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Robinson v. Myers

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

January 26, 2016

Shawn Michael Robinson, Plaintiff,
v.
PSO Brian Myers; Leonard Ramsey; Sabrina Wannamaker; PSO Robert Vic, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SHIVA V. HODGES, Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Shawn Michael Robinson, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, is involuntarily committed to the Sexually Violent Predator Treatment Program ("SVPTP") at the South Carolina Department of Mental Health ("SCDMH") pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 44-48-10 through § 44-48-170. He brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights by the following SCDMH employees: Anthony Myers, [1] Leonard Ramsey, [2] Sabrina Wannamaker, and Robert Vick[3] (collectively "Defendants").

         This matter comes before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment [ECF No. 62]. Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the court advised Plaintiff of the summary judgment procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to Defendants' motion. [ECF No. 63]. The motion having been fully briefed [ECF Nos. 66, 67], it is ripe for disposition.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this matter has been assigned to the undersigned for all pretrial proceedings. Having carefully considered the parties' submissions and the record in this case, the undersigned recommends the district judge grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff submitted a verified complaint, [4] which is viewed as an affidavit in this district and may, standing alone, defeat summary judgment if it contains allegations that are based on personal knowledge. Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991). However, Defendants submitted video footage on which the court is entitled to rely. See Smith v. Ozmint, 578 F.3d 246, 254 (4th Cir. 2009) (holding that despite the parties' contradicting versions of the fact, the court was entitled to rely on the video recordings to find that no reasonable juror could have found that the officers' use of force was excessive) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007)).

         A. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that on January 3, 2014, Public Safety Officer ("PSO") Myers physically assaulted him, without reason or provocation, by punching him in the back as Plaintiff waited in line for his nightly medication. [ECF No. 1 at 4]. Plaintiff contends this occurred because he filed a lawsuit (C/A No. 3:13-cv-73-CMC-SVH) naming as a defendant Dwight Green, who Plaintiff alleges is Myers' cousin. Id. Defendants Vick and Ramsey were also named in that suit. Id. at 3.

         Plaintiff also alleges that on February 6, 2014, Myers and Vick performed a search of his cell and confiscated his legal documents and religious books. Id. at 4. Plaintiff became very upset during the search and began yelling to speak with the sergeant on duty. Myers Aff. at ¶ 11.[5] When Plaintiff began to walk away from room 119, Vick and Myers gave him verbal directives to return to the room area, which he refused. Id.; ECF No. 62-7 at 2. Myers, Vick, and PSO Thorpe followed Plaintiff up the stairs and, as they escorted him back down the stairs, Plaintiff alleges Myers began jerking and pinching his left arm. [ECF No. 1 at 5; Myers Aff. at ¶ 12]. Plaintiff alleges Myers was pinching him with enough force to cause his knees to buckle under him. [ECF No. 1 at 5]. He alleges PSOs Branch and Jacobs, who are not defendants in this action, slammed him face first into a chain link fence.[6] Id. Plaintiff claims that while five persons were subduing him, Myers pulled down Plaintiff's pants and underwear and rubbed either his hand or his nose in Plaintiff's "butt crack."[7] Id. Plaintiff alleges Defendants placed wrist and leg restraints on him and then pulled and carried him by the injured arm to the front of room 119. Id. at 6.

         Plaintiff then alleges that he was beaten in front of room 119. Id. When Plaintiff refused to walk, he was carried to observation room 101 by his arms, legs, and restraints. Id.; ECF No. 62-7 at 2. Plaintiff alleges that a few minutes later while he was still in restraints he was beaten by Defendants and other staff in room 101. Id. He alleges Myers "concentrated on inflicting pain on Plaintiff's left hand and arm." Id. Defendants allege, and Plaintiff has not disputed, that Plaintiff remained hostile and was yelling threats at the officers. Myers Aff. at ¶ 15; Vick Aff. at ¶ 10.[8] Plaintiff was given an injection by a nurse. Id. Plaintiff claims that Defendants returned an hour later and again beat him while he was in four-point restraints. Plaintiff was placed on Secure Management Status for 72 hours because he repeatedly banged his head on the door of room 101. Myers Aff. at ¶ 17; Vick Aff. at ¶ 12.

         Plaintiff claims he was later punished after a disciplinary hearing and was placed in solitary confinement for over 90 days without any treatment and rehabilitation privileges or access to his legal and religious materials. Id. Plaintiff alleges Wannamaker, his case manager, ordered that his punishment continue beyond the original 90-day sentence, threatened him with retaliation, and denied him rehabilitation treatment for which he is civilly-committed. Id. Plaintiff alleges Wannamaker prevented him from accessing his religious materials and called him a "Devil Worshiper" and "Pagan." Id.

         B. Video Evidence

         Defendants submitted video evidence of Plaintiff awaiting his medicine on January 3, 2014. ("Video A"). The video shows that Myers lightly touches Plaintiff on the back as he maneuvers to the nurse's station.

         Defendants also submitted two videos from the incident on February 6, 2014. ("Video B" and "Video C"). Video B shows Plaintiff walk away from room 119 as his room is being searched, and two officers follow him. On their return trip, as Plaintiff and the officers approach the hallway in which room 119 is located, there is an apparent struggle. The other residents appear to have been ordered to their rooms, as they all exit an adjacent room and go to their rooms. The officers place Plaintiff on the floor, but only his legs are visible in the video. Although Plaintiff's bottom is not in the camera's view during this time, at no point does it appear that his pants or underwear are pulled down. When Plaintiff returns to the camera's full view, he is in wrist restraints, but not leg restraints. As Plaintiff is being walked to room 119 with his arms behind his back, he does not appear to be in pain. When the officers completed the search of Plaintiff's room, they attempted to move him to observation room 101, but Plaintiff fell to the floor outside of room 119. The video reveals a struggle requiring at least five officers to subdue Plaintiff and place him in leg restraints. At the end of Video B, the officers are escorting Plaintiff, who is in walking in wrist and leg restraints, to room 101, and Plaintiff does not appear to be injured.

         In Video C, officers are carrying Plaintiff by his arms, legs, and restraints to place him in room 101. A nurse with a shot in her hand follows the officers in room 101 and leaves the room less than a minute later. Within a few minutes of the officers' exit out of the room, Plaintiff can be seen opening the flap of room 101 and sticking out his left hand and arm, which are not in restraints of any kind, before eventually beating on the flap. The officers return to the room and appear to be again subduing Plaintiff when the video ends.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard on Summary Judgment

         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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate; if the movant carries its burden, then the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If a movant asserts that a fact cannot be disputed, it must support that assertion either by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials;" or "showing... that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. SeeAnderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id. at 248. Further, while the federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case, see, e.g.,Cruz v. Beto,405 U.S. 319 (1972), the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to ...


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