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Williams v. Smith

September 30, 2010

KEITH A. WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF
v.
JOSEPH SMITH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christopher C. Conner United States District Judge

(Judge Conner)

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Keith A. Williams ("Williams"), a federal inmate formerly incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg ("USP Lewisburg"), Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, commenced this federal civil rights action on July 30, 2007. (Doc. 1.) Presently pending is a motion for summary judgment, filed on behalf of the following Federal Bureau of Prison ("BOP") employees: former USP Lewisburg Warden Joseph Smith ("Smith"); Lieutenant Edinger ("Edinger"); Lieutenant Gabrielson ("Gabrielson"); and Corrections Officer Murray ("Murray").*fn1 (Doc. 79.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Statement of Facts

In his complaint, Williams alleged that "[p]rior to July 18, 2005[,]" he was involved in "several violent encounters with various members of the Washington D.C. (D.C.) and New York (N.Y.) gangs; involving several fights." (Doc. 84 ¶ 1; Doc. 91, ¶ 1.) Williams further alleged that he was placed in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP Lewisburg") "after being assaulted by various members of both the D.C. and N.Y. gangs." (Doc. 84 ¶ 2; Doc. 91, ¶ 2.) As relief, Williams seeks compensatory, punitive, "cosmetic," and treble damages for the alleged constitutional violations. (Doc. 84 ¶ 3; Doc. 91, ¶ 3.)

On July 18, 2005, at 5:35 p.m., Senior Officer Treibley ("Treibley") was informed that there was a fight at 5:30 p.m. on the C block, second floor. (Doc. 84, ¶ 4, Exhibit ("Ex.") 2; Doc. 91, ¶ 4.) Treibley notified Lieutenant Sawyer ("Sawyer") Senior Officer Kissell ("Kissell") of a possible fight and searched the unit for blood. (Doc. 84 ¶ 5; Doc. 91, ¶ 5.) At approximately 5:45 p.m., Kissell reviewed video surveillance for a possible altercation on the C-block, second floor range. (Doc. 84, ¶ 6, Ex. 3; Doc. 91, ¶ 6.) He called Treibley and advised him that the incident was on tape. (Doc. 84, ¶ 7, Ex. 2; Doc. 91, ¶ 7.) Treibley secured all the inmates in their cells and locked down the unit so that the inmates involved in the altercation could be identified. (Doc. 84, ¶¶ 8-9, Exs. 2, 4; Doc. 91, ¶¶ 8-9.) On the video at 5:25:21 p.m., Kissell saw two inmates, who were later identified as Andrew Long and Williams, having a conversation by the C-Block second floor stairwell. (Doc. 84, ¶ 10, Ex. 3; Doc. 91, ¶ 10.) At 5:25:22 p.m., Kissell saw these two inmates physically assaulting each other with closed fists. (Doc. 84, ¶ 11, Ex. 3; Doc. 91, ¶ 11.) Once identified, the inmates were escorted to the Lieutenant's office and they claimed that they were wrestling and it was a misunderstanding. (Doc. 84, ¶ 12, Ex. 4; Doc. 91, ¶ 12.) Williams, testified that Long was the first one to show aggression and that he did not assault Long; he merely defended himself. (Doc. 91, ¶ 11, Ex. 1.) He did not recall reporting to the Lieutenant that he and Long were wrestling. (Id.)

Both inmates were then escorted to health services for medical treatment. (Doc. 84, ¶ 13, Ex. 4; Doc. 91, ¶ 13.) Williams received treatment for a cut above his left eye. (Doc. 84, ¶ 14, Ex. 4; Doc. 91, ¶ 14.) Both inmates were then taken to the SHU with no further incidents. (Doc. 84, ¶ 15, Ex. 4; Doc. 91, ¶ 15.) Williams received a disciplinary incident report for fighting. (Doc. 84, ¶ 16, Ex. 3; Doc. 91, ¶ 16.) The Unit Discipline Committee referred this matter to the Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO"). (Doc. 84, ¶ 17, Ex. 3; Doc. 91, ¶ 17.) At the DHO hearing, Williams testified and admitted his involvement in the fight and was found guilty of fighting and sanctioned. (Doc. 84, ¶¶ 18-19, Ex. 5; Doc. 91, ¶¶ 18-19.) Although he admitted that he hit Long first in the face, he maintains that Long was the aggressor and that he was merely defending himself. (Doc. 84, ¶ 20, Ex. 4; Doc. 91, ¶¶ 11, 20, Ex. 1.)

