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Wallace v. Holloway

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

September 11, 2017

JAMES M. HOLLOWAY, Warden, Defendants.


          S. Thomas Anderson Chief United States District Judge

         On June 2, 2016, Plaintiff Anthony Wallace, who is currently incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Complex (“NECX”) in Mountain City, Tennessee, filed pro se a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. On June 6, 2016, the Court granted Wallace leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). Wallace's allegations arise from his incarceration at West Tennessee State Penitentiary (“WTSP”) in Henning, Tennessee, making venue proper in this District. The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Former WTSP Warden James. M. Holloway, Assistant WTSP Warden First Name Unknown (“FNU”) Fitts, Internal Affairs Lieutenant (“Lt”) Thomas Shells, Internal Affairs Sergeant (“Sgt.”) FNU Galloway, Unit Manager William Bryant, Unit Manager M. Smith, Corporal (“Cpl.”) FNU Bonds, Case Manager FNU Ray, Cpl. C. Jones, Cpl. A. Doley, Sgt. N. Coleman, C/O FNU Theus, C/O FNU Radford, Sgt. FNU Williams, Mental Health Dr. O. Robinson, Strike Force Commander James Bobela, Lt. FNU McLin, Lt. FNU Alexander, Captain FNU Castleman, C/O FNU Hankens, Lt. Michael Jones, Correction Officer (“C/O”) FNU Jones, C/O FNU Brinkly, and Inmate Cesare Payne.[1]


         Wallace alleges that on December 10, 2015, he had a “misunderstanding” with Cpl. Bonds about waxing the floor in Unit 3-B-Pod. (Compl. at 4 & 6.) Cpl. Bonds called Unit Manager Bryant to deal with the situation. (Id.) According to Wallace, Unit Manager Bryant refused to hear his side of the story and ordered Wallace to be on lockdown for the day. (Id. at 6.) Wallace did not agree with the order and argued with Bryant. (Id.) During the argument, Unit Manager Bryant told Wallace he was going to move Wallace back to Unit 12. (Id.) Although the Complaint is not clear on this point, in January 2015, Wallace was housed in Unit 12 when unknown Vice Lord inmates ambushed Wallace and stabbed him in the back over twenty times. (Id.) Wallace alleges that Unit Manager Bryant knew about the prior assault in Unit 12. (Id.)

         Wallace was released from segregation on December 14, 2015. (Id. at 6-7.) Wallace alleges that Cpl. Jones told Wallace that Unit Manager Bryant intended to transfer Wallace to Unit 12. (Id. at 6-7.) Wallace pleaded with Unit Manager Bryant not to send him to Unit 12 and cited the large number of Vice Lords housed in the unit. (Id. at 7.) Unit Manager Bryant reassigned Wallace to Unit 12 anyway. (Id. at 7.) Upon Wallace's transfer to Unit 12, an aggressive and angry mob of Vice Lord inmates approached Wallace and informed Wallace that he was not welcome and should leave before they killed him. (Id.) In self-defense, Wallace pulled out two homemade knives and started attacking the other inmates. (Id. see also Incident Report 01489473, ECF No. 1-1.) After about a minute, Sgt. Coleman intervened, sprayed Wallace, and took Wallace to medical. (Id.) The next day Wallace spoke with Sgt. Galloway in internal affairs. (Id.) Wallace was placed in segregation on the charge of possession of a deadly weapon. (Id.) Wallace alleges that Sgt. Galloway never thoroughly investigated the incident (Id. at 7-8.) According to Wallace, a Vice Lord inmate was also locked up after the altercation because a video showed the Vice Lord inmate holding a knife. (Id.) However, Sgt. Williams “mysteriously' released the Vice Lord inmate from segregation. (Id.)

         The Complaint goes on to allege that while Wallace was in segregation, Cpl. Jones, Cpl. Doley, Officer Theus, Officer Radford, and Sgt. Bryant made fun of him. (Id. at 8.) On December 18, 2015, Wallace and Defendant Theus had a “big argument” about the night of December 14, 2015, and she proceeded to make several comments about Unit 12 including, “Yeah we used your bitch ass to keep the unit clean, ” and “Bryant slaved your bitch ass and then threw you to the wolves.” (Id.) Wallace contends “at that moment” he became paranoid, causing him to lose sleep and hear voices telling him to kill them before they kill you. (Id.) On January 4, 2016, Wallace spoke to Dr. Robinson about his issues, and she told Wallace that she would get him some treatment. (Id.)

