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Taylor v. Barone

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

September 11, 2014

MICHAEL BARONE, et al, Defendants.



Plaintiff Samuel Taylor brings suit alleging that Department of Corrections Defendants violated his constitutional rights by failing to protect him from an inmate-on-inmate attack that occurred at SCI Forest. Plaintiff claims that this assault was in retribution for testimony he gave against a fellow pretrial detainee in a capital murder prosecution. Presently pending before this Court is Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The motion is fully briefed and is ripe for disposition by this Court.

Plaintiff’s Factual Allegations

1) General

Plaintiff Samuel Taylor was jailed at the Philadelphia County Jail awaiting trial on burglary charges. Around the same time, Kareem Glass, a well-known narcotics drug dealer in the Philadelphia area, was charged with homicide. While the homicide charges were pending against him, Glass hired Donte Thomas to murder a witness scheduled to testify against him and Thomas did so. Thomas was then arrested for homicide and was jailed in the same facility as Plaintiff. Thomas approached Plaintiff and solicited him to kill more witnesses who were scheduled to testify for the prosecution in the criminal case against Glass.

Plaintiff informed his attorney about the solicitation and Plaintiff’s attorney advised the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Plaintiff fully cooperated with prosecutors and eventually testified against Thomas at his homicide trial, where Thomas was convicted and sentenced to death. Thomas is presently awaiting execution.

Following Plaintiff’s conviction for burglary, he was assigned to SCI Camp Hill for classification pending assignment and transfer to another prison within the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections system. Out of concern for Plaintiff’s safety, the prosecuting attorney in the successful capital murder prosecution against Thomas, wrote to Defendant Donald Kelcher, Superintendent of SCI Camp Hill. In pertinent part, the letter dated October 30, 2007, reads:

… Inmate Samuel Taylor was sentenced to serve four to ten years’ incarceration for multiple counts of Burglary by the Honorable Judge Pamela Prior Dembe. He is currently housed at SCI Camp Hill awaiting classification.
Prior to his sentence, Mr. Taylor had testified on behalf of the Commonwealth in the matter of Commonwealth v. Donte Thomas, on which I was the prosecuting attorney. This matter was a capital homicide in which Mr. Thomas was convicted of killing a witness on another separate homicide (Commonwealth v. Kareem Glass, pending trial and in local custody) and given a sentence of death. Mr. Taylor testified that Donte Thomas had solicited him to kill even more witnesses on his case.
While Mr. Thomas is currently in segregated custody, our confirmed information is that both he and Kareem Glass (the friend for whom Thomas killed a witness) have a great deal of influence and connections, both inside and outside the prison system. In addition to the murder of one witness, we are currently investigating a number of incidents where local Corrections Officers and inmates have threatened and assaulted the witnesses against Mr. Thomas and Mr. Glass.
While my office will remain diligent in seeking separation orders whenever possible, this protection will be insufficient to protect against other third parties whom Mr. Thomas and Mr. Glass could solicit. Both my office and Judge Dembe feel very strongly that additional steps must be taken to assure Mr. Taylor’s safety.
To that end, I would like to request that Mr. Taylor be housed in a facility where he will be least likely to come into contact with people who may seek to put him in harm’s way, such as SCI Laurel Highlands. I am also open to any other options you may have which you believe will keep Mr. Taylor safe.

ECF No. 68-1, pages 1-3 (emphasis added). Assistant District Attorney Barry concluded the letter by offering his office and cell phone numbers as contact information.

Superintendent Kelcher and his staff did not undertake measures necessary to protect Plaintiff nor did they alert others within the Department of Corrections of the grave risk of danger to Plaintiff. Following the completion of the Department of Corrections’ classification process, Plaintiff was assigned and transferred to SCI Forest, a facility that houses violent offenders. In January 2008, Lehman and Miller approved the transfer, ignoring the warnings from Assistant District Attorney Barry to Kelcher about the risks to Plaintiff’s safety.

After being convicted of homicide, Glass was sent to SCI Camp Hill around October 2008 and was transferred to SCI Forest, where he was assigned to General Population, in January

2) Allegations Against SCI Camp Hill Defendants (Kelcher, Henry, Lubinski, Lehman, Miller and Brandt)[2]

Plaintiff claims that the SCI Camp Hill Defendants did not do enough to protect him.

Plaintiff alleges that each of the SCI Camp Hill Defendants deliberately disregarded the mortal danger to Plaintiff, and each refused to undertake measures necessary for his protection including:

- They failed to alert others within the state prison system to the need to keep Plaintiff separate from Glass;
- They failed to place a separation order in Plaintiff’s record, noting the need to protect Plaintiff from Glass; and
- By reason of their refusal to assign Plaintiff to a facility such as SCI Laurel Highlands with a non-violent prison population, Defendants Kelcher, Lehman and Miller evidenced a deliberate disregard for Plaintiff’s safety and the mortal danger to which they had been alerted by ADA Barry.

ECF No. 51, ¶ 45.

3) Allegations Against SCI Forest Defendants (Barone, Wojcik, Ennis, Riskus, Whitman and Fry)[3]

Around March 24, 2009, Plaintiff noticed Inmate Kareem Glass walking to the cafeteria and overheard him instructing his companions to locate Plaintiff who was “a rat.” Plaintiff immediately approached his counselor, Defendant Whitman, and alerted him about Glass’s presence and the risk of danger that posed to Plaintiff. Defendant Whitman ignored Plaintiff’s request for immediate ...

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