At his deposition, Williams admitted that this was his first fight with Long and "[i]t was unexpected. [Long's] attitude and his action was very unexpected to [Williams] because [Williams] wasn't aware of any aggression upon [Williams] . . . . [i]t was never at a time as we were cellies that there was disrespect or argument or anything of that degree." (Doc. 84, ¶ 21, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 21.) Williams initially testified that he was not sure if there was a BOP officer that witnessed the fight, but then clarified his position stating that only inmates were around when he fought with Long and no BOP officers were around to witness the fight. (Doc. 84, ¶ 22; Doc. 91, ¶ 22, Ex. 1.)

Williams was "not sure" whether Long was a member of any gang, but was aware that he was from D.C. (Doc. 84, ¶ 26, Exs. 6, 7; Doc. 91, ¶ 26, Ex. 1.) When Williams was asked if any of the defendants would have known that he was going to fight with Long, he testified "if you was observing, you wouldn't have never had a clue that such a thing would happen . . . it was a surprise to me." (Doc. 84, ¶ 28, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 28.) When Williams was asked how the defendants would know he was going to fight with Long, he replied "I never said that they would know." (Doc. 84, ¶ 29, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 29.) Williams conceded that he was not afraid of Long after they fought. (Doc. 84, ¶ 30, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 30.) When he was asked about what occurred when he was assaulted in the outside recreation cage, he testified "[i]t could have been no more than five minutes as the officer is leaving. Just aware that he can get a distance away from the cage, the incident out of sight, it happened. They walk upon me; and the assault began, you know." (Doc. 84, ¶ 31, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 31.)

Following this incident, Williams was housed in the SHU. (Doc. 84, ¶ 23, Exs. 6, 7; Doc. 91, ¶ 23.) Williams was separated from the inmate he fought with on July 18, 2005, meaning they would never be celled together or put in a recreation cage together. (Doc. 84, ¶ 24, Exs. 7-8 ; Doc. 91, ¶ 24.) Williams conceded he was separated from Long, testifying that he neither saw Long again nor spoke to Long. (Doc. 84, ¶ 25, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 25.)

