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Henderson v. Griffin

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

December 19, 2018

TAVARRES J. HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
LIEUTENANT DAVID GRIFFIN; SERGEANT CHRISTOPHER MITCHELL; OFFICER RUFFIN; and, DEPUTY JUSTIN POSTON, Defendants.[1]

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN K. EPPS JUDGE

         Plaintiff, an inmate at Autry State Prison in Pelham, Georgia, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”) in this civil rights case concerning events at Charles B. Webster Detention Center (“the jail”) in Augusta, Georgia. For the reasons set forth below, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS Defendants' motion for summary judgment be GRANTED, (doc. no. 36), a final judgment be entered in favor of Defendants, and this civil action be CLOSED.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff originally named five Defendants. (See doc. no. 1.) However, because he is proceeding IFP, the Court screened the complaint, found Plaintiff had arguably stated a viable excessive force claim against Defendants and recommended dismissal of a Major at the jail who could not be held liable based solely on his supervisory position. (See doc. nos. 8, 9.) After Chief United States District Judge J. Randal Hall adopted that recommendation as the opinion of the Court, Defendants timely filed their answer on March 6, 2018, and the Clerk issued a Scheduling Notice setting deadlines for the case. (Doc. nos. 12, 14, 15.)

         Consistent with the case deadlines, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on August 23, 2018. (Doc. no. 36.) At that time, the Clerk of Court issued a notice concerning the summary judgment motion and the summary judgment rules, the right to file affidavits or other materials in opposition, and the consequences of failing to comply with the requirements for responding. (See doc. no. 38.) When Plaintiff failed to respond to Defendants' motion, the Court issued its own notice informing Plaintiff of the consequences of a summary judgment, the second such notice from the Court, with the first explanation appearing in the Court's January 8, 2018 Order. (Doc. no. 8, pp. 5-6; doc. no. 39.) Therefore, the notice requirements of Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam), are satisfied.

         II. FACTS

         A. Plaintiff's Version of Events

         On August 28, 2017, Plaintiff was detained at the jail awaiting trial on charges of carjacking, armed robbery, possession of a firearm during commission of a crime, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. (Pl.'s Dep., doc. no. 37, pp. 10, 43.) At approximately 9:00 p.m., after pill call, inmates in the lockdown block above Plaintiff's cell began kicking their doors and flooding their cells, resulting one hour later in “wall to wall” flooding approximately two inches deep in Plaintiff's cell. (Id. at 45-46 & Ex. 1.) Approximately thirty minutes later, Defendants came through the emergency door next to Plaintiff's cell, and after yelling and cursing in front of Plaintiff's cell about the flooding, Defendant Griffin told the other Defendants they were to make an example of Plaintiff. (Id. at 46-47.) Defendant Ruffin used his key to open Plaintiff's cell, Defendants put on their gloves, and while Defendant Griffin held Plaintiff in a choke hold, “all of them started punching [Plaintiff] like everywhere.” (Id. at 47.)

         After the punching stopped and Defendant Griffin released Plaintiff from the choke hold, Defendants placed Plaintiff in handcuffs and shackles and left him until Defendant Poston removed the handcuffs and shackles at shift change. (Id. at 47-48.) After lunch the next day, August 29, 2017, Defendant Ruffin returned and asked Plaintiff if his cell was still flooding, and when Plaintiff cursed at him, Defendant Ruffin “immediately punched [Plaintiff] and shot him with his Taser.” (Id. at 48.)

         Plaintiff put in a sick call at the beginning of September for the headache and facial swelling he experienced from the events of August 28th. (Id. at 51-53.) He did not receive a response to his sick call but went to medical for a scheduled checkup on September 10, 2017. (Id. at 52-53.) Plaintiff told the physician about the officers punching him on August 28th, and the physician explained a scan would be useless because too much time had elapsed. (Id. at 53.) There is no medical documentation in the record of this September 10th visit.

         Plaintiff was unable to provide the names of anyone who witnessed Defendants attack him, and instead can only provide names of people who saw Defendants attack other inmates. (Id. at 65, 66, 70, 71.) Although not mentioned at the deposition, there is an unsigned statement by Mr. Gary Robinson attached to Plaintiff's complaint stating he (1) saw Defendant Griffin and four officers approach and enter Plaintiff's cell on August 28, 2017; and, (2) heard loud thumping noises and Plaintiff's cries of pain. (Doc. no. 1, p. 17.) Plaintiff also alternates between saying he does not remember who was in the cell next to him, or saying he knows the person by the name of Demarco. (Id. at 50, 66.) The cell housing history does not reflect an inmate by the name of Robinson or Demarco in Plaintiff's cell block on August 28th. (Doc. no. 42, p. 4; see also doc. no. 36-11.)

         B. Defendants' Version of Events

         Defendants Griffin, Mitchell, and Poston deny by notarized affidavit they ever entered Plaintiff's pod via the emergency doors, entered Plaintiff's cell, punched him, or left him shackled and handcuffed inside his cell on August 28, 2107. (Mitchell Aff., doc. no. 36-3; Griffin Aff., doc. no. 36-4; Poston Aff., doc. no. 36-5.) Defendant Griffin avers he and Captain Turner of the Georgia Department of Corrections (“GDOC”) entered Plaintiff's pod on the evening of August 28th to conduct an evaluation that lasted approximately thirty minutes and then moved on to complete an overall evaluation of the jail. (Griffin Aff. ¶¶ 3, 4.) Defendant Poston not only denies leaving Plaintiff shackled and handcuffed inside his cell, but also avers he did not enter Plaintiff's cell at or near the end of his shift on the morning of August 29, 2017. (Poston Aff. ¶ 10.)

         The pod officers on shift the night of August 28th were Dodaro, Ruffin, and Jackson; Defendants Poston and Mitchell were not assigned to Plaintiff's pod. (Doc. no. 36-9.) The log book entries show a physical count of inmates was completed at 10:39 p.m., the same approximate time Plaintiff alleges his cell was flooded wall to wall with two inches of water, but there is no notation of any flooding emergency or any other problem. (Doc. nos. 36-7, 36-8.) The log book does not show Defendant Poston in Plaintiff's pod at any time between the 10:39 p.m. head count and 6:00 a.m. shift change. (Doc. no. 36-9.) Likewise, the daily activity log reflects Defendant Ruffin was not on duty in Plaintiff's pod the day he is alleged to have tased Plaintiff after lunch, August 29, 2017, and despite a policy requiring written reports regarding discharge of a Taser, the record contains no such report about this alleged tasing. (Doc. nos. 36-9, 36-10.) In any event, as a member of D-shift, which ends at 6:00 a.m., Defendant Ruffin would not have been on duty after lunch. (Doc. nos. 36-7, 36-9.) Despite a policy requiring documentation in the duty logs of ...


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