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Cooper v. Hoover

December 8, 2006

HARRY COOPER, PLAINTIFF
v.
RICK HOOVER, MICHAEL KNAPP, JOHN WALMER, RAY COFFMAN, CHARLES MITCHELL, JAMES GRACE, SHARON BURK, AND COUNSELOR SARRA DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

The pro se plaintiff, Harry Cooper, an inmate at SCI- Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, and formerly incarcerated at SCIRockview, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, has filed a civil rights complaint alleging retaliation, in part for having challenged his sentence and for filing grievances. The defendants are: Rick Hoover, a counselor at Rockview; Michael Knapp, an officer at Rockview; John Walmer, an officer at Rockview; Ray Coffman, a deputy superintendent at Rockview; Charles Mitchell, an officer at Huntingdon; James Grace, the superintendent at Huntingdon; Sharon Burk, an officer at Huntington; and "Counselor" Sarra, a counselor at Huntingdon.

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss. In deciding that motion, we must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and construe any inferences to be drawn from them in the plaintiff's favor. See Morrison v. Madison Dearborn Capital Partners III L.P., 463 F.3d 312, 314 (3d Cir. 2006). With this standard in mind, we set forth the background to this litigation, as the plaintiff alleges it.

II. Background

The complaint alleges the following. Plaintiff was admitted to the sex offender program at Rockview.*fn1 Defendant Hoover was a counselor for the program. During the course of treatment, when Hoover found out that Plaintiff was appealing his sentence, Hoover warned Plaintiff against doing so, seeing it as an act of denial. After Plaintiff was successful in reducing his sentence in January 2003,*fn2 Hoover retaliated by:

(1) telling Plaintiff he was going to "max" out Plaintiff's sentence;

(2) "called staff meetings and chastised Plaintiff";

(3) "demoted" Plaintiff and

(4) "wrote false treatment and parole oriented reports." (Compl., p. 2).

Hoover also: (1) refused to allow prison visits from Plaintiff's daughter (who was not the victim of the crime) even after Plaintiff obtained court approval for the visits; (2) became outraged after Plaintiff's counsel asked him whether he would recommend Plaintiff for release and "raised this point in group treatment sessions, calling plaintiff to the carpet and ridiculing him for being in denial." (Id.). Plaintiff was denied parole based on the "false and negative treatment reports." (Id.)

The claim against defendant Walmer is based on Walmer's consideration of a grievance Plaintiff had filed. Plaintiff does not specify what the subject of the grievance was but alleges that Walmer told him that Walmer "could not go against" Hoover "as a matter of staff loyalty." (Id., p. 2 addendum). The claim against defendant Knapp is that "within weeks" of Walmer's denial of the grievance, Knapp "facilitated his retaliatory transfer to SCI-Huntingdon." (Id.).

After the transfer to Huntingdon,*fn3 Plaintiff tried again to have visits with his daughter, the daughter who had not been the victim of the crime for which he was imprisoned. Plaintiff submitted a visitor-approval slip on March 25, 2005, but when she attempted to visit Plaintiff on June 26, 2005, she was refused, and defendant Sarra removed her name from the list.

On June 25, 2005, Sarra charged Plaintiff with lying to an employee in connection with the visit. He was found guilty by defendant Mitchell, and Sarra imposed a punishment of "custody level reduction." Plaintiff does not allege in his complaint what the visitation issue was about, but the attachments indicate that prison officials believed the daughter was indeed the victim of the crime, contrary to Plaintiff's ...


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