On July 28, 2005 at 7:28 a.m., Senior Officer Specialist Keiser ("Keiser"), SHU recreation officer, witnessed two inmates assaulting Williams in an outside SHU recreation pen. (Doc. 84, ¶ 32, Exs. 9, 10; Doc. 91, ¶ 32.) Keiser immediately called for SHU staff to report to the SHU recreation pens. (Doc. 84, ¶ 33, Ex. 9; Doc. 91, ¶ 33.) Senior Officer Wagner ("Wagner") was placing inmates in another recreation pen and heard noises coming from the recreation pen where Williams was located. (Doc. 84, ¶ 34, Ex. 11; Doc. 91, ¶ 34.) Wagner saw two inmates hitting Williams in the face with closed fists and ordered the inmates in the recreation pen to stop fighting and lay on the ground. (Doc. 84, ¶ 35, Ex. 11; Doc. 91, ¶ 35.) The inmates complied with Wagner's orders. (Doc. 84, ¶ 36, Ex. 11; Doc. 91, ¶ 36.) Senior Officer Specialist Dressler ("Dressler") responded to Keiser's request for assistance and saw Williams bent over bleeding. (Doc. 84, ¶ 37, Ex. 12; Doc. 91, ¶ 37.) Dressler ordered the inmates in the recreation pen to lay down. (Doc. 84, ¶ 38, Ex. 12; Doc. 91, ¶ 38.) Senior Officer Clark ("Clark") also responded to Keiser's request for assistance and ordered the inmates in the recreation pen to lay on the ground. (Doc. 84, ¶ 39, Ex. 13; Doc. 91, ¶ 39.) Williams confirmed that the fight stopped because officers "ran" towards the cage and ordered them to "get down." (Doc. 84, ¶ 40, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 40.) Williams conceded he does not know the officer's name who ran to the cage. (Doc. 84, ¶ 41, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 41.) When Senior Officer Toth ("Toth") responded to Keiser's request for assistance, all the inmates in the recreation pen were laying down, except Williams. (Doc. 84, ¶ 42, Ex. 14; Doc. 91, ¶ 42.) When SHU Lieutenant Gabrielson ("Gabrielson") arrived at the outside SHU recreation pens, all the inmates were laying face down with their arms extended and palms facing up. (Doc. 84, ¶ 43, Exs. 7, 10; Doc. 91, ¶ 43.) Gabrielson was informed that Williams was assaulted by two inmates and instructed staff to remove Williams from the recreation cage and escort him to health services. (Doc. 84, ¶ 44, Ex. 10; Doc. 91, ¶ 44.) The other inmates were examined for injuries and returned to their cells without incident. (Doc. 84, ¶ 45, Ex. 10; Doc. 91, ¶ 45.) Restraints were applied to Williams and he was removed from the recreation pen. (Doc. 84, ¶ 46, Ex. 13; Doc. 91, ¶ 46.) Clark escorted Williams to the urgent care room in the hospital area for medical assistance. (Doc. 84, ¶ 47, Ex. 13; Doc. 91, ¶ 47.) Once Williams was treated, Clark escorted Williams back to the SHU without incident. (Doc. 84, ¶ 48, Ex. 13; Doc. 91, ¶ 48.) In investigating this incident, inmates Joyner and Reeder admitted to assaulting Williams. (Doc. 84, ¶ 49, Ex. 10; Doc. 91, ¶ 49.) Joyner and Reeder claimed that Williams was assaulted because he was "continually calling other inmates" and them names, such as "bitch cowards," and because of a disrespect issue between them and Williams, rather than "a territorial thing between DC/NY and Bloods." (Doc. 84, ¶¶ 50- 51, Ex. 10.) Williams testified that they assaulted him because they were N.Y. and D.C. gang members. (Doc. 91, ¶ 49, Ex. 1.) As a result of this incident, Williams was permanently separated from Joyner and Reeder. (Doc. 84, ¶ 52, Ex. 8, 15; Doc. 91, ¶ 52.)*fn2

Williams testified that he believes one of the guys who assaulted him is from D.C. and the other guy is from New York. (Doc. 84, ¶ 56, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 56.) When Williams was asked how he knows where the two individuals who assaulted him are from, he testified he learned this information from listening to inmates speak: "[i]f you've been in that area in prison on that range people talking, you know what I'm saying. That's how you hear that." (Doc. 84, ¶ 57, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 57.) Williams does not know the names of the inmates who assaulted him in the recreation pen; The first time he ever saw them was in the recreation pen. (Doc. 84, ¶ 58, Ex. 8; Doc. 91, ¶ 58.) When asked whether he feared these two inmates, he responded "I didn't even know these - - no. I wasn't even aware at the time that these two people right here was gonna assault me, you know." (Doc. 84, ¶ 59, Ex. 6.) Although the July 28, 2005 incident in the recreation pen "was unexpected to [Williams]," prior to this incident, he indicated that he wrote a cop-out to an unnamed Lieutenant stating he "wanted a cell by [him]self; and [he] fel[t] that [his] life [was] in danger." (Doc. 84, ¶¶ 60, 63, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 63.) However, he does not have a copy of this cop-out. (Doc. 84, ¶ 64, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 64.) He did not say anything about not going into the cage because "[He] wasn't even aware of the guys" in the cage. (Doc. 84, ¶ 59, Ex. 6.) He explained that he believes he was assaulted in the recreation cage "as they being from that area, from D.C., and as they rise together I was assaulted as further as homeboy stuff. . . . It was nothing that I had done to them or stated to them." (Doc. 84, ¶ 62, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 62.)

