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Lanier v. Hands

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

September 1, 2017

RICARDO EDWIN LANIER, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER HANDS, K. DREW, SERGEANT LEIGH and AL M. WHITNEY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court for preliminary review of plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. (DE 1). Also before the court are plaintiff's motions for injunctive relief and for copies. (DE 3, 10).

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on February 13, 2017 against Bertie Correctional Institution (“Bertie”) prison staff (“defendants”), alleging deliberate indifference to his safety in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiff sues defendants in their individual and official capacities and seeks punitive and compensatory damages in the amount of $975, 000.00 and injunctive relief. On the same date, plaintiff filed the instant motion for preliminary injunction wherein he seeks transfer to a different prison.

         STATEMENT OF ALLEGED FACTS

         The conduct underlying plaintiff's claims occurred while plaintiff was incarcerated at Bertie, in Windsor, North Carolina.[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that on November 26, 2016, Correctional Sergeant K. Drew (“Drew”) filed a “false” disciplinary report against plaintiff for verbal aggression and disobeying a direct order. Compl. at 6; id., Ex. A (DE 1-1). As a result, plaintiff was moved “to segregation” and temporarily placed in a “holding cage.” Compl. at 6. While there, an unidentified inmate in a separate holding cell informed plaintiff that “Drew told him and another inmate that the plaintiff had allegedly told her that they had been using drugs.” Id. at 6-7. After plaintiff “was taken to a cell” later that day, he filed a grievance, wherein he expressed concern for his safety as a result of Drew's statements and requested “a transfer.” Id.; Ex. B (DE 1-1). Plaintiff's “infraction” was ultimately “dismissed.” Compl. at 6.

         Plaintiff was released from segregation on December 11, 2016. Id. at 7. Two days later, while working in the kitchen, another unidentified inmate approached plaintiff and advised that Correctional Officer Hands (“Hands”) “told him that the plaintiff had made disrespectful statements about his gang affiliation, and was in fact about to fight the plaintiff.” Id.

         On December 15, 2016, the “other inmate” that Drew accused of drug use based on information purportedly provided by plaintiff threatened plaintiff that he and “eight or nine guys of his entourage” intended to fight him. Id. at 8. Plaintiff advised Sergeant Fields (“Fields”) of the threat, who in turn summoned Lieutenant Thompson (“Thompson”). Id. Thompson secured plaintiff's signature on a protective custody form, advised an investigation would occur upon receipt of plaintiff's statement and placed plaintiff in segregation. Id.

         Assistant Unit Administrator Al Whitney (“Whitney”) conducted the investigation. Id. Upon conclusion of the investigation, Whitney met with plaintiff in his cell and advised, “You have nothing. I've spoken to all individual's [sic] who say they don't know what you're talking about.” Id. Whitney then informed plaintiff that he “would be moved to upper tan unit above from lower tan unit where plaintiff was housed” in accordance with the jail's “policy.” Id. After explaining to Whitney that he did not “feel safe” despite the results of the investigation, plaintiff “elected . . . to remain in segregation.” Id. at 9. Whitney responded that plaintiff “would just get written up” pursuant to the jail's “policy.” Id.

         On December 22, 2016, Correctional Sergeant Leigh ordered plaintiff to return to the “regular population.” Id. at 9; Ex. C-1 (DE 1-1). Plaintiff refused, expressing the same safety concerns to Leigh that he raised earlier with Whitney. Id. at 9. Leigh, however, “ignore[d] plaintiff's contentions” and wrote him up. Id. at 9. That same day, plaintiff received a Notice of Hearing, wherein the Facility Classification Committee recommended plaintiff be housed in administrative segregation due to an “ongoing investigation.” Id., Ex. D (DE 1-1).

         On December 30, 2016, plaintiff received a Notice of Action by Classification Authority, advising him of his assignment to administrative segregation. Ex. D. (DE 1-1). According to plaintiff, Leigh's “write up was in fact without merit.” Compl. at 10. As a result of the write up by Leigh, plaintiff allegedly endured “mental and emotional distraughtment [sic] of in fact being punished due to safety concerns.” Id. at 10.

         DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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