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Wesley v. Fritzges

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

November 15, 2019

DEMOSTHENESE ANTWYAN WESLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER TRAVIS FRITZGES, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Demosthenese Antwyan Wesley, a former Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, [1]filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, complaining that jail officials used excessive force against him, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. After review of the record, the court concludes that the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the ground that Wesley failed to exhaust available administrative remedies before filing suit.

         I.

         In July of 2018, Wesley was confined at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center (“NRADC”) in Winchester, Virginia. On July 11, 2018, he refused to comply with officers' orders to be handcuffed and pack up his property.[2] A lieutenant “warned of consequences” as she left the area. Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. Wesley packed his things and placed them on his bunk. The lieutenant returned with staff and sprayed pepper spray into Wesley's cell. In response, Wesley “immediately layed [sic] on the floor crossed [his] legs and placed [his] hands behind [his] back.” Id. While he was “prone, ” staff rushed into the cell, used force to place him in handcuffs, and removed him from the cell. Id. Wesley “blacked out” and came to in the restraint chair. Id.

         In Wesley's § 1983 complaint, he alleges that:

(1) During a cell extraction Officer Travis Fritzges assaulted me while I lay prone giving no resistance. Also sexually assaulting me probing my anal area with his finger with my jumpsuit on saying “We run the shit bitch” in an aggressive manner.
(2) During a cell extraction Sergeant Jason Harding brutally assaulted me while I lay prone giving no resistance causing facial bruising, lacerations, and chipping my front tooth beyond recognition.

Id. at 2. As relief, Wesley seeks monetary damages.[3]

         The defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Wesley's claims should be dismissed because he failed to exhaust administrative remedies before filing this lawsuit. Wesley has responded, [4] making the motion ripe for disposition.

         II.

         An award of summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). For a party's evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to avoid summary judgment, it must be “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In making this determination, “the court is required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994). When a motion for summary judgment is properly supported by affidavits, the nonmoving party may not rest on the mere allegations; rather, he must respond by affidavits or specific facts that support a finding in his favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57.

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), a prisoner cannot bring a civil action concerning prison conditions until he has first exhausted available administrative remedies. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).[5] This exhaustion requirement is “mandatory, ” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016), and “applies to all inmate suits about prison life.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). To comply with § 1997e(a), an inmate must follow each step of the established grievance procedure that the facility provides to prisoners and meet all deadlines within that procedure. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-94 (2006). Even if the particular form of relief the inmate desires is not available under the facility's administrative procedure, the inmate must, nevertheless, properly exhaust all available remedies under that procedure before bringing a civil action in this court. Porter, 534 U.S. at 524.

         The defendants bear the burden of proving the affirmative defense that Wesley failed to exhaust available administrative remedies regarding his claims before filing suit. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 212 (2007). Once they have done so, Wesley may yet escape summary judgment under § 1997e(a) if he states facts showing that the remedies under the established grievance procedure were not “available” to him. Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1859 (noting that circumstances making prison grievance procedures unavailable “will not often arise”). Generally, “an administrative remedy is not considered to have been available if a prisoner, through no fault of his own, was prevented from availing himself of it.” Moore v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 725 (4th Cir. 2008).

         In support of the defendants' motion, they offer undisputed evidence that the NRADC has an established Inmate Grievance Procedure that provides inmates the opportunity to formally submit complaints regarding their treatment or NRADC policy. When an inmate is booked into NRADC, he receives a copy of the inmate handbook, ...


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