After the incident, Williams testified that he believes he spoke to Gabrielson about fearing for his safety. (Doc. 84, ¶ 68, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 68.) He did not restate the situation with the D.C. and New York gangs, because he had already done so in the cop-out and "the things [he] stated on the compound are the safety of [his] life." (Doc. 84, ¶ 69, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 69.) Gabrielson does not recall Williams ever addressing "any concerns about being housed or celled with certain inmates" or telling him "he didn't want to be celled with anyone from a D.C. or New York gang." (Doc. 84, ¶ 70, Ex. 7; Doc. 91, ¶ 70, Ex. 1.) Nor was he aware of "any reason to keep [Williams] away from D.C. or New York inmates." (Doc. 84, ¶ 71, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 71, Ex. 1.) Gabrielson further testified that if Williams "would have expressed concerns about being celled with someone" he would remember that." (Doc. 84, ¶ 68, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 68.) Other than writing to his attorney, Williams did not speak with Gabrielson again or anyone else about his fears. (Doc. 84, ¶ ¶ 73, 74, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 73, 74 Ex. 1.) By letter dated August 16, 2005, Williams's counsel sent a letter to the attention of the Warden of USP Lewisburg advising the Warden he received a letter from his client claiming that he was assaulted on July 27, 2005, by other inmates, and requesting that the matter be thoroughly investigated and reported and that appropriate measures otherwise taken for the safety and well being of Williams. (Doc. 84, ¶ 75, Ex. 17; Doc. 91, ¶ 75.) Smith does not recall receiving correspondence from Williams's attorney requesting to have the July 27, 2005 incident investigated and reported. (Doc. 84, ¶ 76, Ex. 8; Doc. 91, ¶ 76.) The Warden's Office receives voluminous amounts of correspondence from inmates' attorneys so it may have been received. (Doc. 84, ¶ 77, Ex. 8; Doc. 91, ¶ 77.)

Gabrielson testified that despite Williams' fight with Long, it would not be unusual to place Williams in a recreation pen with inmates from New York or D.C. (Doc. 84, ¶ 65, Ex. 7; Doc. 91, ¶ 65.) In Gabrielson's correctional experience, just being involved in a fight with an inmate from a certain city would not necessarily mean the inmate would continue to have issues with other inmates from that city. (Doc. 84, ¶ 66, Ex. 16; Doc. 91, ¶ 66.) Because of USP Lewisburg's location in the Northeast, inmates from the D.C. and New York areas make up a significant portion of the inmate population. (Doc. 84, ¶ 67, Ex. 15; Doc. 91, ¶ 67.)

While in USP Lewisburg's SHU, Williams's cell assignment was rotated several times, approximately every 21 days, from July 2005 through November 2005. (Doc. 84, ¶ 78, Ex. 16; Doc. 91, ¶ 78.) This is the normal practice within a segregated housing unit for various reasons, such as discouraging the collection of contraband or manipulating security devices within a specific cell. (Doc. 84, ¶ 79, Ex. 16; Doc. 91, ¶ 79.) On November 17, 2005, Williams was moved into cell 003 of the SHU. (Doc. 84, ¶ 80, Ex. 16; Doc. 91, ¶ 80.) On that same date, Fulton was moved into that cell. (Doc. 84, ¶ 81, Ex. 16; Doc. 91, ¶ 81.) Gabrielson was responsible for housing Williams and Fulton together. (Doc. 84, ¶ 82, Ex. 7; Doc. 91, ¶ 82.) Fulton was neither a "separatee" from Williams nor was he involved in either of the July 2005 altercations. (Doc. 84, ¶ 83, Ex. 16; Doc. 91, ¶ 83.)

