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Peay v. Fisher

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 24, 2017

STRATTON PEAY, Plaintiff
v.
SUPERINTENDENT J. FISHER, et ah, Defendants

          ORDER

          Robert D. Mariani United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, Stratton Peay, an inmate formerly confined at the Smithfield State Correctional Institution, fSCI-Smithfield"), in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, initiated the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). The matter is proceeding via an amended complaint wherein Peay names the following Defendants at SCI-Smithfield: Jon Fisher, Lonnie Oliver, Jay Whitesel, Nathan Goss, Kenneth Crum, and William Henry. (Doc. 17). Presently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. 105). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard of Review

         Through summary adjudication, the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine dispute as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "As to materiality, ... [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catreti, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once such a showing has been made, the non-moving party must offer specific facts contradicting those averred by the movant to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). Therefore, the non-moving party may not oppose summary judgment simply on the basis of the pleadings, or on conclusory statements that a factual issue exists. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. "A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing to particular parts of materials in the record ... or showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B). In evaluating whether summary judgment should be granted, "[t]he court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). Inferences should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir.1992), cert, denied507 U.S. 912 (1993).

         However, "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). If a party has carried its burden under the summary judgment rule,

its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact. When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.

Id. (internal quotations, citations, and alterations omitted).

         II. Statement of Undisputed Facts [1]

         The allegations of the amended complaint pertain to Peay's incarceration at SCI-Srnithfield. (Doc. 106, Statement of Material Facts, ¶ 1).

         Peay alleges that Defendants Fisher, Whitesel, Oliver, and Goss failed to protect him after he notified them that staff were "'torturing' [him], 'siccing' inmates on [him] to verbally abuse [him] and start 'fist-fights' with [him]" in an "attempt to keep [him] 'quiet' regarding 0 being 'framed' for crimes, " (Doc. 106, ¶ 9; Doc. 17, pp. 2-3).

         Peay sets forth First Amendment retaliation claims against unnamed staff who allegedly tampered, read, and withheld his mail in retaliation for Peay's assertion that he is innocent of murder. (Doc. 106, ¶ 10; Doc. 17, p. 3).

         Peay asserts that all of the Defendants knew of and acquiesced in Peay's assault by inmates Wilson and Reyes, the stealing of Peay's Nike sneakers and box of oatmeal from his cell, and his food being poisoned with herpes. (Doc. 106, ¶ 11; Doc. 17, p. 4). Peay claims that these acts were committed for "raising [his] 'Actual Innocence' and staffs malfeasance." (Id.). Peay claims that unnamed staff poisoned him "after raising staffs involvement in the 4-29-14 assault." (Doc. 106, ¶ 12; Doc. 17, p. 4). He alleges that Defendant Goss illegally confiscated and kept his Walkman radio "after raising staffs involvement in the 4-29-14 assault." (Doc. 106, ¶ 13; Doc. 17, p. 4). Peay further claims that Defendant Henry failed to protect him from being poisoned with herpes when he was "in charge of the housing unit and [knew] beforehand, if not participating himself." (Doc. 106, ¶ 14; Doc. 17, p. 5).

         Peay claims that "Defendants all are liable for violating policy, or having none, regarding 'cleaning' of cells once exited and prior to the next inmate being housed there." (Doc. 106, ¶ 15; Doc. 17, p. 5).

         Peay claims that Defendants Fisher, Whitesel, and Oliver refused to remove Peay's Z code status "so they could continue to cause [him] 'harm' (claustrophobia; etc.) from the 1 Vi years' [he] served in 'solitary confinement.'" (Doc. 106, ¶ 16; Doc. 17, p. 5).

         He further claims that Defendants found Peay guilty of fighting "although % C.O.s witnessed me assaulted by 2 inmates." (Doc. 106, ¶ 17; Doc. 17, p. 5).

         For relief, Peay seeks monetary damages, punitive damages, a temporary restraining order against Defendants and the Department of Corrections ("DOC") restraining them from tampering, reading, and withholding his legal mail and obstructing his access to courts, removal of his Z code status, an interstate transfer, all misconducts and negative reports removed from his record, and an injunction preventing staff from "hurting" and "obstructing court, my mall, etc." (Doc. 106, ¶ 18; Doc, 17, p. 6).

