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Blake v. Tennessee Department of Correction

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division

March 22, 2018




         Deandre Blake, a state inmate currently confined at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, Tennessee, filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming as defendants the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”), the Turney Center Industrial Complex (“TCIX”), Lieutenant Billy Rosson, and Dustin Mackin. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff also refers to the following individuals as defendants in the complaint: inmate Cameo Biggs, inmate Chris Kirkendoll, Warden Kevin Genovese, TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker, Governor Bill Haslam, Disciplinary Board Member Sgt. Thomas, two unnamed members of the disciplinary board, and unnamed TCIX staff members. Plaintiff also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 2.)

         I. Application to Proceed as a Pauper

         A prisoner bringing a civil action may be permitted to file suit without prepaying the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Because it appears from Plaintiff's in forma pauperis application that he lacks sufficient financial resources from which to pay the full filing fee in advance, Plaintiff's application (Doc. No. 2) will be granted. Plaintiff nonetheless remains responsible for paying the full filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff will therefore be assessed the full $350.00 filing fee, to be paid as directed in the accompanying Order.

         II. Initial Review

         The Court is required to conduct an initial review and dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A, 1915(e)(2)(B); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). The Court must construe a pro se plaintiff's complaint liberally, United States v. Smotherman, 838 F.3d 736 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)), and accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true unless they are entirely without credibility. See Thomas v. Eby, 481 F.3d 434, 437 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992)).

         A. Factual Allegations

         On September 26, 2017, Plaintiff was confined at the Turney Center Industrial Complex. (Doc. No. 1 at 5.) Between 6:30 and 7:30 P.M. that evening, two fellow inmates-Cameo Biggs and Chris Kirkendoll-attacked Plaintiff in his cell. (Id.) Biggs had a box cutter. (Id.) Both inmates were housed on the first floor of TCIX and were “supposed to be on lock down.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that unnamed TCIX staff members responsible for “the pod” failed to do proper security checks. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff had previously asked to be held in “safekeeping” or “protective custody, ” but all prison officials, including Defendant Mackin, denied his requests. (Id. at 10-12.)

         Biggs dropped the box cutter during the attack, and Plaintiff picked it up and cut him. (Id. at 5.) The attackers held Plaintiff down, knocked one of his teeth out, and ran out of Plaintiff's cell. (Id.) Plaintiff's cellmate then tried to help Plaintiff by locking him in the cell. (Id.) Biggs and Kirkendoll later “jumped” Plaintiff's cellmate on the first floor of TCIX. (Id.) Because of the attack, Plaintiff received medical assistance to his face, mouth, arms, and hands. (Id.)

         Plaintiff's cellmate told a correctional officer that Plaintiff needed help, and a “side pod” correctional officer ordered the unit “locked down.” (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff was placed in “the hole” pending an investigation. (Id.) Some hours later, both attackers and Plaintiff's cellmate were placed in “the hole” with Plaintiff. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Mackin prepared three false disciplinary reports related to the attack, and that Defendant Rosson approved them. (Id. at 6-7.) These reports are attached to the complaint. The first disciplinary report charges Plaintiff, Plaintiff's cellmate, and both attackers with “participating in security threat group activity.” (Id. at 6, 22.) The second disciplinary report states that Plaintiff assaulted Biggs with a box cutter and charged Plaintiff with “possession of a deadly weapon.” (Id. at 6, 25) The third disciplinary report charges Plaintiff and Biggs with assault, stating that Biggs entered Plaintiff's cell and “began to physically assault” Plaintiff, at which point Plaintiff “retrieved a box cutter” and “began to assault and stab” Biggs. (Id. at 7, 28.) This report states that Plaintiff “received bruising to multiple area[s] of his body” and Biggs sustained “puncture wounds to his facial area as well as his left arm which required sutures.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff had a disciplinary board hearing, and there are three disciplinary report hearing summaries attached to the complaint. (Id. at 7-8, 30-35.) These summaries are signed by Disciplinary Board Member Sgt. Thomas and two unnamed members of the disciplinary board.[1](Id. at 9, 31, 33, 35.) The second page of each summary includes the instruction “Attach CR3171 Agreement to Plead Guilty and Waiver of Disciplinary Hearing and Due Process Rights.” (Id. at 31, 33, 35.) The “waiver” section of each summary allows an inmate to agree to waive the right to 24-hour notice, the right to have the reporting official present, and the right to call witnesses on his behalf. (Id. at 30, 32, 34.) On all three of Plaintiff's summaries, the “inmate signature” line for these waivers reads, “signed 3171.” (Id.) These summaries also reflect that Plaintiff pleaded guilty to all of the disciplinary charges. (Id. at 30-35.) Plaintiff alleges that he did not sign any of the waiver sections, and that he did not plead guilty to any of the disciplinary charges. (Id. at 7-8.)

         There is also an administrative segregation placement form attached to the complaint. (Id. at 8-9, 36.) This form is signed by Warden Kevin Genovese, Disciplinary Board Member Sgt. Thomas, and two unnamed members of the disciplinary board. (Id. at 9, 36.) In the section to provide reasons for recommending administrative segregation placement, the form states, “Inmate Deandre Blake plead guilty to the disciplinary board to a class A assault on offender with a weapon . . . . Due to inmate Blakes' recent violent acts he shows a great risk to the safety and security of the institution and the board recommends he be placed on Administrative Segregation.” (Id. at 8- 9, 36.) On this form, there is an “X” next to the statement “inmate refused to sign.” (Id. at 9, 36.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants conspired to place him in administrative segregation as retaliation, and he is experiencing violent, insane, and paranoid behavior while in segregation. (Id. at 13-14.) Biggs and Kirkendoll were not placed in administrative segregation as a result of the attack. (Id. at 13.) At some point, Plaintiff was transferred to the West Tennessee State Penitentiary (“WTSP”). Plaintiff ...

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