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Louis-Charles v. Courtwright

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 7, 2014

SAMUEL LOUIS-CHARLES, Plaintiff,
v.
SERGEANT COURTWRIGHT, SERGEANT NEWTOWN, OFFICER THOMAS, OFFICER FRANK SEYMORE, Defendants.

SAMUEL LOUIS-CHARLES Plaintiff pro se Watertown, New York.

DAVID J. PAULSEN, ESQ., JEFFERSON COUNTY ATTORNEY, Counsel for Defendants Watertown, New York.

REPORT-RECOMMENDATION and ORDER

THÉRÈSE WILEY DANCKS, Magistrate Judge.

This pro se prisoner civil rights action, commenced pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, has been referred to me for Report and Recommendation by the Honorable Gary L. Sharpe, Chief United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(c). Plaintiff Samuel Louis-Charles claims that Defendants, all employees of the Jefferson County Jail, violated his constitutional rights by failing to protect him from assaults by other inmates. (Dkt. No. 1.) Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Dkt. No. 30.) For the reasons discussed below, I recommend that the Court grant Defendants' motion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL SUMMARY

Plaintiff was an inmate at the Jefferson County Jail from September 2009 to May 2010. (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 11:19-24, 13:11.[1]) Until March or April 2010, Plaintiff was housed as a pretrial detainee. Id. at 13:4-12. From March or April 2010 to May 2010 he was housed as a convicted felon awaiting transportation to a state facility. Id. at 13:4-25.

In his verified complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted by another inmate on or about December 4, 2009, in Pod 2A. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5A.[2]) At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he "ran up after a guy who was a Crip member and... was talking nonsense out his mouth, and I chased him up the stairs, and we had got in a physical altercation on the stairs, which I was positioned down and he was positioned up, and I fell down the stairs." (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 22:9-13.) Plaintiff sustained a broken wrist. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5A.) At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he also fractured his hip. (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 22:22.) The other inmate was not injured. Id. at 23:3-4. Plaintiff was disciplined for the fight, but the other inmate was not. Id. at 26:2-3.

After the December incident, Plaintiff requested placement in solitary confinement, but that request was denied. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5A.) Plaintiff was instead placed in Pod 1A, the housing pod for minors. Id. There, Plaintiff spoke directly to Defendant Sergeant Courtwright and requested placement in solitary. ( Id.; Dkt. No. 30-1 at 26:4-23.) Defendant Courtwright refused "despite his knowledge of the risk of assault." (Dkt. No. 1 at 5A.) Defendant Courtwright promised to "look out for" Plaintiff, but he "never did." (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 28:13-22.) At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he requested placement in solitary because "I know me, if I feel that my life is being threatened, I'm going to attack, and I knew my life was being in jeopardy, because I was... an outcast. These... guys been in this town for a lot of years, and I just [ar]rived here. I only been in this town for 87 days, and I just had a fight with one of the big... Crip members." (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 27:22-28:3.)

Plaintiff testified at his deposition that a lot of the minors "antagonized" him because of his fight with the Crip. (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 30:16-22.) Plaintiff asked staff why they had placed him in a pod for minors "[w]here if I do act out and assault them, I will be charged for hitting a minor." Id. at 30:22-23.

After about thirty days in Pod 1A, Plaintiff was moved to Pod 1B. (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 29:25-30:2, 31:8-10.) On February 10, 2010, Defendant Officer Frank Seymore[3] opened the pod too early, which allowed Plaintiff to run into the cell of inmate Everhart Benway and "assault[ ] him... bloody." Id. at 31:16-25, 39:9-11. Plaintiff testified that he attacked Benway "because his mouth and based on because I had a problem." Id. at 32:24-25. Plaintiff was then transferred back to Pod 1A. Id. at 33:6-7.

Plaintiff was kicked out of Pod 1A after getting into "an altercation with a minor where I went into his cell and took all his food." (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 15:6-7.) Plaintiff again requested placement in solitary because if "y'all keep me here, I'm going to put hands on one of these minors... [I]f y'all keep having me around people, I'm going to keep assaulting people." Id. at 37:5-11.

At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he was moved from Pod 1A to Pod 1B "the same place where I caught the assault" in March 2010. (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 37:12-20.) Plaintiff was "immediately confronted by several inmates claiming to be friends of the inmate" who assaulted Plaintiff in December 2009. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5A.)

Plaintiff was moved "from pod to pod" until being placed in Pod 2B on or about April 18, 2010. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5A.) Sex offenders are often placed in Pod 2B. (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 20:7-8.) There, Plaintiff informed Defendant Sergeant Newton "of exactly the circumstances of my prior assaults and of the risk posed to my personal safety in this housing pod." (Dkt. No. 1 at 5A.) Plaintiff requested to be moved, but Defendant Newton denied the request despite being "aware of [Plaintiff's] history and of the risks." Id.

On or about April 23, 2010, Plaintiff was in a fight with another inmate. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5A.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Officer Frank Seymore "not only had prior knowledge of the assault, but actually participated in the orchestration of the assault." Id. At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that the inmate with whom he fought, Anthony Ramirez, is Defendant Seymore's "enforcer." (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 46:8-20.) Plaintiff testified that Ramirez "antagonized" him while they were at recreation by telling Plaintiff to "eat a dick." Id. at 46:23-47:3. Ramirez then came toward Plaintiff and Plaintiff attacked him. Id. at 47:5-6. They were fighting for about a minute before Defendant Thomas signaled for rovers to come and break up the fight. Id. at 47:7-12. Plaintiff testified that his "handsome face" was "disfigured" by the scar he still has from the fight, and even though "[s]ome people don't see it, ... I see it, and this really affect[s] me psychologically." Id. at 47:21-24. Plaintiff testified that Defendant Seymore came by his cell on the day after the fight and said "finally got you, huh." Id. at 50:8-9.

Plaintiff testified at his deposition that he needed to be in solitary because a variety of factors - including being forced to go to recreation, the manner in which guards spoke to inmates, racism, family deaths in a storm in Haiti, his limited time at home over the last two decades, and his mother's illness - caused him to "act like an animal." (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 41:17-43:22.)

Plaintiff testified at his deposition that Defendant Sergeant Newtown stripped him of his socks, sneakers, and thermal undergarments and then placed him in a cold cell for between seven and ten hours. (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 54:25-55:18.) Plaintiff testified that this happened three times. Id. at 55:19-21. Plaintiff testified that Defendant Newton stated that he placed Plaintiff in the cold cell "to make you ...


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