         A. Peay's Altercation with Inmates Reyes and Wilson

         On April 29, 2014, Peay fought with inmates Reyes and Wilson. (Doc. 106, ¶ 19). On the same date, following the altercation, Peay told RHU staff during a strip search that correctional officers instigated the assault on him. (Doc. 106, ¶ 21).

         Also on April 29, 2014, correctional officer Peters issued Misconduct Number B357021 charging Peay with Fighting due to his altercation with inmates Reyes and Wilson, and Refusing to Obey an Order for ignoring several orders to stop. (Doc. 106, ¶ 20). On May 5, 2014, Hearing Examiner Himes held a hearing on Misconduct Number B357021. (Doc. 106, ¶ 25; Doc. 106-1, p. 10). Hearing Examiner Himes ultimately found Peay guilty of Fighting and Refusing to Obey an Order. (Id.). Peay appealed Misconduct Number B357021 to the Program Review Committee. (Doc. 106, ¶ 26). The Program Review Committee denied Peay's appeal and found that the facts were sufficient to support the underlying decision. (Id.). The Program Review Committee consisted of Defendant Whitesel, Corrections Classification Program Manager Biser, and Unit Manager Morder. (Doc. 106, ¶ 27). On May 14, 2014, Peay appealed to Defendant Fisher. (Doc. 106, ¶ 29). On May 19, 2014, Defendant Fisher upheld the decisions of the Hearing Examiner and Program Review Committee. (Doc. 106, ¶ 30; Doc. 106-1, p. 13). Peay then appealed Misconduct Number B357021 to Final Review. (Doc. 106, ¶ 35). On June 20, 2014, the DOC Deputy Secretary vacated Misconduct Number B357021and remanded it to permit recharge and rehearing. (Id.; Doc. 106-1, p. 14).

         On April 29, 2014, Peay filed Grievance Number 507592 claiming that staff failed to protect him. (Doc. 106, ¶ 22; Doc. 106-1, p. 16). In the grievance, Peay stated that he contacted staff, including the Superintendent, Deputies, and Captain of Security, concerning correctional officers committing crimes, torture, and oppression against him in attempts to silence him about a detective framing him for murder. (Id.). Peay further complained that correctional officers retaliated against him and had two inmates physically assault him on April 29, 2014. (Id.). On May 8, 2014, Lieutenant G, Allison denied Grievance Number 507592 because Peay failed to provide evidence supporting his allegations, and the inmates and staff involved in the altercation denied Peay's allegations. (Doc. 106, ¶ 28; Doc. 106-1, p. 17). On May 14, 2014, Peay appealed Grievance Number 507592 to Defendant Fisher. (Doc. 106, ¶ 29; Doc. 106-1, p. 18). On May 19, 2014, Defendant Fisher upheld the denial of Grievance Number 507592. (Doc. 106, ¶ 31; Doc. 106-1, p. 19). Peay then appealed Grievance Number 507592 to the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals ("SOIGA"). (Doc. 106, ¶ 32; Doc. 106-1, p. 20). On June 23, 2014, Chief Grievance Officer Dorina Varner upheld the denial of Grievance Number 507592. (Doc. 106, ¶36; Doc. 106-1, p. 21).

         Peay called the abuse hotline regarding his allegation that correctional officers had two inmates assault him. (Doc. 106, ¶ 23). In response to Peay's call to the abuse hotline, Captain Goss and Lieutenant Booher interviewed Peay on April 30, 2014. (Doc. 106, ¶ 24). Peay told Captain Goss and Lieutenant Booher that he believed Defendant Crum had the inmates assault him. (Id.). Peay could not provide any evidence to support his belief. (Id.). Instead, he stated that it was "just what [he] thought" happened and he "really [did] not know." (/d.; Doc. 106-1, p. 17).

