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Spearman v. Williams

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

December 19, 2017

RUFUS L. SPEARMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAD H. WILLIAMS et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Janet T. Neff, 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 Osbourne, Gehoski, Ley, Shinaberg, and Krick. The Court also will dismiss all claims against Defendants Williams, Fenby, and Youngert that accrued before July 24, 2014. The Court will serve the remainder of the amended complaint against Defendants Williams, Fenby, and Youngert.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility, (LRF) in Muskegon Heights, Muskegon County, Michigan. The events about which he complains, however, occurred at the Carson City Correctional Facility (DRF) in Carson City, Montcalm County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues the following DRF officials: Assistant Resident Unit Supervisors (ARUSs) Chad H. Williams and (unknown) Gehoski; Correctional Officers (unknown) Osbourne, (unknown) Ley, and (unknown) Youngert; Deputy Wardens David Fenby and (unknown) Krick; and Lieutenant (unknown) Shinaberg.

         In his amended complaint, Plaintiff describes a series of alleged acts of retaliation, beginning on April 21, 2014, and ending on August 27, 2014, all allegedly arising out of grievances Plaintiff filed concerning his lack of religious accommodations and staff corruption involving misuse of the prisoner telephone system. Plaintiff contends that all Defendants thereafter conspired to engage in an “orchestrated campaign of harassment . . . in the form of threats, verbal abuse, taunting, property deprivations, and sexual harassment.” (Am. Compl., ECF No. 8, PageID.45.)

         Plaintiff chronicles a series of events which occurred in the three-plus weeks preceding the first alleged retaliatory action by Defendants. Plaintiff filed a grievance against the DRF chaplain Susan Cleveland (not a Defendant) on March 26, 2018, for failing to respond to his requests for religious accommodation. Two days later, Plaintiff filed a grievance against unnamed MDOC officials and the telephone company about the telephone system. On April 1, 2014, Plaintiff sent copies of the telephone grievance to various state and federal authorities and the MDOC director. One week after filing his third grievance, on April 8, 2014, Plaintiff was attacked by two inmates. Plaintiff does not allege that any Defendant induced that attack or was aware that it would happen. On April 13, 2014, Plaintiff filed a second grievance about his religious accommodations. He filed a Step-II appeal of his second grievance on April 18, 2014.[1]

         On April 21, 2014, Defendant Ley informed Plaintiff that he was being moved to the 500 Housing Unit. Plaintiff told Ley that he could not be moved to Unit 500, because other inmates were calling him names, such as “coward” and “p*ssy, ” and threating to “whup” him for not fighting back when he was attacked on April 8, 2014. (Id., PageID.49-50.) Plaintiff had concluded that he would not be safe in the 500 Unit. Defendant Ley responded that they were moving Plaintiff into the unit in place of a prisoner who had been causing problems. Plaintiff contends that Ley's response indicated that they could have chosen anyone to move, but chose Plaintiff in retaliation for his having filed multiple grievances. Plaintiff alleges that, as he was being moved 20 minutes later, prisoners yelled threats and taunted him. Plaintiff suggests that the taunts indicate that other prisoners had been made aware that he was being transferred to the unit.

         Once he arrived at the control center, Plaintiff discussed his concerns with Defendant Shinaberg. He then waited for several hours until Defendant Gehoski arrived. Gehoski explained that Plaintiff was being moved from Unit 1200 to Unit 500 because there was a problem managing a prisoner in Unit 500. Plaintiff advised Gehoski about his safety concerns, but Gehoski did not change the assignment. Three days later, on April 24, 2014, Plaintiff was taunted for more than an hour by a gang member, who was being egged on by others. When Plaintiff turned his back, the gang member attacked Plaintiff, forcing Plaintiff to fight for his life. Plaintiff suffered damage to his left eye, his temporal bone, and his vision, as well as a severely dislocated thumb. The following morning, after being let out of his room, Plaintiff notified Officers Hengesbach, and Thomsen (not Defendants) and Defendants Osbourne and Williams. When he asked for a change in room, Hengesbach told Plaintiff to deal with it and not ask to be moved again. When Plaintiff later asked Hengesbach, Thomsen, and Defendant Osbourne, Hengesbach unholstered his taser and suggested that he would test it.

