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Ali v. Simmons

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

May 31, 2019

FATHIREE ALI, Plaintiff,
STEVEN L. SIMMONS et al., Defendants.


          Janet T. Neff, United States District Judge.

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a), and various state laws. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 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 for failure to state a claim Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), because it is immune from suit. The Court also will dismiss for failure to state a claim Plaintiff's failure-to-train claim (Count VIII) against Defendant Stump. Plaintiff's remaining claims against Defendants Simmons, Hall, Stump, Rockwell, Coburn, Hickok, and Wagner will remain in the case.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff presently is incarcerated with the MDOC at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) in Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan. The events about which he complains, however, occurred at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC) in Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues the MDOC and the following IBC officials: Correctional Officers Steven L. Simmons, Michael Hall, Kevin Rockwell, Adam Coburn, (unknown) Hickok, and (unknown) Wagner; and Sergeant Gary Stump.

         Plaintiff alleges a series of actions by Defendants between June 2 and August 12, 2015. Plaintiff asserts that the individual Defendants harassed him on the basis of his Muslim religion; barred him from praying in the small unit yard; retaliated against him for complaining about their conduct by issuing false misconducts and assaulting him; used excessive force against him; and denied him necessary medical care. Plaintiff contends that Defendants' actions violated the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1, and a variety of state laws.

         In his amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that, as a devout Muslim, he must pray five times each day at specified times. On June 2, 2015, Plaintiff complained to Deputy McCauley (not a Defendant) that Defendant Simmons was harassing and taunting Muslim inmates and prohibiting prayer in the small yard. McCauley indicated that he would talk to Simmons. On June 24, 2015, Simmons issued misconduct tickets to Plaintiff and three other Muslim prisoners for extending salaams to a passing Muslim prisoner. Plaintiff complained to McCauley the following day. Defendant Simmons then told Plaintiff, “Your complaints to the deputy change[] nothing. You'll pay for them.” (Proposed Am. Compl., ECF No. 12-1, PageID.72.)

         On August 12, 2015, Plaintiff was locked in the prison yard at 1:45 p.m., during shift change. The time came for Dhur prayers, and Plaintiff and prisoner Douglas began their prayers. The first-shift officer did not interfere with the prayers. When Plaintiff finished praying with Douglas, he assisted a new adherent, prisoner Richardson, with his prayers. Defendant Simmons approached, shouting obscenities, mocking, and harassing the prisoners. Plaintiff was on his knees when, without warning, Defendant Stump snatched his arm and twisted it. Defendant Hall sprayed Plaintiff's eyes with a chemical agent. Defendants Rockwell and Wagner then knocked Plaintiff to the ground, where Defendants Stump, Rockwell, and Wagner kicked, struck, and kneed Plaintiff in the neck. Plaintiff screamed and began to chant religious remedies. The blows continued until Plaintiff was unresponsive and nearly unconscious. Defendants Hickok and Coburn observed and possibly participated. At a minimum, Hickok and Coburn failed to intervene.

         Defendant Hickok placed handcuffs on Plaintiff, securing them too tightly and causing Plaintiff significant pain. Plaintiff received lacerations to his wrist and numerous bruises to his arms, back, wrist, and legs. During the assault, Defendant Simmons aimed a taser at Plaintiff. At no time did Plaintiff resist, threaten officers, or break prison rules.

         Plaintiff contends that Defendants Simmons, Hall, Hickok, and Stump repeatedly have engaged in harassment and abuse of Muslim inmates. Plaintiff alleges that McCauley received notice of the harassment of Defendants Simmons, Hall, Hickok, and Stump, through numerous complaints, but he failed to take disciplinary action. After the assault, Plaintiff was placed in a shower area, but without access to water, so he could not rinse the irritant from his eyes and lungs.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, though aware of Plaintiff's injuries, provided him no medical assistance. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants subsequently took adverse actions against Plaintiff-including writing false misconduct tickets and cancelling Plaintiff's medical gym shoes and inserts-in retaliation for his exercise of his speech and religious rights and without due process of law.

         Plaintiff contends that the individual Defendants' actions resulted in the following federal and state causes of action: denial of Plaintiff's First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion; denial of Plaintiff's rights under the RLUIPA; denial of equal protection; ethnic intimidation under Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.146b; use of excessive force under the Eighth Amendment; denial of medical care under the Eighth Amendment; retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights to petition the government and to engage in religious expression; and both negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He also contends that Defendants MDOC and Stump failed to train and/or failed to adopt adequate policies on the taking of property, the conduct of hearings, and the prevention of retaliation.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, together with compensatory and punitive damages.

         II. Failure ...

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