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Cannon v. Hull

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

January 24, 2017

Jamar A. Cannon, Plaintiff,
v.
Edward Hull, et a., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Leonie M. Brinkema, United States District Judge

         Jamar A. Cannon filed this pro se civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants Superintendent Edward Hull, Major Phyllis Back, Chief of Security Darryl Turner, Captain Hickey, Officer D. Lubeke, Officer Stephan, Sergeant Berry, and Director Michelle Lewis violated his constitutional rights at the Northern Neck Regional Jail (NNRJ). Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as well as memoranda of law with supporting exhibits. [Dkt. Nos. 29, 30.] After having been granted an extension of time to respond, plaintiff has responded to defendants' motion [Dkt. No. 45] and this matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons discussed below, defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted as to Claims One through Four and these claims will be dismissed, with prejudice. As to Claim Five, defendants will be directed to provide supplemental briefing. Finally, plaintiffs pending discovery motions will be denied and all other pending motions will be denied as moot.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff was transferred to the NNRJ by the United States Marshal Service in June 2011. Supt. Hull Aff., ¶ 5. During this time, plaintiff has been assigned to various forms of restrictive housing, including administrative segregation and, at times, the more restrictive punitive segregation. Id. ¶ 8. His administrative records from NNRJ demonstrate that plaintiff is "[u]nable to adapt to life in general population" and has routinely been placed in administrative segregation for the "safety and security of the institution." Defs. SJ Mot. at Ex. 1(a), 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. The bases for these conclusions are well documented.

         In September 2011, plaintiff met with the prison therapist who wrote that plaintiff was having auditory hallucinations and making veiled threats. Id. at 20. On June 14, 2013, after plaintiff was moved to E-pod, he was placed on suicide watch after he became angry about the transfer and threatened to kill himself. Id. at 21. In September 2015, officers discovered a pocket knife and two pens hidden in plaintiffs cell and he was cited with disobeying a direct order, possession of a weapon, and possession of contraband. Id. at 26.

         Plaintiff was placed on suicide watch a second time on June 24, 2016 after he threatened to kill himself based on persistent complaints about his food. Id. at 22. The evening before, plaintiff began making suicidal threats and resisted attempts to transport him for suicide watch: he covered the window to his cell, refused to allow officers to handcuff him, jammed his cell door shut, and ran out of his cell as the officers entered behind protective shields. Id. at 31. When he was finally taken to the medical wing, plaintiff "threatened to harm himself and damage jail property" and was placed in a restraint chair for several hours. Id. at 18.

         Four days later, on June 28, 2016, plaintiff asked to see the therapist again and told him he planned to act out if he was not provided with his grandmother's obituary, to which he had previously been denied access. Id. at 23. The following month, he met with the therapist again complaining of "anxiety with increased energy, increased anger/agitation, ... decreased sleep, and ... a lot of psychomotor movements." Id. at 24. Plaintiff agreed to start taking Wellbutrin, an antidepressant. Id.

         Plaintiff asserts five separate claims in his amended complaint. The disputed and undisputed facts, as they relate to each claim, are as follows.

         A. Claim One

         In Claim One, plaintiff alleges that Officer Lubeke used excessive force. Amend. Compl. at § IV. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that on July 18, 2012, he was handcuffed behind his back and placed in shackles (per his housing unit's policy) by Officer Stephan before being escorted to meet his attorney. Id. As he was about to enter the "Attorney booths" he passed Officer Lubeke, the two exchanged words, and Officer Lubeke "proceeded to[] bull rush [plaintiff) with rage and hurtful/forceful intent." Id. Officer Lubeke then "grabbed the locks of [plaintiffs] dreaded hair and proceeded to slam [plaintiffs] head and body from wall to wall all while [plaintiff was] screaming in pain stop, your [sic] hurting me get him Stephan." Id. Plaintiff claims that he had blood running down his neck and out of his ears, and that Officer Lubeke pulled the root of his hair out of his head, causing it to bleed. LI Plaintiff attempted to file criminal charges, but was "told by Captain Hickey and Superintendent Hull [that he had] no right to file charges" and that it was up to Superintendent Hull to do so. Id. Finally, plaintiff claims that, rather than officer Lubeke being charged with assault, plaintiff was thrown into solitary confinement for assaulting Officer Lubeke. Id. Defendants do not dispute any of these allegations, but as discussed below, they argue that this claim is time-barred.

