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Walker v. Inch

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

May 10, 2019

MARK INCH, [1] et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Jesse Walker, proceeding pro se, sues Defendants[2] for injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that a failure by the Defendants to provide him with protective management exposes him to an unreasonable risk of serious harm and violates the Eighth Amendment.

         Before the Court are Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF Doc. 57) and Plaintiff's response in opposition (ECF Doc. 59). The motion has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 72.2(C). After reviewing the parties' submissions, the record and the relevant law, the undersigned recommends that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF Doc. 57) be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Legal Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing law, and it is “genuine” if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational fact finder to find for the nonmoving party. Id. Summary judgment is not appropriate “if a reasonable fact finder evaluating the evidence could draw more than one inference from the facts, and if that inference introduces a genuine issue of material fact.” Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 594 (11th Cir. 1995). Generally, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party (here, Plaintiff) and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Mann v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 588 F.3d 1291, 1303 (11th Cir. 2009).

         II. Facts

         The facts pertinent to the resolution of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment are drawn from Plaintiff's verified complaint[3] (ECF Doc. 1), the evidence submitted by Defendants (ECF Docs. 57-1 - 57-4) and the evidence submitted by Plaintiff (ECF Doc. 59 at 12-26). Nevertheless, matters stated below as “facts” for purposes of summary judgment review may not be the actual facts. See Montoute v. Carr, 114 F.3d 181, 182 (11th Cir. 1997).

         While housed at SRCI in March 2015, Plaintiff learned a “hit” had been placed on him by gangs within the FDOC because he cooperated with investigations conducted by various law enforcement agencies and the FDOC's Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”). ECF Doc. 57-2 at 25-26. He requested protective management[4] (“PM”) on March 31, 2015. Id. at 24-27. In April 2015, the Institutional Classification Team (“ICT”) at SRCI and the State Classification Office denied the request because Plaintiff was unable “to advise who he felt in fear of or who had threatened him.” ECF Doc. 1 at 12; ECF Doc. 57-2 at 17, 64.

         Within a week of the denial, “an inmate with a long history of assaulting other inmates was moved into [Plaintiff's] cell; that inmate, Christopher Smith . . . eventually told [Plaintiff] that the officers who moved [Smith] into [Plaintiff's] cell had told [Smith] to assault [Plaintiff] because [he is] a ‘snitch[.]'” ECF Doc. 1 at 12. Plaintiff “managed to keep . . . Smith at bay by giving him snacks . . . sold at the inmate canteen.” Id.

         In May 2015, a correctional officer “began pressuring . . . Smith to assault [Plaintiff]; when that did not happen, the officer began denying [Plaintiff] meals and threatened [him] with pepper spray[.]” Id. Plaintiff notified his mother, who called the OIG and made a complaint. Id. The officer was temporarily reassigned to a different dorm but, upon his return, “he intensified his threats and eventually persuaded . . . Smith to attack [Plaintiff], at which point [Plaintiff] notified [his] dad who in turn called the OIG and the FBI's Pensacola office.” Id. Plaintiff was moved to a different dorm shortly thereafter. Id. For the rest of his time on close management[5] at SRCI in 2015, Plaintiff “stayed in [his] cell as much as possible to avoid” gang members. Id. at 13. The FDOC downgraded Plaintiff's custody level in August 2015 and placed him in the general prison population. Id.

         In September 2015, Plaintiff was transferred from SRCI to Okaloosa Correctional Institution (“Okaloosa CI”). Id. While there, he was attacked by members of the Gangster Disciples (a gang he later formally renounced) on four (4) separate occasions and escaped serious injury each time. Id. at 13-15. Those attacks occurred in September, October, December and April 2016. Id. After the fourth attack on April 11, 2016, Plaintiff falsely claimed a knife dropped during the attack was his-a tactic he hoped would lead to him being placed in confinement and transferred to a different facility away from the Gangster Disciples at Okaloosa CI. Id. at 15. Plaintiff received a disciplinary report for possessing a weapon; after being found guilty of the charge, he was placed on close management and subsequently returned to SRCI. Id.