         As Plaintiff left Hengesbach's office, he saw Defendant Williams, who was leaving the unit. Williams responded, “[I]'m leaving, I don't give a f**k if you kill each other. It's not my problem, it's your problem.” (Id., PageID.52.) Plaintiff then refused to return to his dangerous living situation, for which he was issued a misconduct ticket. He was escorted to the control center, where he explained his concerns to Defendants Krick, Williams, and Osbourne, as well as an unknown captain. Plaintiff was instructed to write a statement requesting protective custody. After he did so, he was moved to a different room on a different wing in Unit 500.

         Defendants Hengesbach and Osbourne packed Plaintiff's property for the move, but when Plaintiff received it later that day, he was missing his television, his religious scrolls, and his shoes. At breakfast, Plaintiff notified Sergeant Collins (not a Defendant) of his missing property. While he was eating, Plaintiff spotted the inmate who had attacked him, who was wearing Plaintiff's shoes. Plaintiff confronted the man, who told Plaintiff that Defendant Osbourne had left them behind when he packed up Plaintiff's property. Plaintiff demanded that the prisoner return his shoes, which the prisoner promised to do when he returned to the unit. When Plaintiff returned to the unit, he confronted Defendants Osbourne and Hengesbach, telling them that the other prisoner had informed him that Osbourne and Hengesbach had left Plaintiff's shoes and Plaintiff's television in the cell. Osbourne started yelling, “[H]e's a f**king rat Hengesbach! He's a snitch.” (Id., PageID.54.) This occurred during mass movement, causing many prisoners to overhear. Minutes later, Defendant Youngert returned Plaintiff's television, but Plaintiff never received his religious scrolls, which allegedly deprived Plaintiff from practicing his Nuwaubian religion.

         The following day, April 25, 2014, Plaintiff's newly assigned roommate threatened to kill Plaintiff for attempting to connect his television cable cord to the wall outlet. The man stated, “[Y]ou got nothing coming . . . C/O's say you bold.” (Id., PageID.55.) Plaintiff contends that the word “bold” is used regularly by corrupt officials when a prisoner is disfavored, and its use leads to inmate attacks, withholding of mail, food contamination, and refusals to open the cell door for appointments. On May 14, 2014, Defendant Williams refused to process a disbursement request for Plaintiff, preventing him from mailing some Step-II grievance appeals to another prison. When Plaintiff continued to ask for the disbursement, Defendant Williams responded, “Will someone taze this m***erf**ker and get him out of here.” (Id.) When Plaintiff turned around, he nearly ran into Defendant Osbourne, who was pointing his taser at Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff filed a grievance on May 16, 2014, against Defendants Gehoski, Shinaberg, Ley, Fenby, Williams, Krick, and any other person involved in the decision to transfer him to Unit 500. He filed another grievance on June 2, 2014, against health services, alleging that he had been denied medical treatment for an unspecified need. On July 6, 2014, he filed another grievance against Defendant Osbourne for unspecified retaliatory harassment.

         On July 22, 2014, while Plaintiff was leaning over a table to sign a receipt, Defendant Youngert walked up to him and stopped, with his crotch near Plaintiff's face. Plaintiff stood up and stepped away, telling Youngert that he objected to having his “personal space” violated. (Id., PageID.56.) Youngert responded, “[I]'ll violate whatever I want to violate, you just have to deal with it.” (Id.) Youngert began to walk toward Plaintiff, and Plaintiff retreated to his room. Plaintiff filed a grievance against Youngert three days later. Two weeks later, on August 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed another grievance, alleging that Youngert and Williams had conspired to increase Plaintiff's security classification because Plaintiff had filed the grievance against Youngert on July 25, 2014. Plaintiff also alleged in his August 7 grievance that Fenby had threatened to effectuate ...


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