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Reyes v. Palmer

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

November 8, 2017

TYRONE REYES, Plaintiff,
v.
CARMEN PALMER et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge.

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), 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 Palmer, Schooley, and Unknown Party. The Court also will dismiss for failure to state a claim Plaintiff's retaliation claim against Defendant Stewart, as well as his claimed violations of due process, the Eighth Amendment, and the PREA. The Court will serve the complaint against Defendants King, Martin, and Stewart.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility (JCF) in Jackson, Jackson County, Michigan. The events about which he complains, however, occurred at the Michigan Reformatory (RMI) in Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues the following RMI officials: Warden Carmen Palmer, Deputy Warden (unknown) Schooley, Captain (unknown) King, Lieutenant (unknown) Martin, Unknown Party (named as Sergeant Doe), and Unknown Stewart.

         Plaintiff alleges that, on December 26, 2015, he went to dinner in the chow hall, proceeded through the food line, and received his dinner tray. However, when he sat down, he noticed that he had no eating utensil. Plaintiff got up to get a spork, but Defendant Stewart stopped him and asked what he was doing. Plaintiff explained that he either was not given or may have dropped his eating utensil. Stewart ordered Plaintiff to come over for a shakedown, to make sure that Plaintiff was not trying to steal a set of utensils. Plaintiff responded, “I have no reason to steal anything from the chow hall.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.11.)

         Plaintiff contends that Defendant Stewart searched him roughly, and Plaintiff started to get upset. When searching Plaintiff's first leg, Stewart allegedly touched Plaintiff's testicle roughly. Plaintiff complained, saying, “can't you be a little more easier, and watch where you're touching me?” (Id.) After hearing Plaintiff's question, Defendant Stewart allegedly became even rougher in his search of the other leg, this time squeezing Plaintiff's testicles.

         After Stewart finished the search, Plaintiff walked toward the chow line to get his spork. Defendant Martin, who had been watching Plaintiff's interaction with Stewart, walked up to Plaintiff and asked if he had a problem with the officer shaking him down. Plaintiff responded, “No, but I do have a problem with your officer squeezing my gonad area.” (Id.) Defendant Martin replied, “If you have a problem with my officer shaking you down, you can leave the chow hall.” (Id.) Plaintiff remained silent. When Plaintiff made no response, Defendant Martin repeated his statement and asked Plaintiff if he had a problem. Plaintiff again stood silent. Defendant Martin told Plaintiff that he was talking to him and ordered Plaintiff to answer. Plaintiff responded that he had already told Martin that Defendant Stewart had sexually assaulted him during the shakedown.

         After making his statement, Plaintiff began to walk away to get his eating utensil. Lt. Martin ordered Plaintiff to stop, because he was not finished talking to Plaintiff. Plaintiff responded that he was finished talking and just wanted his spork so that he could eat his meal before it was cold. At that point, Defendant Martin stated, “Since you have a problem with my officer shaking you down, you can leave the chow hall now.” (Id., PageID.12.) Plaintiff asked, “[S]o you're going to deny me a meal, because I told you that Officer Steward grabbed my gonad?” (Id.) Lt. Martin responded, “YES I AM!” (Id.)

         Plaintiff returned back to his cell without dinner, and he promptly began to write a grievance against Defendants Martin and Stewart. He claims that he was so upset, however, that he got some of the details of his grievance wrong. He filed the grievance on December 28, 2015. Plantiff thereafter received notice that the grievance may fall under the scope of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), and it therefore had been referred for investigation and determination of the possible violation.

         Defendant Captain King reviewed the grievance and conducted an investigation under the PREA. As he reported in the Step I grievance response, King reviewed the video footage of December 26, 2015, between 7:00 and 7:15 p.m., and interviewed Defendants Stewart and Martin, as well as another officer. (Ex. C to Compl., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.32.) King found that Plaintiff was pictured leaving his seat in the chow hall, being stopped by Stewart, and being patted down by Stewart. Nothing untoward was visible on the video, and Plaintiff did not appear to react to any part of the search. Plaintiff proceeded to the chow line, where he was stopped by Defendant Martin. During the conversation with Martin, Plaintiff appeared to become upset and subsequently left the chow hall. (Id.)

         After conducting an investigation, King concluded that Plaintiff's grievance was unsubstantiated and denied the grievance on February 1, 2016. (Id., PageID.32-33.) That same date, King wrote a Class II misconduct against Plaintiff, charging him with interference with the administration of rules for filing a false claim against a staff member. At the initial review of the misconduct charge, Plaintiff claimed that the date of the incident listed on his grievance was wrong, and therefore Defendant King had reviewed the wrong videotape. Having heard Plaintiff's information about the mistaken date, Sgt. John Doe (Defendant Unknown Party) advised Plaintiff that he should beat the misconduct ticket because the body of the ticket was wrong.

         Plaintiff was called out for a hearing with Defendant Martin the next day. Plaintiff objected to Defendant Martin hearing the misconduct charge, because Martin was involved in the subject matter and because Plaintiff had filed a grievance against Martin, rendering Martin biased. Defendant Martin nevertheless insisted on presiding over the hearing. When Plaintiff revealed that the body of the ticket was wrong, Martin postponed the hearing. On February 4, 2016, Martin reheld the hearing, over Plaintiff's objection that Martin was violating his right to due process. Defendant Martin revealed that he had talked to Defendant King about the typographical error in the date of the incident. But Martin said that he was nevertheless going to find Plaintiff guilty for lying about an officer. He sanctioned Plaintiff to 5 days' toplock and 30 days' loss of privileges. As a result of the guilty determination, Plaintiff wrote a grievance against Defendants King and Martin for staff corruption in denying him due process.

         Plaintiff appealed his misconduct conviction to the deputy warden's office. When the office failed to respond for 30 days, Plaintiff wrote another grievance, alleging staff corruption for the failure to follow administrative rules. Plaintiff pursued all of his grievances to Step III. In addition, on March 13, 2016, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Warden Palmer, outlining the events that had taken place in the chow hall and in the PREA investigation. On March 30, 2016, Plaintiff wrote a grievance on the deputy warden for refusing to respond to his misconduct appeal. On June 22, he received his Step III response refusing to hear his appeal.

         Plaintiff also complains that Defendant King told a correctional officer to remove Plaintiff from his position as a block representative before Plaintiff had been found guilty of the misconduct charge. Toward the end of the grievance process, Plaintiff informed Defendant Schooley that he had been denied due process by Defendant Martin's decision to preside over the misconduct. Defendant Schooley responded that Defendant Martin had improperly reviewed the misconduct, but he asked ...


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