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Santiago v. Fields

March 12, 2009

MARCOS F. SANTIAGO PLAINTIFF
v.
LIEUTENANT KEITH FIELDS, ET AL. DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

This Bivens*fn1 civil action was brought by Plaintiff Marcos F. Santiago against federal correction officials Lieutenant Keith Fields ("Lt. Fields"), and Officers Keith Hampton, Patrick Henderson, and C. Hemmings (collectively, "Defendant Officers") for violations of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights.*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that on March 28, 2005, while he was incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, Lt. Fields punched, stomped, and choked Plaintiff while Plaintiff was on the floor of his cell and shackled with arm and leg restraints. (First Am. Compl. ¶ 1). Plaintiff further alleges that Officers Hampton, Henderson, and Hemmings held Plaintiff down during Lt. Fields' attack and failed to intervene on Plaintiff's behalf. (Id.). Defendants have moved for summary judgment on the following grounds: (1)

Defendants did not engage in an Eighth Amendment violation, and (2) even if there was an Eighth Amendment violation, Defendants are immune from suit under the doctrine of qualified immunity because Plaintiff's clearly established constitutional rights were not infringed upon. (Defs.' Br. at 2, 10-11, 13). After careful consideration of the briefs submitted by the parties, and the exhibits appended thereto, the Court denies Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 67).

RELEVANT FACTS

A. Background

Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center ("FDC") in Philadelphia from January 17, 2003 through June 20, 2005, having initially been detained there for pre-trial purposes and later to await a more permanent prison placement. (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ 14). In January 2005, Plaintiff was placed in the FDC's Special Housing Unit ("SHU") for 90 days for allegedly filling a bucket with hot water and using the bucket to threaten inmates and FDC staff. (Id. ¶¶ 46-47). The SHU is the most secure part of the FDC and contains cells designed for inmates on administrative detention or disciplinary segregation. (Id. ¶ 17).

On March 27, 2005, Plaintiff, while in the SHU, threw a cup of bodily excretions on Officer Angel Hidalgo while Officer Hidalgo was opening the food slot in Plaintiff's cell door to retrieve Plaintiff's food tray. (Id. ¶ 50). As a result of this incident, the FDC Captain directed FDC staff to place Plaintiff in arm and leg restraints. (Id. ¶ 52). The FDC Captain informed Plaintiff that, because of his conduct, Plaintiff was no longer on disciplinary segregation, but was instead in administrative detention, which meant that Plaintiff had to stay in the SHU until he was transferred to another Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") institution. (Id. ¶ 55).

At 2:00 p.m. on March 28, 2005, Lieutenant Conrada Dionne Elliot conducted a restraint check in Plaintiff's cell, at which time she noticed that the restraints appeared to be having a calming effect on Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 58; Santiago Decl. ¶ 2). Under BOP policies, a restraint check of inmates in restraints must be conducted "by a Lieutenant every two hours to determine if the use of restraints has had the required calming effect and so that the inmate may be released from those restraints . . . as soon as possible." 28 C.F.R. § 552.24(e); (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ 22). Because Plaintiff was calm and cooperative, Lt. Elliot removed the leg restraints, but Plaintiff remained in the arm restraints. (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ 58; Santiago Decl. ¶¶ 3-4).

Lt. Fields took over for Lt. Elliot as the on-duty operations lieutenant and officer responsible for conducting two-hour restraint checks. (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ 59). At 6:00 p.m., Lt. Fields entered Plaintiff's cell with the other Defendant Officers to conduct a two-hour restraint check. (Id. ¶ 63). Lt. Fields reaffixed the leg irons on Plaintiff, which made Plaintiff very upset. (Santiago Decl. ¶¶ 10-11, 13). Lt. Fields instructed Plaintiff to move towards the wall while Defendant Officers searched his cell. Plaintiff complied. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13). Plaintiff was then pat-searched as Officers Henderson and Hemmings held Plaintiff's upper arms. (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ 64; Lt. Fields Dep. at 224; Santiago Decl. ¶ 14). During the search of Plaintiff, Lt. Fields instructed Plaintiff to open his mouth so Lt. Fields could check for contraband. (Santiago Decl. ¶ 15). Plaintiff refused. Lt. Fields again asked Plaintiff to open his mouth. Plaintiff again refused. (Id. ¶ 16). According to Plaintiff, Lt. Fields then yelled: "Open up your mouth or I'm going to make you eat the ground." (Id. ¶ 17). The parties have presented dramatically different sets of facts as to what occurred next.

