United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division
K. MOON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Katherine Painter alleges that she was sexually assaulted by
a guard while incarcerated at the Lynchburg Adult Detention
Center. Plaintiff brings claims under the Eighth Amendment,
through 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against: Corrections Officer
Farrar, who allegedly committed the assault; Corrections
Officer Pitts, who allegedly knew of the assault yet failed
to intervene; and the Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority
(“BRRJA”), which allegedly had policies or
customs which caused the assault.
Pitts and BRRJA have moved to dismiss the claims against
them. Defendant Pitts’ motion will be granted because
Plaintiff has not asserted adequate factual allegations to
support the legal conclusion that Pitts knew sexual assault
was being committed. Thus, Pitts is entitled to qualified
immunity on the basis that failing to intervene to prevent
sexual acts (as opposed to sexual assault) between a guard
and inmate is not a clearly established constitutional
violation. Defendant BRRJA’s motion will be granted
because the BRRJA is not subject to suit under 42 U.S.C.
Facts as Alleged
Painter was an inmate at the Lynchburg Adult Detention
Center, which is operated by Defendant BRRJA. (Dkt. 1
¶¶ 16, 9). Defendant Timothy Farrar was a
Corrections Officer who worked a night shift at the intake
department of the Detention Center. (Id. ¶ 17).
In this role, Farrar would threaten to take away
Plaintiff’s blanket and withhold snacks from her unless
she showed him her naked body. (Id. ¶¶
21–22). Farrar would also stand outside
Plaintiff’s cell and watch her use the toilet.
(Id. ¶ 23).
viewed Plaintiff’s medical file and learned that she
had a gastrointestinal disorder that required medication.
(Id. ¶¶ 24, 26). Normally, this medication
was brought by nursing staff. (Id. ¶ 25). On
April 24, 2015, Plaintiff asked for medication to treat
gastrointestinal pain, and it was brought to her by Farrar
instead of the normal nursing staff. (Id.
¶¶ 28, 29). Farrar told Plaintiff he would not give
her the medication unless she would perform oral sex on him.
(Id. ¶ 31). After initially refusing, Plaintiff
eventually agreed to do so because her gastrointestinal
issues were so intense. (Id. ¶¶
32–35). Plaintiff stopped performing oral sex because
she began to feel very ill. (Id. ¶ 36). Records
indicate that Plaintiff’s cell door remained open for
over nine minutes after Farrar initially entered.
(Id. ¶ 40).
incident was noticed by another defendant, Corrections
Officer Pitts. Pitts was sitting at a nearby desk using a
computer, and saw Farrar enter and exit Plaintiff’s
cell. (Id. ¶¶ 42, 43). Pitts raised his
head and looked in the direction of Plaintiff’s cell
upon hearing a sexually suggestive noise coming from the
cell. (Id. ¶ 44). Another inmate in a nearby
cell, Jamarcus Butler, heard “lip smacking
noises” coming from the cell while Farrar was inside.
(Id. ¶ 41). Butler confronted Farrar about what
he heard, stating his belief that Farrar had engaged in
sexual activity with Plaintiff and that Farrar “should
be ashamed of himself.” (Id. ¶48).
second incident occurred on May 2, 2015. Farrar again entered
Plaintiff’s cell and threatened to withhold her
gastrointestinal medication unless she performed oral sex on
him. (Id. ¶ 56). When Plaintiff responded that
she had had a dental procedure that same day, Farrar forced
vaginal intercourse instead. (Id. ¶¶
57–60). Approximately two days later, Farrar again
approached Plaintiff about oral sex, but she refused.
(Id. ¶ 68).
5, 2015, a Sergeant Polk sent an internal memorandum stating
that he was aware that intake officers had been granting
“special privileges” to Plaintiff and having
“long conversations” with her. (Id.
¶ 71). Farrar at several points intimated to Plaintiff
that she would face reprisals if she reported any of his
conduct to authorities. (Id. ¶¶ 72, 74).
Despite these threats, Plaintiff reached out, both orally and
in writing, to several other Correctional Officers about
Farrar. (Id. ¶¶ 75, 77). These requests
were either refused or ignored, and one request was shared
with Farrar. (Id. ¶¶ 75, 79, 80).
8, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Prison Rape
Elimination Act hotline to report the sexual assaults.
(Id. ¶ 82). Three days later, Plaintiff was
transferred to the Amherst Regional Jail Authority.
(Id. ¶ 83). The Lynchburg Police Department
opened an investigation into Plaintiff’s allegations,
and interviewed Farrar on May 13th. (Id.
¶¶ 84, 85).
admitted in the interview to having sexual relations with
Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 85). Farrar also stated that
he knew of other corrections officers having sexual contact
with inmates. (Id. ¶ 87). Another inmate had
complained of a prior instance of sexual harassment with
Farrar in December of 2014, alleging that he asked her to
unzip her jacket to show him a tattoo on her stomach, as a
form of “flashing.” (Id. ¶¶
Standard of Review
ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept as true all
of the factual allegations contained in the complaint and
draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff.” Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep’t,
Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., Md., 684 F.3d 462, 467 (4th
Cir. 2012); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the
grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Stated
differently, in order to survive a motion to dismiss,
“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. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).