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Beckham v. Keaton

United States District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

March 10, 2015

JOHNATHAN KEATON, et al., Defendants.


Henry R. Wllhoit, Jr., United States District Judge.

Rodney Beckham is an inmate confined by the Kentucky Department of Corrections ("KDOC'') in the Kentucky State Reformatory ("KSR") which is located in La Grange, Kentucky. Prior to his confinement in the KSR, Beckham was confined in the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex ("EKCC"), which is located in West Liberty, Kentucky.

In June 2014, Beckham filed this pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action, [1] challenging various conditions of his confinement at the EKCC. Beckham alleged that one of the EKCC defendants[2] sexually harassed and assaulted him, in violation of his rights guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment; that when he complained of the alleged sexual harassment and sexual assault, other EKCC officials retaliated against him in violation of his rights guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; and that some or all of the defendants violated the provisions of the Prison Rape Elimination Act ("PREA"), 42 U.S.C. § 15601 et seq. The Court has conducted a preliminary review of Beckham's complaint because he asserts claims against government officials and because he has been granted in forma pauperis status in this action.

Because Beckham is proceeding without an attorney, the Court liberally construes his claims and accepts his factual allegations as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). As explained below, the Court will allow Beckham's Eighth Amendment claims alleging sexual abuse to proceed against Defendant Jonathan Keaton, but will dismiss the other claims which Beckham asserts in this action.


Beckham alleges on that May 5, 2013, while he was working as a cook at his prison job at the EKCC, Correctional Officer Jonathan Keaton sexually harassed and sexually assaulted him. Beckham alleges that on that date, Keaton approached him from behind and placed his hands on his (Beckham's) buttocks, and that while Keaton was holding his own crotch area, he said to Beckham, "Let me see if this fits." [D. E. No. 1, p. 4; see also, attachment to Beckham's complaint, D. E. No. 1- 2, p. 1] Beckham alleges that he told Keaton never to put his hands on him again, and that he was going to report him for inappropriately touching him, and that Keaton responded, "Do what you gotta do mother f***r!" [Id.]

Beckham states that he filed a sexual harassment complaint against Keaton and submitted it to EKCC Caseworker Nikki Clifford; that he gave an interview to Lieutenant Helton in which he recounted the alleged events concerning Keaton; and that Nurse Bonnie Elam examined his buttocks, but found no marks or bruises. [D. E. No. 1-2, p. 2] Beckham states that he was offered protective custody but refused it, see D. E. No. 1, p. 5, and that while Helton interviewed him, Helton was hostile toward him and threatened to lock him up. [D. E. No. 1-2, p. 2]

Beckham states that on May 7, 2013, he was taken to the office of Probation and Parole, at which time he gave a recorded interview to Internal Affairs Lieutenant "Back, " and another man whose name Beckham did not know; that the two men asked Beckham if he would take a polygraph test; and that he responded that he would be happy to do so. Beckham states that later that day, he received a disciplinary report in which he was charged with asking Correctional Officer Keaton to bring him (Beckham) three pounds of tobacco into the EKCC, which is a tobacco-free facility [D. E. No. 1, p. 5; D. E. No. 1-2, p. 2]

Beckham alleges that Keaton lied about the tobacco disciplinary charge to conceal his actions of May 5, 2013, and that the disciplinary charge was issued in retaliation for his having complained about Keaton's alleged sexual misconduct. Beckham asserts that as a result of the disciplinary report, he was convicted of the charged offense; that he lost six years of good-time credits ("OTC"); that he lost his prison job and several other institutional privileges; that he was placed in a restrictive dormitory; and that other EKCC inmates threatened him for "ratting on" Correctional Officer Keaton. [Id.]

Beckham further alleges that information concerning his sexual harassment/sexual abuse allegations against Correctional Officer Keaton was improperly released to the prison population, and that he thought that his complaints against Correctional Officer Keaton were to have remained confidential under the PREA. [Id.] Beckham alleges that on May 21, 2013, he was medicated and placed on suicide watch, and that he was eventually placed in protective custody and remained there until he was transferred to the KSR on August 2, 2013. [D. E. No. 1-2, p. 3]

Beckham states that on October 7, 2013, he filed a grievance with the prison grievance office and that he received a response stating that an investigation into his claims was on-going; that on October 18, 2013, he received a report from the Offender Information Specialist stating that no investigation or complaint had ever been filed; and that on October 21, 2103, he filed a criminal complaint with the Morgan District Attorney's Office, but that no action was taken in response to his criminal complaint. [D. E. No. 1, p. 6]

Beckham alleges that he was sexually abused as a child, see D. E. No. 1-2, p. 3, and that Keaton's actions of May 5, 2013, have caused him to experience emotional distress, mental trauma/Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and suicidal thoughts. Id. He further claims that the neither the "KSR" nor the "EKCC staff members" properly investigated his sexual assault/harassment allegations against Correctional Officer Keaton in accordance with the PREA. [D. E. No. 1, p. 6] Beckham also appears to be claiming that Defendant David Bradley, KDOC official and PREA Compliance Manager, failed to comply with the PREA and thus violated his rights under that statute.

Beckham seeks $500, 000 in compensatory damages from the defendants in both their official and individual capacities; $1 million in punitive damages from the defendants in both their official and individual capacities; an order directing "full compliance" with PREA; and a trial by jury. [Id., 7]


1. Alleged Constitutional Violations

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