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Williams v. Beard

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 3, 2014

JEFFREY BEARD, ET AL., Defendants.


RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.


La-qun Rasheed Williams (Plaintiff), an inmate presently confined at the Greene State Correctional Institution, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania (SCI-Greene) filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Plaintiff subsequently filed an Amended Complaint (Docs. 15 & 16) which seeks relief regarding actions which allegedly transpired during his prior incarceration at the State Correctional Institution, Coal Township, Pennsylvania (SCI-Coal Twp.).

By Memorandum and Order dated August 29, 2011, Defendants Michael Weisner, M.D. and Physician's Assistant (PA) Brian Davis' motion to dismiss was granted. See Doc. 119. Defendants Robert Anascavage and Jacob Davis' motion to dismiss was granted on February 13, 2012.

A motion seeking partial dismissal filed by the Commonwealth Defendants was partially granted by Memorandum and Order dated September 30, 2011. See Doc. 124. Dismissal was granted in favor of the moving Commonwealth Defendants with respect to: (1) Williams' damage claims for monetary damages brought against the Commonwealth Defendants in their respective official capacities; (2) the allegations of verbal harassment, attempted bribery, and harassment; (3) Plaintiff's claims of being the target of a conspiracy; (4) all claims against Defendants Barnacle, Beard, Ellett, Michael Miller, Novitsky, Shedleski, and Varano due to lack of personal involvement; (5) the claims of deliberate indifference against Defendant McCarty;(6) Williams' claims relating to the issuance of four misconduct charges by Lieutenants Fago, Fetterholf, and Knarr as well as any due process claims against Hearing Examiner Kerns-Barr; (7) the alleged denial of telephone privileges on November 19, 2009; (8) Plaintiff's cell search claims; (9) the claims of mail interference with regards to the the yellow envelope, Mint Green and motorcyclist magazine related mailings; and (10) Williams' contentions of retaliation, food deprivation, and being served food loaf.

As a result of those prior rulings by this Court, Remaining Defendants are the following SCI-Coal Twp. Officials: Correctional Officers Andrew Kitchen, Michael Knarr, and Jimmy Fetterolf, Lieutenant Stephen Gooler, Sergeant Alana Peters, Counselor Rhonda Tomcavage, Major George Miller and Mail Supervisor Therese Jellen. Plaintiff's surviving allegations consists of the following two claims: (1) razor blade pieces were intentionally placed in Plaintiff's food, and (2) incoming mail from Williams' family was not delivered and the misconduct was covered up. Presently pending is Remaining Corrections Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Doc. 247. The opposed motion is ripe for consideration.


Remaining Defendants seek summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to his mail interference claims; (2) there are no allegations that Defendant Jellen wrongfully withheld Plaintiff's personal mail; (3) since it is undisputed that Major Miller investigated Plaintiff's claim of mail interference a viable claim has not been raised against that Defendant; (3) there are no facts alleged to support a claim that Counselor Tomcavage covered up the non-delivery of Plaintiff's personal mail; (4) Plaintiff cannot establish that Fetterolf and Kitchen either placed or were aware that razor blades or a scalpel were in the food which those officials served to the prisoner; and (5) the wholly speculative claims relating to Gooler, Peters, and Knarr doe not set forth a viable claim of deliberate indifference.

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); See also Saldana v. Kmart Corp. , 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 248. The court must resolve all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in favor of the non-moving party. Saldana , 260 F.3d at 232; see also Reeder v. Sybron Transition Corp. , 142 F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992). Unsubstantiated arguments made in briefs are not considered evidence of asserted facts. Versarge v. Township of Clinton , 984 F.2d 1359, 1370 (3d Cir. 1993).

Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in its complaint. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, it must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id . (internal quotations omitted); see also Saldana , 260 F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be granted where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322-23. "Such affirmative evidence - regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial - must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.'" Saldana , 260 F.3d at 232 (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester , 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)).


Plaintiff claims that mail sent to him by his family members during the Fall, 2010 was not delivered and that Counselor Tomcavage was advised of the problem and attempted to cover up the non-delivery.[1] Major Miller likewise allegedly failed to correct the problem and Mail Inspector Jellen was also involved because she forwarded Plaintiff's incoming mail to the prison's Security Office because the prisoner was designated for mail monitoring.

It also alleged that Lieutenant Gooler was present but denied any knowledge of the alleged mail ...

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