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Lonewolf v. Garrett

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

March 30, 2017

JOHN E. LONEWOLF, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. STEVE GARRETT, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Robert S. Ballou United States Magistrate Judge.

         John E. Lonewolf, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a verified Complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff pursues claims of deliberate indifference of another inmate attacking Plaintiff at the Rockbridge Regional Jail (“Jail”) against Jail Superintendent John Higgins and Jail Sergeant Steve Garrett.[1] The court previously denied defendants' motion for summary judgment without prejudice and referred the dispositive issue to me for a report and recommendation because additional factual development was necessary to ascertain whether Sgt. Garrett had a sufficiently culpable state of mind amount to deliberate indifference. I conducted an evidentiary hearing on the issue, and, thereafter, the district judge approved the parties' consent to me exercising the court's jurisdiction over this matter, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73(a). Based on the evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing, the complaint, and the evidence filed in support of defendants' earlier motion for summary judgment, I conclude that a trial is necessary to resolve disputes of material fact about whether Sgt. Garrett exhibited deliberate indifference. However, Plaintiff fails to establish any claim against Superintendent Higgins.

         I.

         The record reveals the following facts. On October 30, 2012, Sgt. Garrett booked Lonewolf into the Jail at approximately 10:40 a.m. using Lonewolf's birth name, Earl Giger, and noted in the booking computer that Lonewolf was a convicted sex offender.[2] Sgt. Garrett assigned Lonewolf to general population, where Lonewolf had been assigned without incident during a prior stay at the Jail. Sgt. Garrett testified that Lonewolf did not raise any concern about his safety in the Jail or being housed in general population, but Lonewolf testified that he asked to not be housed in general population because he feared for his life.

         Lonewolf alleged in the Complaint that, while being booked into the Jail, Lonewolf told Sgt. Garrett that he changed his legal name from Earl Giger to John Lonewolf, and Sgt. Garrett became visibly angry when Lonewolf insisted that he be booked with his new legal name. Sgt. Garrett began calling Lonewolf all kinds of names, like “child molester, ” and, “rapist, ” while knowingly within sight and hearing of two other inmates. Sgt. Garrett began yelling that Lonewolf was a child molester, had raped a nine-year old girl and entered information into the Jail's computer system that Giger was a sex offender. The two other inmates both heard Sgt. Garrett's comments and watched Sgt. Garrett enter Lonewolf's information into the computer. Lonewolf also testified that Sgt. Garrett talked to these inmates about Plaintiff's prior name, Earl Giger. Due to these disclosures, Lonewolf told Sgt. Garrett how he now feared for his life, but Sgt. Garrett said he did not care and that nothing would happen to him in general population.

         In contrast, Sgt. Garrett explained that, except for trusties, already-booked inmates neither have access to nor are permitted around the booking desk at any time. Sgt. Garrett explained that trusties may clean the bathroom in the booking area while an officer supervises them or may resupply sheets and uniforms stored in the area. Sgt. Garrett explained that no other inmate, including trusties, was around the booking area when he booked Lonewolf into the Jail. Sgt. Garrett does not deny the allegation that he described Lonewolf's criminal history but denies that he got upset when Lonewolf insisted being booked under “Lonewolf.” Sgt. Garrett also denied being aware that Lonewolf was at risk being housed in general population, as Lonewolf requested, or that inmate Copper posed a threat to Lonewolf.

         Lonewolf entered general population, and Sgt. Garrett left the Jail when his shift ended at 2:00 p.m. At approximately 8:30 p.m., fellow inmate Joel Copper entered Lonewolf's cell and said he was sure he knew Lonewolf as “Hinger” or “Henger.” Lonewolf said his name was Lonewolf, and Copper then brutally attacked Lonewolf for about ninety minutes. Copper repeatedly demanded to know Lonewolf's real name during the attack, and Lonewolf finally relented and admitted being Earl Giger. Lonewolf was subsequently hospitalized for more than three months due to multiple, significant facial fractures, broken ribs, and intestinal injuries.[3]

         Although Copper had attacked at least one other inmate at the Jail previously, Sgt. Garrett denied knowing of the attack. Inmate Copper testified that Sgt. Garrett said while he booked Cooper into the Jail,

“[D]on't give us no trouble unless we put you around a child molester. . . .” And he winked at me. I said, “Mr. Garret, please don't put me around nobody like that. When I was in the jail before in 2009, they put a guy in my cell, same situation. We didn't get into a fight to this extent, but he had to get out of the cell with me because of . . . stuff that happened to me when I was a child. I can't be housed around somebody like that.”
I made it very clear to Sgt. Steve Garrett why. He apologized to me, and he said he didn't know that about [me] and he said, “You don't have to worry about that happening.” Well, they put a[n accused child molester] back there three days prior to putting Mr. Lonewolf back there that had some crazy charges, and I told Steve Garrett . . ., “[L]ook man, you got to get me out of here or get him out of here.” He removed the guy. There was no physical altercation. I went to Sgt.
Steve Garrett [and] said, “[P]lease man, don't house me around people like that. I don't care if you got to put me in seg[regation, ] just don't house me around people like that.”
Well, three or four days later, they put Mr. Lonewolf in there. When Sgt. Garrett put him in there before he opened the gate and let him in, he said, “I got one for you-all, ” and was laughing and put him in there. That kind of raused our suspicions so, of course, phone calls were made to check his record and we found out . . . or things were found out . . . . I feel like he was put in there intentionally by Sgt. Steve Garrett so that something would happen.
. . . I made it very clear, “Please don't house me around people like that . . . .” I think he did it on purpose knowing that something would erupt.
I got in a fight [in 2009] with [a child molester]. It wasn't to the extent of this [attack on Lonewolf], but I did get in a fight with him and when Sergeant Steve Garrett came back and got hi, they were laughing about it [and] asked why this happened. I said, “You know why it happened. Please don't house me around people like that, ” and his words were, “Don't worry about it. We will say that he fell down the steps, ” and I got in no ...

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