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Yassin Haythame Mohamad v. Michael C. Barone (Superindendent

April 30, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly


KELLY, Magistrate Judge

Plaintiff, Yassin Haythame Mohamad ("Plaintiff" or "Mohamad"), an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), filed this pro se civil rights action against certain supervisory personnel at the State Corrections Institute at Forest ("SCI-Forest") complaining of alleged violations of his First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights in conjunction with a planned use of force and his subsequent placement in a restraint chair for twenty-four hours. Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 50). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.


This matter arises from a series of events which transpired on March 21 and 22, 2009. At the time, Plaintiff was housed in a single person cell in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") at SCI-Forest. It is undisputed that as of March 21, 2009, Plaintiff was on a variety of security- related movement restrictions due to his history of assaultive behavior.*fn1 The restrictions, which were to be used whenever Mohamad was out of his cell, required: that Mohamad be handcuffed at all times; that the handcuffs were to be attached to a waist belt and a tether; that he was to be shackled; that all movement was to be videotaped; that a Commissioned Officer was required to be present at all times; and that Mohamad was to wear a spit shield.*fn2 (ECF Nos. 53-5, ¶¶ 2-3, 53-6, pp. 23-28)). It is also undisputed that Defendants were aware of Mohamad's history of assaultive behavior which included an incident in 2006 when he maneuvered his cell door to appear locked and then ambushed two SCI-Fayettte Corrections Officers who entered his housing pod, stabbing both with a homemade metal shank. (ECF Nos. 53-5, pp. 1-30, 53-6, pp. 23-28). The SCI-Fayette incident led to his conviction for aggravated assault and attempted homicide as well as his long-term placement on a Restricted Release List by the Secretary of Corrections in 2007. (ECF No. 53-5, 1-30, 53-6, pp. 33-35) Additionally, by March 31, 2009, just eighteen months after arriving at SCI-Forest, Mohamad had accumulated dozens misconducts for threatening employees, and had been found guilty of a misconduct issued for assaulting an employee. (ECF No. 53-4, pp. 17-22).

On March 21, 2009, the door to Mohamad's cell was accidently unlatched at 11:10 a.m. by a Corrections Officer stationed in the RHU Control Booth. Video taken from a stationary camera in the ceiling of his housing pod shows Mohamad leave his cell, walk around the pod, return to his cell to don work boots, gloves, and then reach under the door of at least two cells, appearing to retrieve items from other inmates. (ECF No. 53-1, pp. 1-3). For the next fifty minutes, Mohamad is repeatedly asked by staff members stationed outside the pod to return to his cell, close the door and lay down on the floor. (ECF No. 53-1, pp. 1-3). Instead, Mohamad is seen walking around the pod, waving his hands toward the sky, making gestures to invite action, and behaving in a generally agitated state. (ECF No. 53-1, pp. 1-2).

Given Mohamad's refusal to comply with orders to return to his cell, and the possibility that another inmate had passed him a weapon, personnel at SCI-Forest made the decision to initiate a planned use of force to regain control of the inmate and to prevent him from injuring himself or others. (ECF No. 53-6, pp. 25-26). DOC staff suspicions regarding Mohamad's possession of a weapon were well-founded as a 6-inch shank, fabricated from weather-stripping material, was subsequently located in a ripped open seam of his mattress. (ECF Nos. 53-2, pp.48-50; 53-6, pp. 26).

The evidence, including a DVD of the cell extraction (ECF No. 53-1, Ex. 2), shows that as responding officers entered the cell block, Plaintiff was laying on his cell floor. After entering Plaintiff's cell, the officers attempted to place Plaintiff in handcuffs and shackles; however, Plaintiff resisted and was shocked for three to five seconds with an Electronic Body Immobilization Shield in order to obtain his compliance. Plaintiff was then handcuffed and shackled and carried out of the cell block. Other than voicing anger over the use of the shield, Plaintiff does not complain of any pain or allege assaultive behavior on the part of the officers.


