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Benton v. FNU Cliffton

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

March 14, 2019



          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants Chad Clifton and Jacob Street. (Doc. No. 25). Also pending before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, (Doc No. 36).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Cornelius Delane Benton is a North Carolina inmate incarcerated at Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, North Carolina. Plaintiff filed this action on June 8, 2018, naming as Defendants Chad Clifton and Jacob Street, who were correctional officers at Alexander Correctional Institution at all relevant times. Plaintiff brings an Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendants, and he requests declaratory and injunctive relief and compensatory damages.

         Defendants filed the pending summary judgment motion on October 25, 2018. (Doc. No. 25). On October 30, 2018, this Court entered an order in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Plaintiff of the requirements for filing a response to the motion for summary judgment and of the manner in which evidence could be submitted to the Court. (Doc. No. 28). Plaintiff responded to the summary judgment motion on January 25, 2019, by filing his own motion for partial summary judgment. (Doc. No. 36). Thus, this matter is ripe for disposition.

         B. Factual Background

         1. The Alleged Excessive Force Incident and the Summary Judgment Evidence

         a. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that on March 12, 2017, a correctional officer escorted him out of the kitchen at Alexander. (Doc. No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff alleges that, once in the hallway, Defendant Street slammed him into a wall and slammed his head into the floor, and Defendant Clifton put his knee into Plaintiff's back and punched Plaintiff in the face. (Id.). Lastly, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Clifton tried to stab out Plaintiff's eyes with a key, leaving Plaintiff with a black eye. (Id.). Plaintiff claims he developed a black eye and experienced discomfort, pain, and soreness around his wrists, side, and back. (Id. at 7).

         b. Defendants' Summary Judgment Materials

         Defendants' summary judgment materials include the affidavits, and attached exhibits, of Alexander Unit Manager William N. Johnson, Defendant Jacob Street, Defendant Chad Clifton, Alexander correctional sergeant Darren Daves, and Alexander nurse Sarah Wilson. Defendants' evidence shows that on March 12, 2017, at around 11:25 a.m., multiple use of force incidents occurred involving Plaintiff, Defendants, and other correctional staff. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 14(a): Johnson Aff.). These incidents began when correctional officer Nathan Scruggs ordered Plaintiff out of the kitchen and into the hallway after he became belligerent and disrespectful. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 14(b)). While in the hallway, correctional officer Charles Odom observed Plaintiff becoming irate and aggressive towards Officer Scruggs. (Id. at ¶ 14(c)). Officer Odom directed Plaintiff to submit to wrist restraints. (Id.). Defendant Street, who was also nearby, approached the area after wrist restraints were applied and assisted Officer Odom with escorting Plaintiff towards the restrictive housing unit. (Id.; Doc. No. 27-2 at ¶¶ 8, 10: Street Aff.). During the escort, Plaintiff resisted the escort by pulling back and forth between Defendant Street and Officer Odom. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 14(e); Doc. No. 27-2 at ¶ 11). Plaintiff continued his resistance despite orders directing him to stop. (Id.). As a result of Plaintiff's refusal to comply with orders and continued resistance, Defendant Street and Officer Odom secured Plaintiff against the wall to regain control of him. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 14(f); Doc. No. 27-2 at ¶ 12).

         Defendant Clifton arrived and ordered that leg restraints be applied due to Plaintiff's disruptive behavior. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 14(g); Doc. No. 27-2 at ¶ 12; Doc. No. 27-3 at ¶ 10: Clifton Aff.). After Defendant Clifton applied leg restraints, Plaintiff refused to walk and told staff they would have to carry him. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 14(g); Doc. No. 27-3 at ¶ 10; Doc. No. 27-2 at ¶ 13). Defendant Clifton ordered Defendant Street and other correctional officers to place Plaintiff face down on the floor, utilize the four-man carry technique, and take him to the restrictive housing unit. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 14(h); Doc. No. 27-3 at ¶ 11; Doc. No. 27-2 at ¶ 13).

         Upon arriving at the restrictive housing unit, correctional officers took Plaintiff to the private and secure shower area so they could remove the leg restraints and perform a complete search of Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 14(i); Doc. No. 27-3 at ¶ 12; Doc. No. 27-2 at ¶ 14). As the leg restraints were removed and correctional officers started exiting the area, Plaintiff began trying to kick staff. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 14(j); Doc. No. 27-3 at ¶ 13; Doc. No. 27-2 at ¶ 15). Defendant Clifton applied a pressure-point move to the Mandibular Angle and rolled Plaintiff over onto his stomach. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 14(k); Doc. No. 27-3 at ¶ 13). The correctional officers ...

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