United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
before the Court in this prisoner civil-rights case is
defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute
(ECF No. 87). Defendants' motion is based on plaintiff
Aaron Sloan's alleged improper conduct during the
December 1, 2016 telephonic pretrial conference in this case.
That telephonic pretrial conference was cut short when
Sloan's call was disconnected following an audible
commotion from his end of the call. A prison employee later
explained that the call was disconnected-and that Sloan was
escorted back to his cell-because he had exposed his penis
and begun masturbating in front of the employee while he was
on the phone. Sloan denies that he did this, and claimed in
the resulting prison disciplinary process that these
allegations are “part of a conspiracy and retaliatory
in nature.” (ECF No. 89-2.)
a sordid situation. After weighing the factors for dismissal
for failure to prosecute, and because the Court credits the
prison employee's explanation of what occurred during the
telephonic pretrial conference, the Court concludes that
defendants' motion to dismiss should be granted. This
case will therefore be dismissed with prejudice.
16, 2013, Sloan filed this civil-rights case against several
correctional officers at SCI Somerset and employees of the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”).
(See ECF No. 1.) Sloan's claims arise from an
alleged incident of excessive force on July 15, 2010, at SCI
Somerset. Over the course of this case, a number of
defendants and claims were dismissed as a result of
defendants' motions to dismiss and for summary judgment,
and the Court eventually scheduled trial for January 2017
(see ECF No. 82).
December 1, 2016, this Court unsuccessfully attempted to hold
the pretrial conference in this case by telephone. The reason
the pretrial conference was unsuccessful is because the
plaintiff-Aaron Sloan, who is now incarcerated at SCI Greene
and represents himself-was disconnected from the line by the
prison. (See ECF Nos. 86, 91 at
6:22-9:17.) Initially, when the Court got on the
line, defendants' counsel was the only person on the
call. (ECF Nos. 86, 91 at 2:4-22.) Defendants'
counsel then stated that Sloan had been on the call but that
someone in the background on his end had said
“[h]e's being inappropriate. We have to end the
call, ” and that the call had then ended. (See
ECF No. 91 at 2:4-9.) Defendants' counsel then
stated that she would call the prison back to get an
explanation of what had occurred. (Id. at
minutes later, defendants' counsel called the Court back
with Sloan on the line. No explanation was given for the
interruption, and the Court again attempted to hold the
pretrial conference. A minute or so into the conference,
however, a commotion could be heard from- what appeared to
be-Sloan's end of the line, and Sloan stated that he was
being told to end the call. (See Id. at 4:23-6:2.)
Defendants' counsel asked to speak to someone at the
prison but eventually the call ended without explanation or
response. Defendants' counsel then stated that she would
call the prison back again and then call the Court with an
ten minutes later, defendants' counsel called back. This
time she had a prison employee on the line. (See Id.
at 6:22-25.) The prison employee told the Court that
she had been present for the first call (this, it seems, was
before the Court got on the line), and had been separated
from Sloan by a glass barrier and cage with a small opening.
(Id. at 7:6-8:11.) The employee stated that she had
placed the call on speaker phone after defendants'
counsel called in the first time, and that-while they were
waiting for the call to connect (presumably while they were
waiting for the Court to get on the line)-she “noticed
[Sloan's] hand moving, and [she] looked down and he had
his penis all the way out and he was jacking off . . .
.” (Id. at 7:8-10.) The employee stated
further that she “[didn't] want to be too graphic
with it, but he was masturbating. I mean that's just
inappropriate so.” (Id. at 7:12-13.) She
explained that she had then said “[h]e's being
inappropriate so I'm going to end the phone call, ”
and had ended the call and left the room to get correctional
officers to escort Sloan back to his cell. (Id. at
point defendants' counsel explained that, after
Sloan's call disconnected the first time, she had called
the number back and that the prison receptionist connected
counsel back to the conference room. Defendants' counsel
said that Sloan had picked up-which is when counsel called
the Court back and the second call with the Court began.
(See Id. at 7:17-23.) Defendants' counsel asked
the employee whether that second call should have occurred,
and she explained as follows:
[PRISON EMPLOYEE]: No, I mean the reason why the operator put
you back through is because I'm in a different part of
the prison. So she probably just thought we got disconnected
and was trying to connect you guys again. I had left the
room. There's glass and a cage separating us. I'm
really surprised he was even able to get his hand through
there to answer the phone, because it wasn't that close.
I'm not sure how he was even able to do that. But
there's a little slit there so that you can hear. He was
probably able to get his hand through to at least push the
button to put it back on speaker, I would assume.
[DEFENDANTS' COUNSEL]: Okay. And then you --
[PRISON EMPLOYEE]: But I wasn't in the room at that time,
so yeah, the officers were probably trying ...