         On May 20, 2014, Peay filed Grievance Number 510472 claiming that his counselor, Mr. Zimmerman, falsely accused him of misconduct and that staff had him physically assaulted by two inmates on April 29, 2014. (Doc. 106, ¶ 33; Doc. 106-1, p. 23). On May 29, 2014, Defendant Oliver denied Grievance Number 510472. (Doc. 106, ¶ 34; Doc. 106-1, p. 24). Peay appealed Grievance Number 510472 to Defendant Fisher. (Doc. 106, ¶ 38). On June 25, 2014, Defendant Fisher upheld the denial of Grievance Number 510472. (Id.; Doc. 106-1, p. 25). Peay filed no further appeals of Grievance Number 510472. (Doc. 106, ¶ 38).

         On June 23, 2014, Peay sent a letter to the Huntingdon County District Attorney raising several claims against prison staff, including claims that white staff had him assaulted by inmates Reyes and Wilson on April 29, 2014. (Doc. 106, ¶ 37; Doc. 106-2, pp. 6-7). On July 7, 2014, the Huntingdon County District Attorney forwarded Peay's correspondence to the Department of Corrections. (Doc. 106, ¶ 39; Doc. 106-2, p. 10). The Department of Corrections initiated an Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence ("OSII") Investigation regarding Peay's allegations. (Doc. 106, ¶ 40). SCI-Smithfield Security Lieutenant G. Allison conducted the investigation and determined that Peay's allegations were unsubstantiated. (Doc. 106, ¶¶ 41-42; Doc. 106-2, pp. 2-4, Declaration of Gary Allison, ¶¶ 5-6). During the investigation, the staff and inmates who were involved in the April 29, 2014 altercation between Peay and inmates Reyes and Wilson were interviewed. (Doc. 106, ¶ 43). They all denied Peay's allegations. (Id.), Inmates Reyes and Wilson stated that Peay had been coming at them on the block for a month, they had enough, and beat him up. (Doc. 106, ¶ 44). When interviewed, Peay stated that he could not provide any evidence to support his claim that staff had inmates Reyes and Wilson assault him. (Doc. 106, ¶ 45). Instead, Peay stated that is what he thinks happened. (Id.). On October 20, 2014, the OSII reviewed the investigation and determined that it was satisfactory. (Doc. 106, ¶ 46). On October 21, 2014, Security Lieutenant G. Allison notified Peay that the investigation was being closed because there was no evidence of abuse. (Doc. 106, ¶ 47).

         B. Exhaustion of Administrative Review

         On January 10, 2014, Peay led Grievance Number 493085 claiming that four envelopes and eight stamped envelopes were taken from his cell. (Doc. 106, ¶ 48; Doc. 106-1, p. 27). No Defendants were named in Grievance Number 493085. (Id.). The grievance was upheld and Peay was provided replacement envelopes. (Doc. 106, ¶ 48; Doc. 106-1, p. 28).

         On January 15, 2014, Peay filed Grievance Number 493773 claiming that his radio and Walkman were confiscated during an investigative search. (Doc. 106, ¶ 49; Doc. 106-1, p. 30). Defendant Goss was the only Defendant named in Grievance Number 493773. (Id.). Grievance Number 493773 was denied, and Peay did not file any appeals. (Id.).

         On May 4, 2014, Peay filed Grievance Number 508389 complaining about a missing pair of Nike sneakers. (Doc. 106, ¶ 50). No Defendants were named in this grievance. (Id.}. The Grievance Coordinator and Facility Manager each denied Grievance Number 508389. (Id.). Peay filed no further appeals. (Id.).

         On May 10, 2014, Peay filed Grievance Number 509077. (Doc. 106, ¶ 51). In this grievance, Peay claimed that he sustained burning sores on his penis after it touched the inside of a toilet. (Id.). Peay did not name any Defendants in Grievance Number 509077. (Id.). The grievance was denied. (Doc. 106, ¶ 52). On May 28, 2014, Peay appealed the denial of Grievance Number 509077 to Superintendent Fisher, (/of.). In his appeal, Peay raised for the first time a claim that "staff (C.O.s, etc.) may have placed 'Herpes' in my food/ on my toilet." (Id.). Peay further stated that "[i]t's been over '17' years since the last time I had sex of any kind." (Id.).

