference, the court has separated the factual allegations according to the claims to which they relate.

         Claim 1: Excessive force

         On March 23, 2015, "over an issue of a broken razor [Cooper] had on his cell table, " Defendants Lt. Adams and Officer White took Cooper to Adams' office, where they exposed tattoos on his body, [3] called him "faggot, child molester, cocksucker, " and took turns punching him in the chest. (Am. Compl. 6, ECF No. 22.) Cooper says he made a PREA hotline call to report this incident. Cooper asserts that the officers' actions violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

         Claim 2: Excessive force and denial of medical care

         On April 12, 2015, after Officer S. Taylor found a magazine photograph of Selena Gomez in Cooper's cell, Sgt. Hall had Cooper brought to the lieutenant's office, called him a "cocksucking child molester, " and then slapped Cooper's left ear with a cupped hand, causing permanent hearing loss. (Id. 7.) Cooper's requests for medical attention went unanswered. Cooper says he made a PREA call to report this incident, and officers failed to follow VDOC PREA protocols for investigation and separation of Sgt. Hall from Cooper's area. Cooper asserts that the assault and denial of medical care for his hearing loss violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

         Claim 3: Excessive force

         On October 7, 2015, White told Cooper to "shut up child molester and suck my dick." (Id. 13.) Cooper filed an emergency grievance stating that White's conduct constituted "sexual advances, " but White threw the document to another officer and cuffed and shackled Cooper to move him to another cell. Rather than enter the new cell, Cooper balled himself up on the floor. White, Adams, and Taylor then picked Cooper up and threw him into the cell. White also "attempted to punch Cooper in his testicles, " and "they then stomped Cooper's legs and feet, slammed the door on his feet numerous times, then used a 'leash' attached to the cuffs to yank Cooper backwards off the floor and thr[ough] the tray slot and feed box." (Id. 14.) These actions "caus[ed] severe damage that scarred Cooper's arms, " and a nurse provided treatment. (Id.) Officials then brought seven false disciplinary charges against Cooper related to this incident, one alleging that "Cooper caused his own injuries with his fingernails." (Id.) Cooper asserts that the officers' assaultive actions violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

         Claim 4: Supervisory failure to protect Cooper's rights

         Between March 23 and October 18, 2015, many supervisory defendants deliberately "fail[ed] to protect Cooper from a long series of sexual harassment" and "allowed those officials under their command to continue to violate" Cooper's constitutional rights to due process and equal protection and his rights under PREA. (Id. 16-17.) In addition to the incidents described in Claims 1-3, Cooper alleges numerous other events in support of Claim 4, as follows.

         In March or April 2015, White threatened to take Cooper and his cell mate, Dalton McCray, to a utility closet and stick broom sticks in their anuses if McCray did not withdraw a grievance Cooper had helped him file about White. McCray withdrew his grievance and later made a PREA report about White's threat, but the investigator believed the officer's story. On May 4, 2015, Lt. Adams and Tori Raiford separated Cooper and McCray by moving Cooper to a cell with Richard Dunn, an inmate serving a life sentence who hates sex offenders. White allegedly told Dunn to "handle ...


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