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Guile v. Spence

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

September 12, 2019

T. SPENCE et al., Defendants.


          Robert J. Jonker Chief 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 all Defendants other than Defendants Spence and Rolison. In addition, the Court will dismiss all claims other than the claim that Defendants Spence and Rolison used excessive force on Plaintiff in violation of the Eighth Amendment.


         I. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Chippewa County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues the following MDOC employees at URF: Corrections Officers T. Spence and T. Rolison; Sergeant Unknown Koskela; Lieutenant Unknown Watson; Captain John A. Burke; Warden Connie Horton; and Assistant Deputy Warden (ADW) Dave LaLonde. He also sues Richard D. Russell, the Grievance Manager at the MDOC's Office of Legal Affairs.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted by another prisoner at URF on June 20, 2018. About three weeks before the assault, Officer Spence started verbally harassing Plaintiff, making “debasing comments” about Plaintiff in front of other MDOC officials. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.3.) Plaintiff ignored these comments.

         The assault occurred when Plaintiff was playing cards with friends in the cardroom at URF. A prisoner who was unknown to Plaintiff, Jean Giles, approached and began punching Plaintiff in the head. Giles knocked Plaintiff off of his chair and onto the ground. Plaintiff did not fight back. Instead, he covered his face and head with his arms and raised his feet and legs to shield himself.

         None of the officers in the area were aware of the assault until Plaintiff began yelling for help. Shortly thereafter, Officers Rolison and Spence entered the room. As they did so, Giles stopped punching Plaintiff and stood about five feet from Plaintiff. Rolison told Plaintiff and Giles to stop fighting and then Spence told Rolison to “tase” Plaintiff. (Id., PageID.4.) At the time, Plaintiff was still on the ground, laying partly on his side and partly on his back, with his feet “somewhat” in the air. (Id.) Rolison deployed his taser, striking Plaintiff in the back with both taser probes.

         After this incident, Spence wrote a report charging Plaintiff with a misconduct for fighting. In the report, Spence alleged that Plaintiff was positioned on his back, kicking Giles in the torso, while Giles was punching Plaintiff in the face. (See Misconduct Report, ECF No. 102, PageID.30.) Plaintiff, however, asserts that the report was false. He did not kick prisoner Giles.

         Plaintiff was taken to the hospital for treatment for cuts on his face, but when he returned to the prison a few hours later, he was placed in segregation because of Spence's misconduct report.

         Captain Burke investigated the incident and prepared a report indicating that Rolison responded to the assault with his taser drawn. (Critical Incident Report, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.32.) According to Burke, Rolison told Plaintiff and Giles to stop fighting and to get on the ground, but they did not do so. Because Plaintiff and Giles did not follow orders, Rolison deployed his taser on Plaintiff. After reviewing video of the incident, prison staff determined that Plaintiff did not fight Giles but that Giles assaulted Plaintiff. Burke reported these findings to Warden Horton on the evening of June 20.

         The following day, June 21, ADW Lalonde notified URF Hearings Administrator John McCollum that “[a]fter reviewing the video, this does not appear to be a fight. We are going to pull the Fighting Misconduct on Guile and have a PC Request done.” (6/21/2018 Lalonde Email to McCollum, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.40.) McCollum responded by stating that he would notify Warden Horton. (Id.)

         On June 22, Warden Horton told McCollum that she was withdrawing the misconduct on Plaintiff. (6/22/2018 MDOC Mem., ECF No. 1-2, PageID.42.)

         Due to miscommunication, error, or delay, Plaintiff was not released from segregation until June 25. After his release, Plaintiff discovered that his family had planned to visit him but decided not to do so because they were told that they could not have physical contact with him due to his confinement in segregation.

         Plaintiff filed a grievance claiming that Rolison wrongfully used a taser on him, and Spence instructed Rolison to do so. (Grievance Form, ECF No. 1-2, PagID.19.) Defendants Koskela and Watson responded to the grievance at Step I of the grievance process. According to the grievance response, Koskela reviewed the video of the incident and interviewed Rolison, who “stated his perception was that prisoner Guile was attempting to get back to his feet to go after the other prisoner.” (Step I Grievance Response Supplemental Form, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.21.) Koskela and Watson concluded that “Guile was not wrongfully tased [because] the officer perception was that prisoner Guile was attempting to get back to his feet to go after the other prisoner that had assaulted him.” (Id.) Plaintiff, however, claims that Defendants Koskela and Watson “misrepresent[ed] the truth of what is on the video[.]” (Compl., PageID.7.)

         Plaintiff appealed the denial of his grievance to Step II. Defendant Horton upheld the denial of his grievance, finding “[n]o violation of policy.” (Step II Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.26.) Plaintiff contends that Warden Horton assisted Defendants Koskela and Watson in “concealing the evidence that Defendants Rolison and Spence tased Plaintiff for no reason.” (Compl., PageID.8.)

         Plaintiff then filed an appeal to Step III. Defendant Russell denied that appeal. (Step III Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.28.) Plaintiff contends that Russell “falsely claim[ed] that Defendants Watson, Koskela, and Horton were right about their findings[.]” (Compl., PageID.8.)

         Based on the foregoing allegations, Plaintiff makes the following claims: (1) Defendants deprived him of his rights to substantive and procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) Defendants Spence and Rolison used excessive force on Plaintiff, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and failed to protect Plaintiff from the prisoner assault, in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (3) Defendant Spence told Rolison to tase Plaintiff in retaliation for Plaintiff's decision not to speak to Spence, in violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights; and (4) Defendants Koskela, Watson, Horton, and Russell concealed “the truth of what the video reveals” in ...

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