United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
SUCRE G. FIGUEREO-MEJIA, Plaintiff,
BENJAMIN LOKEY, et al., Defendants.
C. Hoppe United States Magistrate Judge
Sucre G. Figuereo-Mejia, a Virginia prisoner appearing pro
se, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that six correctional officials violated his rights under the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution. Compl., ECF No. 1. Defendants filed a motion
for summary judgment on all claims, ECF No. 21, which has
been fully briefed, ECF Nos. 22, 26. The motion will be
granted in part and judgment entered in the individual
Defendants’ favor. Figuereo-Mejia’s claim for
retrospective injunctive relief will be dismissed without
Standard of Review
relevant inquiry” at summary judgment “is
‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is
so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of
law.’” Gordon v. Schilling, __F.3d __,
___ (4th Cir. 2019) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251–52 (1986)). “The
moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ”
Appalachian Power Co. v. Arthur, 39 F.Supp.3d 790,
796 (W.D. Va. 2014), by “pointing out to the district
court . . . an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party’s case, ” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the party makes
that showing, the nonmoving party must then produce
admissible evidence showing a specific material fact
genuinely in dispute.Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), (e); see Scott
v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Bouchat v.
Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522
(4th Cir. 2003). Facts are “material” when they
“might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law, ” and a “genuine” dispute
exists when “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A court making this
determination does not weigh evidence, consider credibility,
or resolve disputed issues-it decides only whether the facts
and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveal a genuine
dispute of material fact for trial. See Tolan v.
Cotton, 572 U.S. 650, 656–57 (2014); JKC
Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc., 264
F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001).
a prison discipline case. It started on August 1, 2016, when
Defendants M. Slagle and T. Gideos searched
Figuereo-Mejia’s cell at Augusta Correctional Center
(“ACC”). Compl. 2–3. Slagle
“found an oatmeal box with 11 individually wrapped and
2 unwrapped unknown sticky substances.” Id. at
3. Figuereo-Mejia explained they were “coffee shots . .
. from [a] yellow bag of coffee sitting on the desk” in
his cell. Compl. Ex. 26, Aff. of S. Figuereo-Mejia ¶ 2
(June 12, 2018), ECF No. 1-1, at 41. When Slagle asked why
“‘it look[ed] like that, ’”
Figuereo-Mejia said he thought “the moisture in the
cell ma[de] the coffee stick together.” Id.
Slagle confiscated the box’s contents. Id.
¶ 3; see Compl. Ex. 2, ECF No. 1-1, at
hours later, Figuereo-Mejia was escorted to a meeting with
Defendant Benjamin Lokey, an ACC’s Institutional
Investigator. Figuereo-Mejia Aff. ¶ 4; see
Compl. 3; Defs.’ Br. in Supp. Ex. 1, Aff. of B. Lokey
¶ 1 (Feb. 25, 2019), ECF No. 22-1. Lokey read
Figuereo-Mejia his Miranda rights before asking him
about the suspicious substance. Figuereo-Mejia Aff. ¶ 4.
He “told him that it was just coffee.”
Id. Figuereo-Mejia recalled Lokey saying that he
conducted a [f]ield [t]est on the coffee and it showed
positive for amphetamines. He also told [Figuereo-Mejia] that
[he] better tell him what it was and where [he] got it from
because [Lokey] was going to find out anyways by sending it
to the lab. . . . Lokey insisted that the coffee was a drug
even though [Figuereo-Mejia] told him that it was just
Id. ¶¶ 6, 8. Figuereo-Mejia was
immediately moved to administrative segregation. Id.
¶ 8; Compl. 3–4; Compl. Ex. 1, ECF No. 1-1, at 3.
On August 2, he received a Disciplinary Offense Report
charging him with “Possession of Unauthorized or
Un-prescribed Drugs” in violation of prison policy.
Figuereo-Mejia Aff. ¶ 8; see Compl. Ex. 2, at
4–5. The charge was based on Slagle’s report that
“Lokey arrived and field tested the substance, ”
which “tested positive for amphetamines.” Compl.
Ex. 2, at 4–5.
next day, Figuereo-Mejia submitted a Witness Request Form
asking Lokey, Gideos, and three inmates to provide statements
about the incident. Compl. Ex. 3, ECF No. 1-1, at 8.
Defendant T. Hostetter granted Figuereo-Mejia’s request
for the two staff witnesses, but she denied his request for
inmate statements attesting that the “found substance
is just coffee.” Id. Gideos recalled the
substance “smelled like coffee and was sticky.”
