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Michael Bristol v. E. T. Settle

March 25, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.


Presently before the Court is Defendant, Correctional Officer E.T. Settle's ("Officer Settle"), Motion for Summary Judgment against Plaintiff, Michael Bristol ("Bristol"). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.


Bristol filed this action against Officer Settle and Jeffrey A. Beard, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("Beard"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983")*fn1 asserting claims under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Beard filed a Motion to Dismiss on November 3, 2009. On January 12, 2010, this Court granted the Motion and dismissed all claims against Beard.

Bristol is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution ("SRI") at Graterford, Pennsylvania ("Graterford"), and is serving an 18 to 60-month sentence for possession with intent to deliver. (Bristol Dep. at 7-8.) He has been incarcerated at Graterford since March 27, 2009, and was assigned to its E-Block section. (Id. at 119-120.) Officer Settle is a Correctional Officer at Graterford. Inmate, Dale Schaeffer ("Schaeffer") became Bristol's cell mate on April 1, 2009. (Id. at 76.) Bristol asserts that on April 2, 2009, at approximately 1:30 p.m., a group of five or six inmates came to his cell and asked if he was "Bristol." When he responded that he was, these inmates opened his cell door and while calling him a "child molester" assaulted him by punching and kicking him. (Id. at 80-82.) The assault lasted approximately 20-40 seconds after which the attackers left the cell. (Id. at 92.) After the assault, Bristol located a correctional officer, and subsequently, at least a half dozen officers responded to the incident. Bristol was taken to the prison infirmary. (Id. at 94-95.) At the infirmary, Bristol received stitches to his right eye and lower lip. He also sustained an abrasion on his right knee. (Id. at 107.) Bristol did not know or recognize any of his attackers, and Schaeffer, who was the only witness to the assault, was apparently on his bed when it occurred. (Id. at 82-83, 92, 99.) That night, both Bristol and Schaeffer were reassigned to Graterford's Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU"). It was in the RHU that Bristol first learned that Schaeffer apparently had been convicted of a sex crime(s) involving children. (Id. at 77, 104.)

Bristol asserts that prior to the assault, Officer Settle had referred to Schaeffer in front of other inmates as a "child molester," and that when the group of inmates came into his cell, they mistakenly believed that he was Schaeffer. (Compl. ¶¶ 6,10.) Bristol further asserts that,approximately one week after the incident, Officer Settle came to his cell and told him that the beating was supposed to be for Schaeffer. (Pl.'s Resp. Mot. Summ. J. at 2.) Bristol asserts in a "Verified Statement" that to the best of his recollection, he was held in protective custody for "12 or 13 days after the assault." (Id. at Ex. A.) He stated that he was then transferred to the SCI at Camp Hill, and there he "was unable to have contact with others for several days because I was in new processing as a new inmate at that prison." (Id.) Bristol also stated that he did not receive an "Inmate Handbook" there, nor did he receive any information concerning the grievance procedure. (Id.)

Bristol testified at his deposition that he had prepared a handwritten letter in May 2009 to give to his attorney concerning the chronological events preceding the assault, the assault itself, and the events following the assault. (Id. at 151-152.) Bristol added that he wrote it alone without input from any other individuals. (Id. at 152.) Bristol testified that he wrote that on April 1, 2009, that when Schaeffer was being processed at the prison "intake area," Officer Settle basically announced the nature of Schaeffer's crimes in front of other inmates that were present by saying sexually explicit statements to him, including calling him a "child molester." (Bristol Dep. at 153.) Bristol, however, testified that he was not present in the "intake area" when this happened, but that Schaeffer told him this when they were cell mates in the RHU after the assault. Bristol then acknowledged at his deposition that when he wrote this letter he stated that he "believed" that Schaeffer told him that Officer Settle called him a "child molester," but was not "100 percent positive." (Id. at 154.) He added that he wrote "believed" in the letter because he was not able to confirm this conversation with Schaeffer when he wrote the letter. (Id. at 155.)

Officer Settle testified that he was assigned to the intake area in question on April 1, 2009, but did not remember having any contact with Schaeffer. (Settle Dep. at 11, 15.)

Officer Settle testified:

Q. Have you ever had contact with an inmate by the name of Dale Schaeffer, who we reference in the complaint?

A. I don't recall. I don't remember.

Q. Have you ever referred to Mr. Schaeffer as a child molester?

A. No.

Q. Have you ever used the term child molester while you were working ...

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