After being removed from the pod, Plaintiff was placed on the floor. With one officer holding each limb, Plaintiff's clothes were cut and removed so that a full body search could be completed to ensure that Plaintiff was not concealing a weapon. Plaintiff was then placed into a restraint chair, covered with a sheet, and transported outside to a nearby Psychiatric Observation Cell Unit ("POC"). Plaintiff was examined by a nurse, self-reported that he sustained no injuries and was left in his restraint chair, facing a corner with a video camera. During the entire incident, Plaintiff is conversant, laughing, and reassuring the officers involved that he is "alright." (ECF No. 53-1, Ex. 2). Plaintiff candidly admits, "guards ain't stupid" and "this was the only way this was going to go down." (ECF No. 53-1, Ex. 2 [DVD 12:20-12:47]).

Plaintiff alleges that for the next 24 hours, he remained restrained in the chair, and that for 22 hours, he was left without exercise or food, and was forced to urinate and defecate on himself. (ECF No. 60). He also claims that as a result of Defendants' deliberate indifference, he developed clots in his right leg and was hospitalized. Id. The evidence, including a series of DVDs provided to the Court, belies each of these assertions. Plaintiff is observed eating a full meal and is offered the opportunity to exercise his arms. (ECF No. 53-1, Ex. 3 [DVD: 00:05-5:17]). In addition, he is repeatedly examined by a registered nurse and while some edema is noted near his feet after approximately 20 hours, his medical reports do not indicate that he was in any distress, and indicate that he was not feeling any pain or numbness. (ECF No. 53-1, pp. 8-18).

While video of the entire 24 hour period has not been provided to the Court, two exercise/feeding sessions are available. During the first session, Plaintiff refuses an opportunity to exercise but is fed. (ECF No. 53-1, Ex. 3 [DVD 00:01 -- 00:10]; ECF 53-6, p. 3). During the second session, Plaintiff is seen resisting being restrained, and refuses the opportunity to stretch his right arm, insisting that only his left arm be freed for exercise. (ECF No. 53-1, Ex. 3 [DVD: 6:18]). A nurse provides Plaintiff his medication and is seen checking his pulse and return capillary function after the restraints are reapplied. Plaintiff's feet are also checked for sufficient movement and no edema is observed. (ECF No. 53-1, Ex. 3 [DVD 5:10-5:32]). Plaintiff did urinate onto the floor while seated in the chair, but did not defecate. Notably, during one of his exercise sessions, Plaintiff repeatedly taunts one of the officers, calling him a "pussy." (ECF No. 53-1, Ex. 3 [DVD: 8:55-10:21]). He also resists being restrained after each exercise session and is otherwise belligerent. [ECF No. 53-1, Ex. 3 [DVD: 6:18]. Gordon Hefferman, one of the registered nurses in charge of Plaintiff's care, noted that "throughout the night, Inmate Mohamad was yelling and demanding to get out of the restraint chair. He was trying to rock back and forth and was threatening some of the Corrections Officers who were present." (ECF No. 53-6, pp. 20-21).

The commanding officers for the two shifts following Plaintiff's initial restraint indicate that as a result of Plaintiff's continued combative behavior, Superintendent Barone approved two extensions, for a total confinement time of 24 hours. (ECF No. 53-6, pp. 11-14, 16 -18). However, during each extension, Plaintiff was examined by a registered nurse, and was offered exercise of all limbs every two hours. (ECF No. 53-6, pp. 20-21, ECF 53-1, pp. 8-15). While he refused exercise at 1:00 a.m., Plaintiff did exercise all extremities at 11:00 p.m., 3:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m., 7:30 am and 10:10 am. (ECF No. 53-1, pp. 8-15). Plaintiff was offered and ate breakfast, and was provided with a urinal at least twice, although he did urinate on the floor at least once. (Id.)

Edema was first noted in Plaintiff's lower extremities at 7:30 a.m., although Plaintiff denied any numbness or pain. Plaintiff was removed from the chair at 12:29 p.m., and was again examined. He stated he was "O.K." but did have a "charlie horse" in his right leg. He was not in any acute distress, and continued to be monitored in the Psychiatric Observation Cell. (Id., ECF No. 60-1, pp.21-22). Video recordings of interaction with Mohamad after he was released from the restraint chair confirm no additional pain or medical complaints. (ECF No. 53-1, Ex. 2).

Mohamad felt sufficiently well by March 24, 2009, to stand on his bed with no clothes on, and scream extremely vulgar and sexual epithets at the examining nurse. (ECF No. 60-1, pp. 22). He was provided his routine medication and no acute distress was noted. Id. His edema was continuously monitored by medical personnel until his transfer on March 26, 2009 to ...

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