Compl. Ex. 4, ECF No. 1-1, at 9. Lokey stated that on August
1, 2016, he “tested the [b]lack tar substance”
and the “[f]ield test showed positive for
[a]mphetamine.” Compl. Ex. 5, ECF No. 1-1, at 10. Lokey
had asked Figuereo-Mejia “why it was packaged like it
was, ” to which Figuereo-Mejia responded,
“that’s just [his] routine.” Id.
(spelling and punctuation corrected). According to Lokey,
Figuereo-Mejia was “unable to tell [Lokey] anything
about the substance or where [he] got it.” Id.
held a formal disciplinary hearing on August 15, 2016.
See Defs.’ Br. in Supp. Ex. 2, Aff. of T.
Hostetter ¶ 8 (Feb. 25, 2019), ECF No. 22-2, at 3.
Figuereo-Mejia, Lokey, and Slagle testified at the hearing.
Id. Lokey provided a photograph of the confiscated
packets, Figuereo-Mejia Aff. ¶ 13; see
Defs.’ Br. in Supp. Ex. 2, at 49, but “no
pictures [were] taken of the field test” or its
results. Hostetter Aff. ¶ 8. Hostetter denied
Figuereo-Mejia’s request that Lokey produce “a
copy of the [f]ield [t]est . . . show[ing] that the substance
found tested positive for amphetamines, ”
Figuereo-Mejia Aff. ¶ 13, because that information
“was restricted for offender access, ” Hostetter
Aff. ¶ 8. See Compl. Ex. 6, ECF No. 1-1, at 11.
found Figuereo-Mejia guilty of possessing unauthorized drugs
based on Slagle’s and Lokey’s “eye witness
testimony” that the substance “field tested . . .
positive for amphetamine, ” along with
Figuereo-Mejia’s admission that the substance belonged
to him. Compl. Ex. 2, at 6. She rejected
Figuereo-Mejia’s testimony that it “was coffee[,
] not amphetamine, ” because he “produced no
evidence” that either corroborated this alternative
explanation or contradicted “the positive field test or
the reporting officer’s testimony.” Id.
Hostetter sentenced Figuereo-Mejia to thirty days in
segregation plus “[n]on-contact visits with immediate
family only for six months.” Id.
Figuereo-Mejia returned to ACC’s general population on
September 8, 2016. See Compl. 11 (citing Compl. Ex.
19, ECF No. 1-1, at 26). Defendants John Woodson and Marcus
Elam later upheld the disciplinary conviction on appeal.
Compl. Exs. 11 to 14, ECF No. 1-1, at 17–21.
August, ACC’s Institutional Classification Authority
(“ICA”) increased Figuereo-Mejia’s security
level and recommended that he be transferred to a more secure
facility. See Compl. 7. The ICA also reduced
Figuereo-Mejia’s “Good Time Level, ” which
extended his “projected release date from 09/08/2026 .
. . to 01/24/2028.” Id.; see Id . at
21. Both adjustments were based on the drug conviction.
See Id . at 7. Around the same time, Figuereo-Mejia
filed an informal complaint asking whether “the coffee
that was found in [his] cell . . . [was] sent to the lab for
an analysis, ” and, if so, “what [was] going on
with it.” Compl. Ex. 15, ECF No. 1-1, at 22 (emphasis
omitted). An ACC officer responded that “[it] takes 6
to 9 months for the results to come back.” Id.
at 22–23. Woodson provided the same estimate in
response to Figuereo-Mejia’s regular grievance. Compl.
Ex. 17, ECF No. 1-1, at 24.
sent the field test’s results to Virginia’s State
Consolidated Laboratory “to be validated, ” as is
required before the Commonwealth can file criminal charges
against a prisoner. Lokey Aff. ¶ 4. The
“verified” results showed that the substance
“was coffee, and not amphetamines.” Id.
¶ 5. Lokey “immediately notified”
ACC’s Operations Manager, id., who relayed the
news to Figuereo-Mejia on June 9, 2017, see Compl.
Ex. 23, ECF No. 1-1, at 37. On June 29, Woodson overturned
the conviction “based on information received from . .
. Lokey that the substance was not unauthorized or
unprescribed.” Compl. Ex. 24, ECF No. 1-1, at 38. A few
weeks later, Figuereo-Mejia’s “good time earning
level was adjusted from Class Level IV to Class Level I (the
highest earning level) for the period of August 3, 2016,
through his next annual review of May 31, 2017.”
Defs.’ Br. in Supp. Ex. 3, Aff. of T. Lawhorn ...