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Cowan v. Williams

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

June 10, 2019

MARKUS A. COWAN, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF ALFONZO WILLIAMS; MAJOR JOHN H. BUSH; CAPTAIN CASSANDRA HAYNES; CAPTAIN BLASH; LT. WILBERT WILLIAM; C.O. NICHOLAS VINSON; SGT. JOHNIE WRIGHT; NURSE CASSEY STAGGS; NURSE ASHLEY MARSH; NURSE BRANDON MOAK; LT. KENNETH MCKENZIE; and OFFICER CHRIS MCKENZIE, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN K. EPPS JUDGE .

         Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at Burke County Detention Center (“BCDC”) in Waynesboro, Georgia, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”) in this case filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because he is proceeding IFP, Plaintiff's complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 Fed.Appx. 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).

         I. SCREENING OF THE COMPLAINT

         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names as Defendants: (1) Sheriff Alfonzo Williams; (2) Major John H. Bush; (3) Captain Cassandra Haynes; (4) Captain Blash; (5) Lieutenant Wilbert William; (6) C.O. Nicholas Vinson; (7) Sargent Johnie Wright; (8) Nurse Cassey Staggs; (9) Nurse Ashley Marsh; (10) Nurse Brandon Moak; (11) Lieutenant Kenneth McKenzie; and (12) Officer Chris McKenzie. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 2-6.) Taking all of Plaintiff's allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         On October 9, 2018, an inmate threatened to attack Plaintiff the next morning. (Id.at 10.) Three to four inmates attacked him the next morning. (Id.) Officer Abrams pulled Plaintiff away from the inmates attacking him. (Id.) While Plaintiff stood there in handcuffs, the inmates spit on him, while the officer looked on. (Id.) Plaintiff was taken to a special housing unit (“SHU”), where he was refused a shower and medical attention. (Id.) Plaintiff slept in spit for forty-eight hours. (Id.) Defendants Bush, Haynes, and Lt. William denied Plaintiff a shower and Lt. William denied Plaintiff tissue and soap. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff did not have a bed, sheets, towels, or tissues in SHU. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff did not receive his belongings for another seventy-two hours. (Id.)

         Despite never receiving a disciplinary report or hearing regarding the incident, Plaintiff was placed in a different dorm, which had a different classification and uniforms, with hardened criminals. (Id.) By failing to follow the proper procedures, the officers failed to keep Plaintiff safe. (Id.) Plaintiff has asked every officer, including Defendants Haynes, Bush, and Sheriff Williams, why he was transferred without a disciplinary report. (Id. at 10-11.) Sheriff Williams did not return Plaintiff's or his family's calls. (Id. at 8.) Defendants Bush, Haynes, and Sheriff Williams did not take his complaints seriously. (Id. at 8.) After Plaintiff asked one officer, Major Bush threatened him. (Id. at 11.) Officers also denied Plaintiff access to medical care for his injuries to his hand, head, and food following the attack. (Id. at 10.) Nurses Staggs, Marsh, and Moak denied plaintiff medical attention, and Nurse Marsh refused to take a picture of Plaintiff's wounds. (Id. at 9.)

         On January 26, 2019, seven officers entered Plaintiff's cell block with another inmate in handcuffs. (Id. at 12.) As Plaintiff leaned out of his cell to see what was happening, an officer told him to lock himself in his cell. (Id.) Plaintiff questioned the officer's order because he had not done anything to be placed on lockdown. (Id.) Five officers then ran into the cell block and “got in [Plaintiff's] face.” (Id.) Officer Vinson and Sgt. Wright, along with three other officers, pulled Plaintiff's arms behind his back, twisted his wrists, and threw him on a table. (Id.) Lt. Kenneth McKenzie assaulted Plaintiff and slammed him on the table. (Id. at 9.) Officer Chris McKenzie tried to break Plaintiff's arm, slammed him on the table, and dragged Plaintiff to his cell. (Id.) Sgt. Wright held Plaintiff by the throat, and Officer Vinson pulled Plaintiff into his cell. (Id. at 12.) The five officers continued to push and strike Plaintiff in the cell. (Id.)

         During the forty-five minutes after the attack, Plaintiff asked for medical attention several times but it was denied. (Id.) Plaintiff began to beat the bars of his cell to get the booth officer's attention. (Id. at 12-13.) Officer Vinson and Sgt. Wright returned and told Plaintiff to put his hands behind his back. (Id. at 13.) Sgt. Wright pointed his taser at Plaintiff and told Officer Vinson to lock down the cell block. (Id.) When Officer Vinson left, Sgt. Wright grabbed Plaintiff's buttocks and then shot Plaintiff in the back with his taser. (Id.) Plaintiff fell from being tased, and Sgt. Wright slammed Plaintiff's foot in the door of his cell twice. (Id.)

         Twenty minutes later, other officers and EMS arrived and transported Plaintiff to Burke County Hospital, where he was treated for high blood pressure and a sprained ankle. (Id.) Plaintiff's foot had a tennis-ball-sized swelling caused by Sgt. Wright slamming it in the door. (Id.) Plaintiff asked for a picture to be taken, but none was. (Id.) Plaintiff's arm is swollen and he has four holes in his back from being tased. (Id.) Plaintiff has suffered mental and emotional stress from being sexually assaulted, tased, and assaulted by officers. (Id.) An officer told Plaintiff Sgt. Wright should not have tased him and the officers were not supposed to be in his cell block. (Id.) Officer Vinson has since mocked Plaintiff about the incident by blowing kisses at Plaintiff, joking about grabbing his buttocks, and writing him a note “talk[ing] [a]bout he gone [sic] fuck me.” (Id. at 8.)

         Sgt. Wright and Officer Vinson took Plaintiff's property, including legal and personal mail, religious materials, hygiene products, and food. (Id. at 13.) At the hospital, Officer Vinson brought Plaintiff a used toothbrush, Plaintiff's bowl, and towels, but no soap, deodorant, or mail. (Id. at 14.) Plaintiff does not know if the toothbrush was his. (Id.) Plaintiff asked to speak to the lieutenant, captain, and major, as well as medical staff, but he received no response and was refused medical attention. (Id.) Officer Golden, Lt. William, and a nurse told Plaintiff inmates on lockdown cannot be seen by medical. (Id.) At Plaintiff's disciplinary report hearing, Cpt. Blash told Plaintiff he was not allowed to ask questions, did not have rights, is a liar, and could not call witnesses at his hearing. (Id. at 8, 14.)

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks: (1) a protective order against Sgt. Wright; (2) an injunction allowing prisoners on lockdown to be seen by medical; (3) $250, 000 in compensatory damages; and (4) $250, 000 in punitive damages. (Id.)

         Finally, Plaintiff attached as exhibits to his complaint over fifty handwritten pages of the grievances he filed at BCDC and three affidavits from other BCDC inmates. (Id. at 23-62.) However, because Plaintiff does not specifically reference the exhibits within the body of his complaint, the Court will not independently examine the exhibits to ...


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