United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division
Timothy M. Cain, United States District Court Judge.
Timothy Lee Wright (“Wright”), proceeding pro se,
brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Defendants,
Warden Joseph McFadden (“McFadden”), Lieutenant
Karl Von Mutius (“Von Mutius”), and Lieutenant
Joseph Bass (“Bass”) (collectively
“Defendants”), alleging that they violated his
constitutional rights. Defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 62), and Wright filed a response in
opposition (ECF No. 67).
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and District of South Carolina
Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), this case was referred to a
magistrate judge for all pre-trial proceedings. This matter
is now before this court on the magistrate judge's Report
and Recommendation (“Report”), recommending that
the court grant Defendants' motion for summary
judgment.(ECF No. 70). The magistrate judge alerted
Wright of his right to file objections to the Report. (ECF
No. 70-1). Wright filed timely objections (ECF No. 73), and
this case is now ripe for review.
action stems from incidents that occurred on November 1,
2016. Wright alleges that when Defendant Bass came to his
cell to deliver lunch, his cell mate, Jonathan Arnold
(“Arnold”), went to the food flap and told
Defendant Bass that he had not received his insulin shot for
that day. (ECF No. 1 at 4). Wright alleges that Defendant
Bass stated that he did not have any control over medical and
threatened to spray gas on Arnold if he did not move away
from the food flap. Id. Wright asserts that at that
time, he came down from his bunk and told Defendant Bass that
two people lived in that cell and that Wright had done
nothing to deserve to be gassed. Id. According to
Wright, Defendant Bass left their cell, and when he came
back, he threatened to gas Arnold again. Id. Wright
alleges that this threat was not preceded by any directives
or warnings. Id. Following this threat, Defendant
Bass allegedly sprayed gas into Wright and Arnold's cell.
Id. After the first spray, Wright states that he
climbed inside of his mattress to take cover and that, after
a few minutes, he heard a “long[, ] long burst of gas
sprayed into his cell.” Id. at 5. When the
long burst was sprayed, Wright says he heard Defendant Von
Mutius tell another officer to go get a gun. Id. At
that time, Wright decided to come out from his mattress and
was taken by the officers. Id.
alleges that following the spraying, he was not allowed to
shower. Id. at 5-6. He further states that his room
was stripped, and he was left with nothing to clean the gas
off the floor, walls, or himself. Id. at 5. He
contends that his water was turned off due to him being
placed on seventy-two hours of “control cell”
conditions. Id. Wright claims that Warden McFadden
gave the order that he and Arnold be placed on control cell.
Id. at 5-6. As a result of these events, Wright says
he suffered burning, pain, and the inability to breath along
with mental anguish and psychological trauma. Id. at
other hand, Defendants claim that Bass and Von Mutius only
sprayed gas into Wright's cell after Bass was physically
assaulted by both Wright and Arnold. (ECF No. 62-1 at 2).
Defendants assert that Arnold reached through the food
service window of his cell and attempted to grab Defendant
Bass by the vest, and that when Bass tried to close the
window, Arnold blocked the window with his arm. Id.
Defendants allege that Wright then approached the window with
an unknown substance in his hand. Id. Defendants
state that it was at that time that Bass sprayed the first
burst of chemical munitions through the window, and that
despite the spray, Wright was still able to throw the unknown
substance on Bass. Id. Defendants assert that Bass
continued to try to close the window, but Wright and Arnold
pushed a broken broom handle through the window, which struck
Bass on the hand. Id. at 3. In response, Defendant
Bass sprayed a second burst of chemical munitions.
Id. Defendants claim that Officer Cline came to
assist Defendant Bass in attempting to secure the window, but
they were unsuccessful. Id. Wright and Arnold had
allegedly pushed various items, including a sheet, into the
window so that it could not be closed. Id. The
officers called for backup, and Defendant Bass began
videotaping the incident once backup arrived. Id.
state that Lieutenant Grant then repeatedly directed Arnold
and Wright to remove the items from the window. Id.
at 4. Defendant Von Mutius then warns Wright and Arnold that
he is going to give one more directive to remove things from
the cell, which he did. Id. When Wright and Arnold
did not respond, Defendant Von Mutius sprayed a different,
more concentrated chemical spray into the cell. Id.
Defendant Von Mutius then stated that the next step would be
to use a thirty-seven millimeter nonlethal weapon.
Id. At that time, Wright and Arnold complied with
the orders and were removed from the cell. Id.
registered nurse examined Arnold and Wright and stated that
they were not in respiratory distress and were okay to go
back to the cell. Id. at 4, 12. Arnold and Wright
were then strip-searched, and Wright was provided a new
jumpsuit. Id. at 4. Defendants state that while
Arnold and Wright were being searched, their cell was being
stripped and cleaned. Id. at 4-5. Defendants agree that
Wright and Arnold were placed on “control cell”
following the incident, but they argue that the water was not
turned off in the cell. Id. at 5.
noted in the Report, Defendants have filed two videos
depicting some of the events. The first video, Exhibit
K-Video 1, is thirty-seven minutes and fifty-five seconds
long, and it depicts the following. At the start of the
video, an officer can be seen wearing a face shield and
gloves and holding the flap on the door closed with his
hands. There is some white material that is preventing the
flap from closing. No. inmates can be seen on the screen. The
officer (later identified as Defendant Bass) turns around and
speaks to someone behind the camera (later identified as
Lieutenant Grant (“Grant”)) and says “I
can't believe he assaulted me.” Grant then asks
“Who assaulted you?” Bass answers, “Both of
them. . . . I did spray gas in there.” Grant then
enters the camera frame. Grant yells, “Timothy,
why'd you assault this man, ” to which one of the
inmates on the other side of the door yells an unintelligible
response. Grant continues to ask Wright why he assaulted the
officer, but it is unclear what Wright's answer was to
asks Bass what happened. Bass says “I tried to feed
them. He reached out and grabbed my chest. I tried to close
the door, and he caught me with something. And then he had a
broom handle; we snatched it out. Then he won't let me
close the flap.”
and another unidentified officer can be seen holding the flap
closed while Grant continues to try to talk with the inmates
inside. The officers can be heard coughing throughout the
encounter. At three minutes and nineteen seconds into the
video, Bass's hand becomes visible on the screen, and it
is clearly bleeding.
three minutes and twenty-seven seconds into the video, Grant
orders Wright to “pull that stuff out the flap.”
Over the span of the next three minutes, Grant makes the same
directive ten more times. At seven minutes and sixteen
seconds into the video, Grant then asks for help to be sent
to the cell.
the next seven minutes, Grant tells Wright five more times to
remove the material from the flap. At around fourteen minutes
into the video, one of the inmates behind the door states
that he needs to wash the gas off of him.
fifteen minutes and eleven seconds into the video, Grant
again orders Wright to move the materials from the flap.
Wright responds to “stop playing with my legal
work.” Grant states he is not “playing with
nothing” and says he gave Wright “all the
official paper work” that he needs to complete. For the
next several minutes, Grant and an unidentified officer
struggle to hold the flap closed. There is no camera view of
who or what the officers are struggling against.
twenty-three minutes and fifty-eight seconds into the video,
Defendant Von Mutius comes on the screen, dressed in a
protective vest, helmet, and face mask. He states that
inmates Arnold and Wright have assaulted a staff member and
have barricaded their window. He states that the officers are
going to try to secure the window, and that he is going to
give one more directive and ...