         On May 28, 2014, Peay filed two grievances regarding sores on his genitals and a possible diagnosis of herpes, assigned as Grievance Number 511544 and Grievance Number 511546. (Doc. 106, ¶ 53). No Defendants were named in either grievance. (Id.; Doc. 106-1, pp. 49, 51, 56). The grievances were denied on initial review. (Doc. 106-1, pp. 52, 57). Peay appealed both grievances to the Facility Manager Defendant Fisher. (Doc. 106-1, pp. 53, 58). On appeal, Defendant Fisher upheld the responses of the Grievance Coordinators. (Doc. 106-1, pp. 54, 59). Peay did not appeal either grievance to the SOIGA. (Doc. 106, ¶ 53).

         On June 5, 2014, Peay filed Grievance Number 513171 regarding mail that was returned by the mail room for lack of postage. (Doc. 106, ¶ 54). No Defendants were named in this grievance. (Id.). Grievance Number 513171 was denied on initial review, and Peay did not file any appeals. (Id.).

         On June 11, 2014, correctional officer Scott issued Misconduct Number B600994 charging Peay with Assault, Abusive, Obscene Language to an Employee and Refusing to Obey an Order. (Doc. 106, ¶ 55; Doc. 106-1, p. 64). Following a hearing, Peay was found guilty of Assault and Refusing to Obey an Order. (Doc. 106-1, p. 66).

         On June 14, 2014, Peay filed Grievance Number 514295 wherein he alleged that correctional officer Scott withheld his mail and improperly opened his mail. (Doc. 106, ¶ 56; Doc. 106-1, p. 68). No Defendants were named in Grievance Number 514295. (Id.). The grievance was denied by both the Grievance Coordinator and Facility Manager. (Doc. 106, ¶ 56; Doc. 106-1, pp. 69, 71). Peay did not appeal to the SOIGA. (Doc. 106, ¶ 56).

         On June 22, 2014, Peay filed Grievance Number 515115 and attempted to collaterally appeal Misconduct Number B600994. (Doc. 106, ¶ 57; Doc. 106-1, p. 73). No Defendants were named in Grievance Number 515115. (Id.). The grievance was denied by both the Grievance Coordinator and Facility Manager. (Doc. 106, ¶ 57; Doc. 106-1, pp. 74, 76). Peay did not appeal to the SOIGA. (Doc. 106, ¶ 57).

         Peay did not file a grievance complaining that a box of oatmeal was stolen from his cell at SCI-Smithfield, and he did not file a grievance pertaining to the cleaning of cells at SCI-Smithfield. (Doc. 106, ¶¶ 58-59).

         C. Herpes Simplex Virus

         On June 17, 2014, Peay was tested for the herpes simplex virus. (Doc. 106, ¶ 61; Doc. 106-5, p. 14). The test was conducted by Garcia Laboratory of Jackson, Michigan. [Id.). The test results were negative for the herpes simplex virus. (Doc. 106, ¶ 62; Doc. 106-5, p. 14). Peay's medical records contain no documentation of a positive diagnosis of the herpes simplex virus. (Doc. 106, ¶ 63; Doc. 106-4, p. 3, ¶ 7; Doc. 106-5, p. 3, ¶ 4).

         D. Z Code Status

         A Z code indicates that an inmate requires single-cell status and may not be assigned cell-mates. (Doc. 106, ¶ 64). A Z code may be assigned to inmates who have "a documented history of aggressive or predatory behavior towards cell partners, or staff has reason to believe would exhibit assaultive or predatory behavior towards cell partners." (Doc. 106, ¶ 65; Doc. 106-1, p. 80). "[A]n inmate may request to be reviewed for the addition or deletion of a Z Code housing classification. Staff shall make the final determination regarding Program Code 'Z' addition or removal." (Doc. 106, ¶ 66; Doc. 106-1, p. 80). To determine whether a Program Code "Z" should be added or removed, "a DC-46, Vote Sheet along with other relevant information shall be circulated to the Facility Manager/designee who shall make the final decision." (Doc. 106, ¶ 67; Doc. 106-1, p. 80). "An inmate assigned a Program Code T due to an inability to double cell ...


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