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Cates v. Harbaugh

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

May 7, 2019

DANIEL FLOYD CATES, Plaintiff,
v.
BRANDON HARBAUGH, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Daniel Floyd Cates, an inmate at the Whiteville Correctional Facility in Whiteville, Tennessee, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Brandon Harbaugh, the Davidson County Jail, and the “Metro, City of Nashville TN Corrections Officers/Jail.”[1] (Doc. No. 1 at 2-3.) He also filed a motion to proceed in this Court without prepaying fees and costs (Doc. No. 2) and a motion to obtain video and audio recordings (Doc. No. 6).

         I. Application to Proceed as a Pauper

          The Court may authorize a prisoner to file a civil suit without prepaying the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Because it appears from Plaintiff's in forma pauperis application that he cannot pay the full filing fee in advance, his application (Doc. No. 2) will be granted. The $350.00 filing fee will be assessed as directed in the accompanying Order. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         II. Initial Review

         Under the screening requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), the Court must 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 also construe a pro se complaint liberally, United States v. Smotherman, 838 F.3d 736, 739 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)), and accept the 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

         Plaintiff alleges that he is a pretrial detainee. (Doc. No. 1 at 4.) According to Plaintiff, on January 5, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee, Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (“MNPD”) officer Brandon Harbaugh threatened him, assaulted him, and then charged him with resisting arrest. (Id. at 4-5.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Harbaugh grabbed his arm and “attempted to put me in handcuffs, ” at which point Plaintiff asked if he was under arrest. (Id. at 4, 12.) Harbaugh responded “no.” (Id. at 12.) Plaintiff tried to pull away from Harbaugh, and then Harbaugh punched him in the right eye. (Id.) Plaintiff sustained a black eye. (Id.) Other officers took Plaintiff to the ground and put their knees on Plaintiff's back and neck. (Id.) As Harbaugh handcuffed Plaintiff and took him to the police car, he told Plaintiff to “say I was resisting detainment if asked by anyone or I would be hit again.” (Id.) In the car, Plaintiff alleges, Harbaugh asked if Plaintiff knew why he was being arrested. (Id.) Because Plaintiff feared retribution, he responded as Harbaugh previously instructed. (Id.) None of the officers advised Plaintiff of his Miranda rights during this incident. (Id. at 4, 12.) Plaintiff alleges that the officers were wearing body cameras, and that the patrol car was equipped with a camera. (Id. at 12.)

         After his arrest, Plaintiff alleges that he was taken to a facility he identifies as “the Metro Jail.” (Doc. No. 1 at 4.) Some hours later, Plaintiff was taken to another facility he identifies as “the County Jail.” (Id. at 13.) According to Plaintiff, he does not know the “exact name and location” of these facilities, but the events giving rise to his claims occurred “at the city and county jail in Nashville, TN.” (Id. at 6.) Because the Court cannot infer the proper names of these facilities based on the information provided by Plaintiff, the Court will refer to them as “the First Jail” and “the Second Jail” for the purpose of conducting an initial review.

         At the First Jail, Plaintiff was booked and not allowed to make a phone call or file a grievance. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff was shackled, handcuffed behind his back, and placed in a cell by himself. (Id.) He fell on the floor, resulting in extreme pain to his left arm. (Id. at 4, 13.) Plaintiff cried for hours on the floor of the cell, screamed for help, and kicked the cell door. (Id. at 13.) An officer kept looking in Plaintiff's cell window and laughing, telling Plaintiff to “get up.” (Id.) Later that night, Plaintiff was dragged to a transportation van to be taken to the Second Jail. (Id.) Plaintiff was placed in the back of the van without a seatbelt of any kind while he was still shackled and handcuffed. (Id. at 13-14.)

         At the Second Jail, Plaintiff's restraints were removed and he was taken to a cell without receiving medical attention. (Id. at 14.) He was not allowed to make a phone call or file a grievance, and he could not shower for two days. (Id.) Plaintiff had to put his mouth on an unsanitary sink faucet because he did not have a cup and the water came out in a trickle. (Id.)

         At a court appearance on the morning of January 7 (id.) or January 8 (id. at 16), Plaintiff alleges that his charges were dropped, although he was not allowed to attend this hearing. (Id. at 14, 16.) Plaintiff was not released until after 7 p.m. that evening, at which point he did not receive his clothes or $300.00 that was in his possession at the time of arrest. (Id. at 13-14.) Plaintiff requests monetary damages as relief. (Id. at 5.)

         B. Standard of Review

          To determine whether a prisoner's complaint “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted” under the PLRA, the Court applies the same standard as under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court therefore accepts “all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, [and] ‘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 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009)). An assumption of truth does not, however, extend to allegations that consist of legal conclusions or “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, ...


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