On November 27, 2005 at 6:20 a.m., Senior Officer Murray ("Murray") was handing out breakfast trays to inmates on the basement range in the SHU. (Doc. 84, ¶ 97, Exs. 19, 20; Doc. 91, ¶ 97.) Murray handed two trays to Williams in his cell and turned to pick up milk from the cart for that cell. (Doc. 84, ¶ 98, Ex. 20; Doc. 91, ¶ 98.) As he set the milk down on the food slot door, he observed and heard Williams and Fulton become involved in an altercation. (Doc. 84, ¶ 99, Ex. 20; Doc. 91, ¶ 99.) Williams testified that when he went to pick up his breakfast tray from Murray "Fulton ran behind [him] and put [him] in a head-lock position and began to cut [him]." (Doc. 84, ¶ 100, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 100.) Murray testified that the cell was dark because the lights were covered and the only light was from a window in the cell. (Doc. 84, ¶ 101, Ex. 21; Doc. 91, ¶ 101.) Murray believed Williams appeared to be trying to defend himself against his cellmate. (Doc. 84, ¶ 102, Ex. 20; Doc. 91, ¶ 102.) Murray immediately gave the inmates a direct order to separate and after the passage of approximately ten or fifteen seconds, they split up and stood in different corners of the cell. (Doc. 84, ¶ 103, Exs. 20, 21; Doc. 91, ¶ 103, Ex. 2.) Fulton moved to the back of the cell and put his arms out with his palms facing up. (Doc. 84, ¶ 104, Exs. 19, 20; Doc. 91, ¶ 104.) Williams stayed in the front of the cell and was bleeding from facial injuries. (Doc. 84, ¶ 105, Exs. 19, 20; Doc. 91, ¶ 105.)

Murray immediately radioed Senior Officer Specialist Hornberger ("Hornberger") to come to the basement range in the SHU. (Doc. 84, ¶ 106, Exs.19, 20; Doc. 91, ¶ 106.) While waiting for additional officers to arrive, both inmates stayed in different corners of the cell and Fulton stated "I told you to stop f_ _ _ _ _ _ with me." (Doc. 84, ¶ 107, Exs. 19, 20; Doc. 91, ¶ 107.) Murray testified that he could not open the cell until other officers arrived. (Doc. 84, ¶ 108, Ex. 21; Doc. 91, ¶ 108.) At approximately 6:20 a.m., Hornberger received a call on the radio from Murray to immediately report to the SHU basement. (Doc. 84, ¶ 109, Ex. 22; Doc. 91, ¶ 109.) At approximately 6:20 a.m., Senior Officer Specialist Dunkle ("Dunkle") immediately responded to a call for assistance from Murray and took restraints to the SHU basement. (Doc. 84, ¶ 110, Ex. 23; Doc. 91, ¶ 110.) When L. Potter heard Murray's call for assistance, he went to the SHU basement and saw Williams and Fulton standing separated in the cell. (Doc. 84, ¶ 111, Ex. 24; Doc. 91, ¶ 111.) At 6:30 a.m., Lieutenant Carrasquillo ("Carrasquillo") received a call from Hornberger to immediately report to the SHU basement because Fulton cut Williams' face. (Doc. 84, ¶ 112, Ex. 25; Doc. 91, ¶ 112.) When Carrasquillo arrived, he observed Williams bleeding around his neck area and ordered them removed from the cell. (Doc. 84, ¶ 113, Exs. 25-26; Doc. 91, ¶ 113.) Because L. Potter was the only one with protective gloves, he ordered Williams and Fulton to come to the door one at a time to be handcuffed. (Doc. 84, ¶ 114, Ex. 24; Doc. 91, ¶ 114.) Williams was handcuffed first and then Fulton. (Doc. 84, ¶ 115, Ex. 24; Doc. 91, ¶ 115.) Lieutenant Heath ("Heath") also received a call to report to the SHU basement at approximately 6:20 a.m. and when he arrived Williams and Fulton were already handcuffed. (Doc. 84, ¶ 116, Ex. 26; Doc. 91, ¶ 116.) Carrasquillo ordered the cell to be opened because both inmates were restrained and Hornberger escorted Fulton to a SHU holding cell and strip searched him. (Doc. 84, ¶¶ 117-118, Exs. 22, 26; Doc. 91, ¶ 117-118.) L. Potter and Heath escorted Williams to the urgent care room for medical treatment. (Doc. 84, ¶ 119, Ex. 24; Doc. 91, ¶ 119.)

