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Lee v. Tinerella

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

October 18, 2017

GREGORY LEE, Plaintiff,
ROBERT TINERELLA et al., Defendants.



         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim against Defendants Perez, Mote, Robinson, Vroman, Young, Simpson, Davids, and Trierweiler. The Court will serve the complaint against Defendants Tinerella, Buchin, Rose, Spitzley, and Piggot.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Gregory Lee presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF), though the actions about which he complains occurred while he was housed at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC). He sues the following IBC officials: Correctional Officers Robert Tinerella, (unknown) Rose, (unknown) Spitzley, and (unknown) Piggot; Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor (ARUS) Jared Buchin; Sergeant Victoria Perez; Resident Unit Manager (RUM) R. Mote; Step-I Grievance Coordinator M. Robinson; Step-II Grievance Coordinator Mitch Vroman; CPC Manager B. Young; Mail Room Officer B. Simpson; Deputy Warden John Davids; and Warden Trierweiler.

         Shortly before March 12, 2016, Plaintiff assisted another prisoner, Anthony Baldwin, to file a grievance against Defendant Tinerella for allegedly harassing and degrading Baldwin. On March 12, 2016, at 10:00 a.m., Defendant Tinerella came from his own unit into Plaintiff's housing unit, demanding to know why Plaintiff was assisting prisoner Baldwin. When Plaintiff refused to respond, Tinerella told Plaintiff, “After lunch I[']m going to give you something to write a grievance about since you like helping people file grievances.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.11.) Plaintiff acknowledges that he placed a small piece of paper in his window, stating, “Officer Tinerella Is Racist.” (Id.) At about 10:15 a.m., Defendant Rose came to Plaintiff's cell, kicking the door and yelling, “Nigger boy I[']m going to kill you nigger boy now take it down before we make you take it down.” (Id., PageID.12.) At approximately 10:30 a.m., Defendants Tinerella, Rose, and Spitzley came into Plaintiff's cell, purportedly in violation of policy. Tinerella pushed Plaintiff in the face, causing Plaintiff to lose his balance and strike his head.

         At about 12:30 a.m., Nurse Karen Rosa evaluated Plaintiff's injuries, finding a knot and an abrasion on the top right side of his head. Nurse Rosa asked how the injury occurred, and Plaintiff told her and asked her to get a sergeant. Nurse Rosa talked to Defendant Perez at about 12:50 p.m. At about 1:30 p.m., Defendant Perez came to Plaintiff's cell and asked Plaintiff what had happened. Plaintiff told Perez that he was assaulted by Defendant Tinerella. Perez asked Plaintiff to speak up, but Plaintiff had a severe headache and could not yell. Several inmates, however, explained to Perez what had happened. Defendant Perez stated, “Oh, well, What do you want me to do. I[']m about to go home.” (Id., PageID.13.) She then left the wing.

         Plaintiff wrote a grievance on March 19, 2017, alleging that Defendants Tinerella, Rose, and Spitzley entered his cell improperly. He alleged that Tinerella assaulted him, and Rose and Spitzley did nothing to intervene, thereby failing to protect Plaintiff. On March 26, 2016, as Plaintiff was returning from the yard, Defendant Rose told Plaintiff that, if he was afraid for his life, he should lock up. Defendant Rose also humiliated Plaintiff by telling the nurse that Plaintiff had “bowel issues, ” because he was “scared shitless.” (Id.) Plaintiff filed a grievance the next day, accusing Defendant Rose of harassment. One week later, Defendant Buchin came to the cell to review the grievance with Plaintiff. Buchin told Plaintiff that he had heard about the comments, that they were inappropriate, and that he would have Rose removed from Unit-1 if Plaintiff signed off on the grievance. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Buchin never upheld the agreement. On April 4, 2016, Defendant Buchin stopped at Plaintiff's cell, and allegedly admitted that Mich. Dep't of Corr., Policy Directive 02.03.100 ¶ N(1)-(2) requires that a staff member being investigated by internal affairs must be suspended or moved away from the individual involved. However, after Plaintiff wrote a letter to internal affairs on April 26, 2016, Buchin told Plaintiff, “I[']m not going to allow you to file a complaint on my coworker. All legal mail has to go through me. I'll give you the goldenrod copy in case I feel like it.” (Id., PageID.14) Plaintiff alleges that the letter was never processed. Also on April 4, Plaintiff stopped Defendant Deputy Warden Davids and explained the March 12 incident. Defendant Davids indicated that he would look into the incident, but Plaintiff heard nothing.

