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Elmore v. Saunders

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

September 11, 2014

OCTAVIOUS E. ELMORE, Plaintiff,
v.
MR. SORRELL SAUNDERS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CATHERINE C. EAGLES, District Judge.

According to his complaint, Octavious Elmore was placed in a cell with no running water at Scotland Correctional Institution for four days, during which he was handcuffed and denied bedding, a shower, and any water or hygienic items to clean himself. He contends these conditions violated his Eighth Amendment rights and impeded his free exercise of religion. Because Mr. Elmore has stated a claim for violation of his clearly established Eighth Amendment rights, his claims for monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief on this ground may proceed. Because no allegations suggest that the defendants intentionally or consciously interfered with Mr. Elmore's religious practices, his First Amendment claim will be dismissed.

Facts

The following facts are taken from Mr. Elmore's complaint. (Doc. 2.) Those allegations must be accepted as true for purposes of ruling on a motion to dismiss. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993).

Mr. Elmore is incarcerated by the State of North Carolina at Scotland Correctional Institution. (Doc. 2 at ¶ 2.) On May 17, 2012, officers at the prison restrained Mr. Elmore and searched his cell. (Doc. 2 at ¶¶ 9-11.) Defendant Karen Henderson led the search, in which defendant-Captain Torrez also participated. ( Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.) During the search, officers located Mr. Elmore's Muslim prayer rug and beads. ( Id. at ¶ 13.) Lieutenant Henderson asked Mr. Elmore about the items and used a hand wand to scan Mr. Elmore. ( Id. ) Though the scan did not alert to any contraband, Lieutenant Henderson escorted Mr. Elmore to the receiving area and ordered him to walk through a metal detector. ( Id. at ¶¶ 13-14.) The alarm went off, and Lieutenant Henderson directed another officer to have Mr. Elmore strip searched. ( Id. at ¶ 14.)

The strip search did not reveal any contraband, and Lieutenant Henderson directed Mr. Elmore to go through the metal detector again. ( Id. at ¶ 15.) The detector again alerted, and Lieutenant Henderson believed that Mr. Elmore had a cell phone in his rectal cavity. ( Id. ) Lieutenant Henderson handcuffed Mr. Elmore and placed him in a close observation cell. ( Id. at ¶ 16.) A maintenance employee disconnected the water running to the shower, sink, and toilet. ( Id. ) Captain Torrez told Mr. Elmore "we're going to get that!... That's why your people told on you." ( Id. at ¶ 17.)

That day, Lieutenant Henderson repeatedly asked Mr. Elmore to give up the cell phone, telling him that defendant-Captain Covington told her that Mr. Elmore would be allowed to leave close observation if he gave it up. ( Id. at ¶ 19.) Mr. Elmore asked Lieutenant Henderson if he could have a shower. ( Id. ) She said he could shower first thing in the morning and that he would get a mattress that night. ( Id. )

Mr. Elmore remained handcuffed overnight, had to urinate while being watched, and was not given water to clean himself. ( Id. at ¶ 21.) Mr. Elmore wanted to pray but could not do so without water and while handcuffed. ( Id. ) The cell was cold, and Mr. Elmore was wearing only a t-shirt, underwear, and gym shorts. ( Id. ) Mr. Elmore slept on a bare mattress. ( Id. )

The following day, Lieutenant Henderson brought Mr. Elmore breakfast and socks. ( Id. at ¶ 22.) Later, Lieutenant Henderson brought Mr. Elmore lunch, juice, and, upon request, a cup of drinking water. ( Id. at ¶ 24.) She told Mr. Elmore that the prison had received a phone call reporting that he possessed a cell phone and that he could not leave the cell until he gave up the cell phone. ( Id. at ¶ 25.) Later, she told Mr. Elmore that if he did not turn the cell phone in, he would be transported to Central Prison where it would be forcibly removed. ( Id. at ¶ 26.) Mr. Elmore asked about a shower, and she told him she would tell the night shift to give him one. ( Id. )

Mr. Elmore remained handcuffed in close observation over the weekend. ( Id. at ¶¶ 27, 30.) He was not given a blanket, ( id. at ¶ 31), nor was he given water to clean himself after using the bathroom or before eating. ( Id. at ¶¶ 29, 32.) On May 20, Captain Covington took Mr. Elmore's mattress. ( Id. at ¶ 33.) Mr. Elmore reported that officers had forgotten to feed him, and Captain Covington brought him breakfast. ( Id. ) Mr. Elmore again requested a shower, and Captain Covington told him he would get one later. ( Id. ) A few hours later, Mr. Elmore was again sent through the metal detector and, after the alarm alerted, strip searched with no contraband located. ( Id. at ¶ 34.) Mr. Elmore was then sent to segregation and given a shower. ( Id. at ¶ 35.) On May 21, he was x-rayed and found to possess no contraband. ( Id. at ¶ 36.)

Thereafter, Mr. Elmore was charged with accessing a Facebook page while in prison. ( Id. at ¶ 37.) Mr. Elmore pled guilty to the offense. ( Id. ) Mr. Elmore submitted a grievance complaining about his treatment in close observation, which was dismissed. ( Id. at ¶¶ 40-43.) He then filed this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Analysis

The Court reads the complaint to assert claims against Captain Torrez, Captain Covington, and Lieutenant Henderson for deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment for the conditions of his confinement and for violation of his religious freedom under the First Amendment for his inability to pray while handcuffed and without washing. The Court further reads the complaint to assert claims for supervisory liability against ...


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