B. Plaintiff's Version of Events

Plaintiff claims that he began lowering himself to the ground "to keep [Lt. Fields] from taking [Plaintiff] down," at which time Lt. Fields grabbed Plaintiff's leg restraints, yanked them, and swept Plaintiff off his feet.*fn3 (Defs.' Ex. K ¶ 5; Santiago Decl. ¶ 17). Officers Henderson and Hemmings broke Plaintiff's fall and lowered Plaintiff to the ground. (Santiago Decl. ¶ 18). Lt. Fields then twice asked Plaintiff to open his mouth, and Plaintiff refused both requests. (Id. ¶ 19). Lt. Fields dragged Plaintiff across the floor by his leg restraints, while Lt. Fields yelled at Plaintiff to open his mouth. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20). Plaintiff refused, at which time Lt. Fields dropped Plaintiff's legs and stood over Plaintiff with his right hand stretched out. (Id. ¶ 20). Lt. Fields, for at least the sixth time, asked Plaintiff to open his mouth, and Plaintiff again refused. (Id.). Though Plaintiff claimed in his affidavit, which was signed the day after the incident, that he did not "know why [he] refused" because he "didn't have anything" in his mouth, he now asserts (in a declaration filed in support of Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment) that he repeatedly refused because he was upset that Lt. Fields reaffixed his leg restraints despite his good behavior. (Defs.' Ex. K ¶ 4; Santiago Decl. ¶ 16).*fn4

Lt. Fields exited the cell and threw Plaintiff's dinner into the hallway out of frustration. (Santiago Decl. ¶ 21). Plaintiff admits that he spat on and cursed at Lt. Fields when Lt. Fields reentered the cell. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 34; Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Stmt. of Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 66, 90). The saliva landed on Lt. Fields' chest. (Defs.' Ex. K ¶ 7). Plaintiff claims that Lt. Fields, in retaliation for the spitting, approached Plaintiff, who was on the ground, and stomped his face and kicked him in the back of the head. (Santiago Decl. ¶ 25; Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Stmt. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 66; First Am. Compl. ¶ 15). Officers Hampton, Hemmings, and Henderson then held Plaintiff's body to the floor while Plaintiff was fully shackled. (Santiago Decl. ¶ 26; First Am. Compl. ¶ 16). Lt. Fields sat on Plaintiff's back and punched Plaintiff twice: once in the right side of his face near his right eye, and then in his face where the side of his face meets the back of his head. (Santiago Decl. ¶ 26; First Am. Compl. ¶ 15). Lt. Fields then choked Plaintiff while yelling, "You're never going to spit on me again. Say you're never going to spit on me again! Say you're not going to spit on me again!" (Santiago Decl. ¶¶ 27-28). Plaintiff stated, "Alright, you got that . . . you got that. Alright, you got that," at which time the attack stopped and Defendants left. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30). The attack probably lasted a couple of minutes. (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Stmt. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 66). After the attack, Lt. Fields did not look inside Plaintiff's mouth. (Id. ¶ 70).

C. Defendants' Version of Events

Defendants set forth a different version of events. Defendants claim that Plaintiff, on his own, dropped to the floor while Defendants tried to break his fall. Plaintiff then started kicking and flailing his arms and legs. (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ 65; Lt. Fields Dep. at 225).*fn5 Lt. Fields told the other Defendant Officers to hold Plaintiff's arms and legs down, after which Lt. Fields stood over Plaintiff and told him to open his mouth so Lt. Fields could complete the search for contraband. (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ 65; Lt. Fields Dep. at 225). While on the ground, Plaintiff yelled curses at Lt. Fields and spat on him, with Plaintiff's saliva landing on Lt. Fields' pant leg. (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ 66; Lt. Fields Dep. at 226, 232, 244-46, 249). Lt. Fields interpreted Plaintiff's spitting as an assault requiring force necessary to gain control of Plaintiff. (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ 69; Lt. Fields Dep. at 323-24, 326-27); see also 28 C.F.R. § 552.20 (stating that a correction official is authorized to apply physical restraints necessary to gain control of an inmate after the inmate assaults another individual). Lt. Fields turned Plaintiff's head away and told Plaintiff to stop spitting. (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ 66; Lt. Fields Dep. at 226). In turning Plaintiff's head away, Lt. Fields held one opened hand on the side of Plaintiff's face and used the other hand to support the back of ...


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