         B. Claim Two

         In Claim Two plaintiff alleges he suffered cruel and unusual punishment at the direction of Superintendent Hull, Major Back, and Captain Turner, when he was forced to take showers while handcuffed and shackled "like a slave and less of a human being" during a 30-49 day period. Id. The following facts are undisputed. While incarcerated at NNRJ, plaintiff has been assigned to restricted housing due to his inability to adapt to and maintain life in NNRJ's general population. Amend. Compl.; Defs. SJ Mot. at Ex. 1. While plaintiff was in punitive segregation he was allowed to leave his cell on Mondays and Fridays to take a shower, but he was placed in handcuffs and shackles when transported to the shower areas. Id; Defs. SJ Mot. at Ex. 3. On October 20, 2015, and October 28, 2015, plaintiff filed grievances related to the requirement that he wear handcuffs and shackles in the shower. Defs. SJ Mot. at Ex. 1 (b). Plaintiff was told that "the jail has taken the necessary security measures in regards to [his] recent behavior" including his "disciplinary charge and statements in reference to threats to staff." Id. Plaintiff appealed the grievance to which Major Back responded that plaintiffs "position on how [his] one hour out of [his] cell and [his] shower should be provided is self-perceived, partially informed and consequently [illegible] and inaccurate statement." Id. Plaintiff appealed again and on November 23, 2015, Superintendent Hull responded that he "modified this requirement." Amend. Compl. According to plaintiff, that modification was that he only wore handcuffs in the shower. Id.

          It remains disputed as to whether plaintiff was taken to the shower naked and why plaintiff was treated the way he was. Plaintiff alleges that he was forced to get "butt naked" in his cell, after which he would be cuffed and shackled, and then he would "proceed to the shower, " walking past other inmates "with all [his] private parts exposed." Id. Some officers and inmates would make comments and laugh at and taunt plaintiff as he walked to the shower naked. Id. In addition, the handcuffs and shackles caused plaintiff "mental, emotional and physical stress pains and swellings of the wrist, and ankles." Id. Plaintiff asserts that he "did nothing to warrant this cruel [and] unusual punishment and this is not a legal punishment to be brought upon any human being incarcerated period." Id. More specifically, plaintiff states that he had no disciplinary charges filed against him from October 2014 to September 2015, and he was employed in a position of trust as a barber at NNRJ. Pl. S J Opp. at 4. Finally, plaintiff alleges that Major Back "endorses slavery and slavery tactics in dealing with African-Americans and others of different cultures other than caucassion [sic]." Amend. Compl. at § IV.

         Defendants, on the other hand, state that plaintiff was never "escorted, while naked, to the showers." Defs. SJ Mot. at Ex. 1(a), 3. Further, plaintiffs contemporaneously filed grievance forms, dated October 10, October 20, October 28 and October 30, 2015 complain about the handcuffs and make no mention of being forced to walk to the showers naked. Defs. SJ Mot. at Ex. 1(b), 2-5. In addition, defendants assert that, for the majority of his time at NNRJ, plaintiff was either in administrative segregation or punitive segregation because he was "unable to adapt" to the general prison population. Id. Defendants assert that the restrictions placed on plaintiff were a result of his ongoing history of threatening to damage jail property and/or to harm himself or others, conducting illegal activity, inciting riots, and generally being combative, disrespectful or threatening to jail staff." Id. at Ex. 2.

         To support this proposition, defendants attached reports from plaintiffs jail record showing that he reported hearing command voices and "made a few veiled threats" to a therapist on September 16, 2011; an inmate suicide assessment was performed on plaintiff on June 14, 2013; on September 30, 2015, plaintiff was found to have contraband in his cell and he was taken to administrative segregation; he was charged with making "verbal threats to do bodily harm to officers" on December 18, 2015; and that he was pepper sprayed for failing to obey orders after threatening to kill himself and covering his cell window, and he was then placed in a restraint chair for "threatening to harm himself and damage j ail property" on June 23, 2016. Id. at Ex. 1 (a)

         C. Claim Three

         In Claim Three, plaintiff asserts a claim of cruel and unusual punishment based on conditions of confinement related to being forced to eat food in the poor conditions of the gym and the conditions of solitary confinement in which plaintiff was placed for refusing to eat in the gym. It is undisputed that, on June 17, 2015, plaintiff and the other inmates in his pod had to eat lunch in the gym while their pod was undergoing maintenance. Amend. Compl; Defs. S J Mot. at Ex. 1 (c). An incident report from that day reflects that, after the "C pod inmates which [sic] were in the gym at the time for maintenance work, refused their lunch trays" prison officials placed chairs in the gym and opened the bathroom doors so that the inmates could wash their hands. Defs. SJ Mot. at Ex. 1 (c). "Officer Campbell offered them their trays again and they refused." Id. Officer Burrell went to the gym to offer the inmates their trays, at which point plaintiff stated "'we have the right to eat in sanitary conditions, get the major in here.'" Id. Captain Turner ordered that plaintiff be removed from the gym and taken to segregation. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that the gym has "no ventilation system, no running water (because the bathroom stays locked), urine in the water fountain ... blood on the floor and walls and filth." Amend. Compl. at § IV. He also states that the cell he was placed in once in solitary confinement had "no mirror, no sprinkler system, urine/feces on the walls, roof leaking when it rains, etc." Id. Plaintiff "endured these harsh conditions for over 30 days and became mentally [and] emotionally exhausted [and] stressed out." Id. He was eventually moved to general population. Id.

         Defendants claim that plaintiff was "attempt[ing] to incite riotous behavior by refusing to accept his lunch tray in the gym. Plaintiff was removed from the gym at that time and the other inmates had no ...


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