         On April 19, 2016, as they were escorting Plaintiff from his psychiatric visit, Defendants Piggot and Rose took Plaintiff to a different unit, stating that Plaintiff was being moved “because you're a problem so I put you over here with the other problems.” (Id.) Plaintiff contends that Defendants Piggot and Rose conspired to harass him and to retaliate against him for filing grievances. When they arrived at Plaintiff's new cell, “Defendant Piggot maliciously and sadistically assaulted him by pulling the restraint leash through the food slot until they cut into Plaintiff's skin producing blood and bruises . . . .” (Id.) Plaintiff told Piggot that the cuffs were cutting into him and that Piggot was going to break Plaintiff's wrist if he did not stop. Defendant Piggot simply laughed and kept pulling on the chain. Defendant Rose was present but took no action to stop Piggot from hurting Plaintiff.

         At about 1:30 p.m. on April 19, Defendant Perez came to retrieve the handcuffs from Plaintiff. When she saw the injuries, she went to get a camera. Defendant Perez assured Plaintiff that a nurse would see him shortly. Plaintiff was seen by Nurse Hammond at 2:30 p.m. Plaintiff talked to Defendant Davids again, and Davids again told Plaintiff that he would look into the matter.

         Plaintiff next complains that he did not receive responses to his Step-I or Step-II grievances related to the March 12, 2016 incident. On May 5, 2017, Plaintiff attempted to file a Step-III grievance. He gave the document to Defendant Buchin for mailing. When he did not receive a reply from the MDOC Director's Office for several months, he inquired whether the office had received the grievance. On October 21, 2016, Plaintiff was notified that the Director's Office had not received the Step-III grievance. In the interim, on July 13, 2016, Plaintiff finally received his Step-I grievance response from Defendants Robinson and Young, which, he alleges, wholly mischaracterized his grievance and mentioned another prisoner, ostensibly for malicious and retaliatory reasons. Plaintiff alleges that Robinson and Young conspired to deprive him of his administrative remedies.

         Plaintiff next alleges that he filed a grievance concerning every issue in his complaint, but Defendant Grievance Coordinators Robinson and Vroman deliberately ignored the harm being done to Plaintiff when they denied his grievances. Specifically, he complains that the April 19, 2016, assault was captured on camera and was documented by the nurse's report, yet Defendants Robinson and Vroman found that insufficient evidence existed to support the grievance. Plaintiff contends that Defendants Robinson and Vroman conspired to deprive him of his administrative remedies.

         On May 26, 2016, Plaintiff wrote Defendant Mail Room Officer Simpson a kite, explaining that he was not getting his mail processed, and he asked her to send him a copy of all outgoing legal and interdepartmental mail processed for the last six months. The kite was never answered. Plaintiff submitted a second kite on March 13, 2017, asking for the same information, but only with respect to mail sent on April 16, 2016 and May 5, 2016. Defendant Simpson's response indicated that no mail was processed on those two days.

         On June 8, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to another prison. However, he was brought back to IBC on November 29, 2016. On February 16, 2017, Plaintiff was placed back into Unit 1, where he had experienced problems with staff the year before. Plaintiff sent a kite to the IBC Inspector. Inspector Welton came to visit Plaintiff on March 9, 2017. Welton advised that he would pass a message to Defendant Davids about ...

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