         On January 6, 2016, Wallace got into an argument with the Vice Lord inmates about the night of December 14, 2015. (Id. at 8-9.) During the argument, the Vice Lord inmates threatened Wallace. (Id. at 9.) Cpl. Jones, Cpl. Doley, and Theus were present and heard the threats but did nothing to intervene. (Id.) After about ten minutes passed, Inmate Payne stepped in to diffuse the situation. (Id.) Then on January 8, 2016, Wallace came out of a shower, which everyone in the pod including the Defendant correctional officers knew was broken, and assaulted one of the Vice Lord inmates who had previously threatened Wallace. (Id.; see also Incident Report 01198491, ECF No. 1-2.)

         Wallace contends that Defendants Sgt. Galloway and Lt. Shells never fully investigated the incident because they left Wallace in segregation knowing the severity of his situation with the Vice Lord inmates. (Id. at 9-10.) Wallace alleges that Lt. Shells wrote him up for possession of a deadly weapon and assault on offender with a weapon in order to justify his “very poor duties in protecting [Wallace].” (Id. at 10, see also Disciplinary Report, ECF No. 1-3.) Wallace also alleges that Lt. Shells had Strike Force Commander Bobela plant a knife in Wallace's cell. (Id.; see also Incident Report 0119608, ECF No. 1-4.) Wallace was told by Cpl. Jones that Lt. Shells ordered Sgt. Williams to hear the charges against Wallace because Wallace had threatened Lt. Shells with a lawsuit.

         On February 5, 2016, Wallace gave an emergency grievance to Lt. McLin concerning Lt. Shells and Sgt. Williams; however, he never received any disposition documents. (Id.) The same day Wallace spoke with Dr. Robinson about the voices in his head and the situation with the staff. (Id.) Wallace also spoke with Warden Holloway, Lt. Alexander, and Asst. Warden Fitts about the staff and disciplinary board, but they did not take any action. (Id. at 11.). Capt. Castleman, upon hearing about Wallace's issues, brought Dr. Robinson to talk to Wallace. (Id. at 11.) Wallace alleges that he begged Capt. Castleman and Dr. Robinson to have him moved from Unit 3 to medical because he did not feel safe around the staff. (Id.) Because Wallace believed Capt. Castleman was taking a long time to make the move and because Wallace continued to hear voices in his head, Wallace frequently asked Officer Hankens to call Defendant Castleman. (Id. at 12.)

         In a confusing series of events, the Complaint alleges that Wallace told an officer he wanted to take a shower, but when he saw Sgt. Bryant, he began to hear voices telling him to kill Bryant before Bryant killed him. (Id.) Wallace asked to see Dr. Robinson and walked around the pod waiting for her to arrive. (Id.) Wallace alleges that when he saw Sgt. Bryant coming, the next thing he knew Sgt. Bryant slammed Wallace's face into a staircase, and Wallace was face down on the staircase, wearing handcuffs. (Id.; see also Incident Report 01197028, ECF No. 1-5.) Lt. Jones, Officer Jones, Brinkly and a tack-team officer took Wallace to medical where he was kept on a “security hold.” (Id.) Sgt. Bryant wrote Wallace up for defiance. (Id. at 13.) On April 28, 2016, Wallace was transferred. (Id.) Wallace alleges that Defendants have conspired with one another. (Id. at 14.) Wallace seeks punitive and compensatory damages. (Id.)


         The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

         (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or

         (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In assessing whether the Complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the Court applies the pleading standards under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), announced in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009) and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). “Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court ‘consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681) (alteration in original). “[P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions . . . are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 (“Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.”).

         “Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ' and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Nevertheless, pro se litigants and prisoners are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F. App'x 608, 612-13 (6th Cir. 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with “unique pleading requirements” and stating “a court cannot ‘create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'”) (quotation omitted); Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 F. App'x 506, 510 (6th Cir. 2011) (“[W]e decline to affirmatively require courts to ferret out the strongest cause of action on behalf of pro se litigants.”).


         I. Section 1983

         Wallace filed his Complaint on the official form for actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the “Constitution and laws” of the United States (2) committed by a defendant acting under color of state ...

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