United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
DePaola, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Eric DePaola, an inmate proceeding pro se, filed
this prisoner civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc to
2000cc-5. DePaola alleges that more than two dozen prison
officials have violated his rights related to outdoor
recreation, religious dietary beliefs, or disciplinary
proceedings. After review of DePaola's submissions, I
conclude that this action must be summarily dismissed.
is incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison (“Red
Onion”) in Pound, Virginia, where the alleged
violations occurred. Liberally construed, his Complaint
alleges four unrelated and improperly joined claims.
first complains generally about outside recreation procedures
and conditions for segregation inmates like himself. He
alleges that Virginia Department of Corrections
(“VDOC”) and Red Onion policies call for officers
each morning “to make a verbal announcement that the
rec/shower list is being taken & make rounds at each
prisoner's cell to take up this list marking accept
and/or refuse.” Compl. ¶ 34, ECF No. 1. He
contends that policy requires approval from a supervisor to
change this list.
recreation procedures require the inmate to remove his
clothes, place them in the tray box to be searched, perform a
visual body cavity search, retrieve his clothes, and redress.
Officers then handcuff and shackle the inmate and escort him
to a recreation cage. These cages do not include bathrooms,
drinking water, or recreation equipment. DePaola alleges that
the cages are often contaminated with feces, urine and other
substances from previous inmates, birds or insects. Poor
drainage and maintenance of the cages often allegedly result
in standing water, snow or ice, and inmates allegedly do not
always receive weather-appropriate outdoor clothing.
alleges that defendants Large, Messer, Hall, Dickenson and
Sheperd (“the Sergeants”) “rarely follow
protocol in re to taking the rec list & often engage in
tactics to trick, extort &/or den[y] a prisoner's rec
(including pl.).” Id. at ¶ 46. He asserts
that he “has been extorted &/or denied
(unjustifiably) via other means his rec” by the
Sergeants “at one point in time or another.”
Id. at ¶ 47.
also complains that defendants Steavens, Stanley, Fleming,
Lovell, Hill, Vaughn, Dodson, and Gentry (“the
Guards”) “also engage in tactics to trick, extort
or otherwise unjustifiably den[y] a prisoner his rec. (incl.
pl.).” Id. at ¶ 48. He asserts that these
Guards “engage in harassment [sic] (sexual &/or
other) while conducting the pre rec. strip search &/or
during escorting said prisoner to the rec. area (including
pl.).” Id. at ¶ 49.
states that his Muslim religious beliefs prohibit him from
ingesting animal or human waste and from ingesting any animal
products that are not prepared in a “halal”
manner. Id. at ¶ 51. He complains that when the
defendants named above fail to clean the recreation cage
before placing him in it, he sometimes “ingests”
the following items in violation of his religious beliefs:
“feces (human & bird), urine, snot, spit, dead
& alive insects, spider webs [sic], fungus, mold,
etc.” Id. at ¶¶ 54, 53.
policy allows inmates to be fined up to $15 when found guilty
of certain disciplinary infractions. Once such a penalty is
imposed on an inmate, officials immediately remove that
amount from his trust account and place it in the
“General Commisary Trust Account (GCTA) which is used
to purchase recreation equipment (inter alia).”
Id. at ¶ 58. DePaola's current
classification status does not allow him to utilize
January 15, 2016, defendant Hall charged DePaola for
possession of a weapon (a sharpened piece of metal) found by
another officer in a cell DePaola had vacated three days
earlier. On January 29, the hearing officer, defendant
Mullins, denied DePaola's written requests for witness
statements and documentation from the investigation when the
metal object was discovered. During the hearing, Mullins
refused to answer DePaola's questions regarding his
impartiality and fitness to hear the charge. Mullins also
refused DePaola's request to be cuffed in a manner that
allowed him to take notes during the hearing and denied his
request for a staff advisor to take notes for use during an
appeal. Mullins found DePaola guilty based on Hall's
testimony about how the metal object was found and imposed a
$15 fine. The fine amount was immediately removed from
DePaola's trust account that contained only money
received from his friends and family. His disciplinary
appeals to defendants Duncan and Barksdale were unsuccessful.
January 13, 2016, an official charged DePaola for disobeying
a direct order. Mullins granted DePaola's requests for
written witness statements, and the reporting officer
answered many of DePaola's 43 questions in writing.
Mullins gave DePaola these forms on February 27, and waited
only “approx. 10-15 minutes” before sending
defendant Steavens to bring DePaola to the hearing.
Id. at ¶ 85. DePaola asked Steavens to allow
him more time to review the documents, speak to his staff
advisor, and finish eating lunch. Steavens agreed, left
DePaola's cell, and started talking to Mullins at the pod
table. DePaola's staff advisor was also present. Mullins
and the advisor went into an office for a short while and
then left the pod. When Steavens later came by DePaola's
cell during his rounds, he said he had told Mullins that
DePaola had refused to go to the hearing. DePaola later
learned that Mullins ...