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Williams v. Wallace

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

November 10, 2016

Shaquille Rashawn Williams, Plaintiff,
v.
Kristal Wallace and J. M. Conti, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          T. S. Ellis, III United States District Judge

         Shaquille Rashawn Williams, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, principally alleging that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated by officials at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center ("VBCC"). Plaintiff has applied to proceed in forma pauperis in the lawsuit. After careful review of plaintiffs complaint and the attached exhibits, the claims against the defendants must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim.[1]

         I.

         Plaintiff alleges that on March 16, 2016 he was moved to a different housing unit in VBCC. Without additional detail, he states that he was assaulted and his glasses were stolen in the new unit, and he was moved to a visitation room after he told officers that he feared for his life. Corporal Kristal Wallace came to see plaintiff and informed him that she believed he was block-shopping, and that he would be placed in Blst, a "reass" unit. Compl. at 5. Sgt. Conti then put plaintiff in handcuffs to escort him to the new unit, and on the way Conti and Wallace were "squeezing [plaintiffs] arms and hands violently which were handcuffed behind [his] back." Id. When plaintiff said they were hurting him Wallace told him to "stop bitching, man up, " and plaintiff replied that Wallace and Conti were "nothing but [Sheriff] Ken Stolle's slaves." Id. Wallace then admonished plaintiff to "shut the fuck up" and stated that he was going to "the hole." Id. Conti "twisted [plaintiffs] arms violently all the way back, " and plaintiff "began twisting and turning" and saying that they were hurting him although he was complying with them. Conti "tried to take [plaintiff] down to the ground" and Wallace punched him on the right side of his face with a closed fist. Id. Plaintiff at that point stated, "Wallace you a dead bitch for assaulting me in my face. I know how to find you." Compl., first unnumbered p. following 5. Plaintiff was taken to the ground and shackles were placed on his feet "due to [him] kicking [his] feet around, " and he was placed in a cell alone. Id. Cpl. Wallace "took out a criminal street charge on" plaintiff for obstruction of justice and threatening her with bodily harm; that charge later was nolle prosequi at the request of the Virginia Beach Commonwealth Attorney's Office so the it could be re-filed as a felony, and plaintiff was served with an indictment on May 21, 2016. Id.

         Plaintiff has attached several exhibits to the complaint. Among them is an Incident Summary prepared by Cpl. Wallace which reflects the following:

Inmate Williams was originally removed from B2F1 because he feared for his life from the entire block. Inmate Williams described a few inmates in the block, but could not list any names. After review of inmate Williams's housing and classification history, it was determined that inmate Williams was block-shopping, and it was confirmed when I went to talk with him, and within the first couple of sentences, he was asking to be returned to A3K so he wouldn't have any more problems because they all got along. Inmate Williams was going to be rehoused on B1 st until he began to threaten Sergeant Conti and I. Inmate Williams tried to break away from our control and repeatedly threatened us as well as telling us to let go of him because it hurt. Once on C3rd, inmate Williams had to be taken to the ground because he began to kick and pull away. Once in C3F CA318, inmate Williams was taken to the ground again. He again began threatening the staff saying, "Just wait until I get out on the street, " "I only have 6 months left, " "When I get out, I'm gonna kill you all, " "I gotta get out sometime, " "I'll smoke all yall, " and "Wallace you a dead woman bitch, I know how to find you." Just to name a few threats. When we left C3F, we were called back because inmate Williams had tied a jumpsuit loosely around his neck and had placed the mat against the door. Inmate Williams was removed from CA318 and placed in C A319 via cell extraction and placed on suicide precautions without further incident.

Compl., Att.3, Incident Summary 3/17/16. The report indicates plaintiff was sanctioned with 56 days restricted housing and 56 days suspended as a result of the incident.

         The named defendants in this lawsuit are Cpl. Wallace and Sgt. Conti. Plaintiff asserts three claims: (1) assault against Cpl. Wallace based upon her punch to his face; (2) excessive force against both Sgt. Conti and Cpl. Wallace for violently and unnecessarily twisting his handcuffed arms behind his back even though he was "completely complying;" and (3) harassment against Cpl. Wallace for "continuing to pick with [him]." Compl., second unnumbered p. following 5.[2] As relief, plaintiff seeks monetary damages and "to have [his] 8 years of probation reduced to 6 months to 1 years." Id.

         I.

         In reviewing a complaint pursuant to § 1915A, a court must dismiss a prisoner complaint that is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). Whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted is determined by "the familiar standard for a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)." Sumner v. Tucker. 9 F.Supp.2d 641, 642 (E.D. Va. 1998). Thus, the alleged facts are presumed true, and the complaint should be dismissed only when "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding. 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. -, -, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. However, "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to meet this standard, id, and a plaintiffs "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level...". Twombly, 550 U.S. at 55.

         Courts may also consider exhibits attached to the complaint. United States ex rel. Constructors. Inc. v. Gulf Ins. Co.. 313 F.Supp.2d 593, 596 (E.D. Va. 2004) (citing 5 A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357, at 299 (2d ed.1990), cited with approval in Anheuser-Busch v. Schmoke. 63 F.3d 1305, 1312 (4th Cir.1995)). Moreover, where a conflict exists between "the bare allegations of the complaint and any attached exhibit, the exhibit prevails." Gulf Ins. Co.. 313 F.Supp. 2d. at 596 (citing Fayetteville Investors v. Commercial Builders. Inc.. 936 F.2d 1462, 1465 (4th Cir.1991)).

         III.

         Turning first to plaintiffs claim that defendants applied excessive force during the incident at issue, to state an Eighth Amendment claim an inmate must demonstrate that '"the prison official acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind (subjective component) and... the deprivation suffered or injury inflicted on the inmate was sufficiently serious (objective component).'" Iko v. Shreve. 535 F.3d 225, 238 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Williams v. Benjamin. 77 F.3d 756, 761 (4th Cir. 1996)).[3] To satisfy the objective component, the plaintiff must show that the "nature" or amount of force employed "was nontrivial." Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34 (2010). The subjective component turns on whether the inmate can demonstrate "'wantonness in the infliction of pain."' Iko, 535 F.3d at 239 (quoting Whitley v. Albers. 475 U.S. 312, 322 (1986)). The "core judicial inquiry" in making such a determination is "whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson v. McMillian. 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992); see also. Whitley, 475 U.S. at 320-21. "When prison officials maliciously and sadistically use force to cause harm, contemporary standards of decency always are violated ... whether or not significant injury is evident." Hudson. 503 U.S. at 9. The extent of injury suffered by the inmate is relevant to the Eighth Amendment inquiry, both because it may suggest whether the use of force could plausibly have been thought necessary in a particular situation, Whitley. 475 U.S. at 321, and because it may provide some indication of the amount of force applied. Wilkins. 130 S.Ct. at 1178. (rejecting the notion that an excessive force claim involving only de minimis injury is subject to automatic dismissal). Nonetheless, "[i]njury and force ... are only imperfectly correlated, and it is the latter that ultimately counts." Id. at 1178-79.

         Satisfaction of the objective component in a successful Eighth Amendment claim is less demanding relative to the subjective component. Williams. 77 F.3d at 761. Here, plaintiff alleges that he suffered pain when defendants squeezed his arms and twisted the handcuffs he was wearing, and that he has a scar on his face from a ring Cpl. Wallace was wearing when she punched him. For purposes of this analysis, it will be assumed that these injuries when taken in the light ...


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