In the urgent care room, Williams stated he was not getting along with Fulton for a few days and Fulton attacked him with a razor blade as they were receiving their morning meal. (Doc. 84, ¶ 120, Ex. 26; Doc. 91, ¶ 120.) Williams explained that Fulton put him in a head lock and cut his face. (Doc. 84, ¶ 121, Ex. 26; Doc. 91, ¶ 121.) Thereafter, Williams was transported to a local hospital for further medical treatment. (Doc. 84, ¶ 122, Ex. 26; Doc. 91, ¶ 122.)

At approximately 10:00 p.m., Fulton removed a straight edged razor blade wrapped in electrical tape from his rectum. (Doc. 84, ¶ 123, Ex. 26; Doc. 91, ¶ 123.) The razor blade and homemade sheath were placed into an evidence bag. (Doc. 84, ¶ 124, Ex. 26; Doc. 91, ¶ 124.)

On November 27, 2005, Gabrielson was the Acting Captain of USP Lewisburg and was called in from home and arrived after the incident was over. (Doc. 84, ¶ 125, Ex. 7; Doc. 91, ¶ 125.) According to Gabrielson, during interviews, it was alleged that this incident was Williams "swearing in to the Bloods." (Doc. 84, ¶ 128, Ex. 7; Doc. 91, ¶ 128.) Gabrielson believed this to be true because "the Bloods have a scar, blood in and blood out. That was [Fulton's] way to bring [Williams] into the gang. It wasn't an assault." (Doc. 84, ¶ 129, Ex. 7.)

Gabrielson testified that Fulton stated that he "carried [the razor blade] with him everywhere he went in this institution[,]" and BOP staff could not detect it in his rectum unless they X-rayed him. (Doc. 84, ¶ 126, Ex. 7; Doc. 91, ¶ 126.) The razor blade Fulton had would not have been given to him by BOP staff and was not the same razor that is handed out to inmates. (Doc. 84, ¶ 127, Ex. 7; Doc. 91, ¶ 127.) Gabrielson reasoned that "Williams allowed Fulton to re-keister that weapon while they were in the cell together, and there was no struggle;" "No injuries on Fulton whatsoever. . . everything added up to that that was Williams' swearing in to the Bloods." (Doc. 84, ¶¶ 130-31, Ex. 7.) Williams vigorously disputes that he had any knowledge of Fulton's possession of a weapon and completely denies that this was a swearing in to the Bloods. (Doc. 91, ¶¶ 129-31, Ex. 1.)

Murray testified that inmates normally fight in front of an officer because the officer will give an order to stop and the inmates do not have to fight any further. (Doc. 84, ¶ 132, Ex. 21; Doc. 91, ¶ 132.) He further testified that he did not know anything about Williams or recall any direct contact with him prior to the November 27, 2005 incident. (Doc. 84, ¶¶ 133-134, Ex. 21; Doc. 91, ¶¶ 133-134.) Also, Williams stated that "I couldn't say that [Murray knew] I'm going to be attacked or not. I never stated that in my compliant (sic) that I say Mr. Murray have knowledge that by me being placed in a cell with Mr. Fulton that I'm gonna be assaulted." (Doc. 84, ¶ 136, Ex. 6.) Williams testified that while he was being cut by Fulton, Murray told him not to snitch. (Doc. 84, ¶ 137, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 137.) Conversely, he testified "as the incident took place you gotta understand that I was in a trance." (Doc. 84, ¶ 138, Ex. 6; Doc. 91, ¶ 138.) When Williams was asked how he would hide his facial wounds, he responded "I have no - you know, that statement that [Senior Officer Murray] made was surprising to me. . . . you can't hide this. . . .This is plain ...


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