United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
D. WHITNEY, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
Plaintiff's Complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
(Doc. No. 1). 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Plaintiff has been
granted in forma pauperis status. (Doc. No. 8).
Plaintiff Shawn Germaine Fraley, a North Carolina inmate
incarcerated at Lanesboro Correctional Institution in
Polkton, North Carolina, filed this action on November 3,
2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has named
the following three Defendants, identified as employees at
Alexander Correctional Institution at all relevant times: (1)
FNU Spaventa, identified as a correctional officer at
Alexander; (2) FNU Walker, identified as a correctional
officer at Alexander; and (3) FNU Poteat, identified as a
Unit Manager at Alexander. Plaintiff alleges that on May 20,
2017, at 10:00 pm, while Plaintiff was incarcerated at
Alexander in C-block on the Red Unit, Defendants Spaventa and
Walker physically and sexually assaulted Plaintiff.
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Spaventa
assaulted Plaintiff while Plaintiff was in his cell, punching
him in the face three times while Plaintiff was handcuffed
behind his back, leaving the left side of Plaintiff's
face swollen. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Walker
assaulted Plaintiff sexually, while handcuffing Plaintiff
behind his back, by “placing his penis” on
Plaintiff. Finally, as to Defendant Poteat, Plaintiff alleges
that Poteat was the Unit Manager at Alexander and violated
Plaintiff's due process rights by refusing to allow
Plaintiff to have a disciplinary hearing, and that Plaintiff
was found guilty of certain, unspecified charges, without a
hearing. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and compensatory
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must
review the Complaint to determine whether it is subject to
dismissal on the grounds that it is “frivolous or
malicious [or] fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Furthermore,
under § 1915A the Court must conduct an initial review
and identify and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the
complaint, if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief.
frivolity review, this Court must determine whether the
Complaint raises an indisputably meritless legal theory or is
founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as
fantastic or delusional scenarios. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). Furthermore, a
pro se complaint must be construed liberally. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the liberal
construction requirement will not permit a district court to
ignore a clear failure to allege facts in his Complaint which
set forth a claim that is cognizable under federal law.
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387
(4th Cir. 1990).
as to Plaintiff's claims of excessive force and sexual
assault against Defendants Spaventa and Walker, the Eighth
Amendment prohibits the infliction of “cruel and
unusual punishments, ” U.S. Const. amend. VIII, and
protects prisoners from the “unnecessary and wanton
infliction of pain, ” Whitley v. Albers, 475
U.S. 312, 319 (1986). To establish an Eighth Amendment claim,
an inmate must satisfy both an objective component-that the
harm inflicted was sufficiently serious-and a subjective
component-that the prison official acted with a sufficiently
culpable state of mind. Williams v. Benjamin, 77
F.3d 756, 761 (4th Cir. 1996). In adjudicating an excessive
force claim, the Court must consider such factors as the need
for the use of force, the relationship between that need and
the amount of force used, the extent of the injury inflicted,
and, ultimately, whether the force was “applied in a
good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or
maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing
harm.” Albers, 475 U.S. at 320-21.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has reiterated that
“[a]n inmate who is gratuitously beaten by guards does
not lose his ability to pursue an excessive force claim
merely because he has the good fortune to escape without
serious injury.” Wilkins v. Gaddy, 130 S.Ct.
1175, 1178-79 (2010). In Wilkins v. Gaddy, the
Supreme Court observed:
This is not to say that the “absence of serious
injury” is irrelevant to the Eighth Amendment inquiry.
“[T]he extent of injury suffered by an inmate is one
factor that may suggest ‘whether the use of force could
plausibly have been thought necessary' in a particular
situation.” The extent of injury may also provide some
indication of the amount of force applied. As we stated in
Hudson, not “every malevolent touch by a
prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action.”
“The Eighth Amendment's prohibition of ‘cruel
and unusual' punishments necessarily excludes from
constitutional recognition de minimis uses of physical force,
provided that the use of force is not of a sort repugnant to
the conscience of mankind.” An inmate who complains of
a “push or shove” that causes no discernible
injury almost certainly fails to state a valid excessive
force claim. Injury and force, however, are only imperfectly
correlated, and it is the latter that ultimately counts.
Id. at 1178-79 (citations omitted).
as to Plaintiff's claim of a due process violation
against Defendant Poteat based on Plaintiff's allegations
that he was found guilty of a disciplinary infraction without
being granted a disciplinary hearing, it is well established
that, in prison disciplinary proceedings that bring the
possible loss of good conduct credits, a prisoner is entitled
to certain due process protections. See Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564 (1974). These include
advance written notice of the charges against him, a hearing,
the right to call witnesses and present evidence when doing
so is not inconsistent with institutional safety and
correctional concerns, and a written decision.
Wolff, 418 U.S. at 564-71.
Court finds that, taking Plaintiff's allegations as true
for the purposes of initial review, and construing all
inferences in Plaintiff's favor, this action survives
initial screening as to Plaintiff's claims against