         In November 2016, Plaintiff requested PM during a disciplinary investigation for refusing a cellmate, citing the threat posed to him by members of his former gang, the Gangster Disciples. ECF Doc. 57-2 at 17, 28-29.[6] On December 1, 2016, an ICT composed of Defendants Dove, Neal and Jackson held a hearing.[7] ECF Doc. 1 at 7. At the hearing, Plaintiff told the ICT:

In June of 2014, I provided substantial assistance and information to Inspector Collins of the [OIG], in regard to an investigation involving several correctional officers (two of whom, then Sergeants Brooks and Simmons are also members of the Gangster Disciples). The officers were arrested for various charges ranging from introduction of contraband into a state facility (Taylor C.I.) to conspiracy to commit murder (in September of 2013, then Sergeants Brooks and Simmons put a hit on another inmate who had provided the OIG with information about their activities, in turn that inmate was stabbed by another inmate/Gangster Disciple).

ECF Doc. 1 at 7-8; ECF Doc. 57-2 at 17. Plaintiff informed the ICT his life was in imminent danger because the Gangster Disciples had discovered Plaintiff provided information to the OIG at Taylor CI and placed a “hit” on him. ECF Doc. 1 at 8.

         Plaintiff also told the ICT that, in October 2016, he formally renounced his own “affiliation to the Gangster Disciples, and ‘debriefed' to the OIG's gang-intelligence division (providing the OIG with even more information about the gang's membership and activities inside of the prison system and on the streets).” Id.

         Plaintiff asked Neal whether the ICT had contacted the OIG to determine the validity of his statements. Id. Neal told Plaintiff: (1) “the ICT does not doubt that [his] life is in danger, however, the ICT had not, and would not be contacting the OIG in regard to [his] request for placement on PM”; (2) “if the gangs want to kill [him], there is nothing the [FDOC] can do to prevent that”; and (3) if he “had not ‘snitched on everybody' they wouldn't want to kill [him].” Id. at 8-9.

         The ICT once again recommended Plaintiff's request for PM be denied “for not being able to advise who he felt in fear of or who had threatened him.” ECF Doc. 57-2 at 18, 65, 72. In mid-December 2016, Defendant Dittman adopted the recommendation and denied the request. ECF Doc. 1 at 9. The State Classification Office denied Plaintiff's appeal but recommended that he not be housed with known gang members. ECF Doc. 57-2 at 18. Plaintiff appealed the PM denial to Julie Jones, the then Secretary of the FDOC; Defendant Neel denied the appeal in January 2017. ECF Doc. 1 at 9. Defendant Greene later denied a second appeal. Id.

         Plaintiff's father called the OIG on December 19, 2016, and indicated Plaintiff feared for his life and needed protection because of Plaintiff's “previous involvement and cooperation with investigations conducted by outside law enforcement agencies and the [OIG].” ECF Doc. 57-2 at 14. The OIG initiated an inquiry on the same day and assigned it to Defendant Gustafson. Id.

         Gustafson interviewed Plaintiff on December 20, 2016. ECF Doc. 57-2 at 15. Plaintiff explained that “he was a ‘snitch' for the local law enforcement agencies he lived near prior to entering prison” and “he also came forward with information to the [OIG] in regards to the introduction of contraband by a correctional officer [affiliated with the Gangster Disciples] at another institution.” Id. Plaintiff stated he had renounced his own affiliation to the Gangster Disciples but “other members of the gang found out he had cooperated with the [OIG] after the correctional officer was arrested” and put a “kill on sight” order on him. Id.

         Plaintiff told Gustafson that on December 1, 2016, Lieutenant Gary Brown advised Plaintiff “that he needed to stop being a ‘snitch' or the situation was only going to get worse.” Id. at 15-16. However, Plaintiff conceded no witnesses or evidence corroborated the allegation against Brown and he did not file a grievance regarding the interaction. Id. Plaintiff advised Gustafson that at 4:50 a.m. on December 20, 2016, Officer Jonathon Gent and Sergeant Daniel Johnson searched his cell. Id. at 16. The correctional officers told Plaintiff “the reason for the search were ‘orders from the top.'” Id. Gent handed Plaintiff “a blank witness ...

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