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Cooper v. Belt

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

June 7, 2017



          Greg N. Stivers, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Michael Cooper, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, initiated this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action by filing a complaint. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the following reasons, the complaint will be dismissed in part and allowed to continue in part.


         Plaintiff is a convicted inmate incarcerated at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP). He names as Defendants the following employees of KSP: Unit Administrator Troy Belt; Lt. Terry Peede; Lt. James Beeler; and correctional officers Neil Gardner and J. Pillion. He also sues the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) Commissioner Rodney Ballard and the following “CCS” employees:[1] David Watson, Jorge Dominicis, and Gerard Boyle. All Defendants are sued in their individual and official capacities.

         Plaintiff alleges that the “CCS” Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment right by violating “H.I.P.P.A.” (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in giving out health information without a court order. He also alleges that the KDOC has allowed KSP staff to continue to violate inmates' constitutional rights.

         Plaintiff next alleges that on February 19, 2017, he was stopped by Defendant Pillion who asked what Plaintiff had in his mouth. According to the complaint, Plaintiff responded, “‘[Y]ou know their isn't anything in my mouth. The only reason you stopped is so you can harass me.'” Defendant Pillion then placed Plaintiff in the “strip out cage.” Defendant Belt came to the strip out cage and asked Plaintiff why he kept filing grievances on him and told Plaintiff that by filing lawsuits and grievances he was making enemies. Defendant Belt told Defendants Peede, Beeler, Gardner, and Pillion to take Plaintiff back to his cell. According to the complaint, Plaintiff then stated that he was going to file a grievance, to which Defendant Belt replied that he would be sure to hold Plaintiff's property for five days.

         Plaintiff states that he was placed completely naked in a cell with no mattress, toilet paper, running water, or soap. He states that Defendant Peede told him he would get clothes and a blanket “‘if he felt like it.'” The next day Defendants Peede and Beeler came to his cell where Defendant Beeler told Plaintiff that he would give him “‘nothing back. I'm going to teach Mr. Cooper a lesson about first shift . . . We do what we want.'” (Ellipses in original.)

         On February 21, 2017, Plaintiff still had not received his property back. According to his complaint, when his neighbor began flooding his cell, 14-Right-15, Defendants Peede, Beeler, Gardner, and Pillion came to Plaintiff's cell. He states that Defendant Peede maced him, told him to get on his knees, and then opened the door, pulled him to his feet and took him to the shower where “in shakles and handcuffs the nurse told me to sit down and put my head back. She then poured water over my mouth and nose trying to drownd me.”

         Plaintiff alleges that the cell he was then placed in, 14-Left-15, had feces in the toilet that would not flush. He further states that he still had mace in his eyes and on his body, including on his “private” and in the cuts on his wrist and ankle. He states that no medical staff was sent to check on him during the day that he spent in that cell. Plaintiff states that after one day in 14-Left-15 he was put back into 14-Right-15. He also states that he was on property restriction from February 19 to 24. He states that when he did get his property back, all of his books, magazines, and photographs of his daughter were gone. He asserts, “All my item[s] were thrown away by c/o Gardner, Lt. Terry Peede and Lt. James Beeler. James Beeler got mad because I told him he couldn't read so how did he get this job. And for the record Lt. James Beeler can bearly read or write.”

         The complaint states:

Lt. Peede kept my personal property for so long was so that I couldn't file a lawsuit or a grievance. I am also afraid that if I file a grievance the c-o's will come in here and beat me up, taze me, mace, put me in one of these cells naked, while staff walk by and ask am I thinking about dropping this lawsuit 5:15-cv-P244-TBR.[2] And since I won't break I am subjected to a punishment to server for the courts to ignore. . . . Troy Belt tells them to be [corrupt]. All I have now is two sheets to keep me warm. As a result I've gotten sick and sick call refuses to see me.

         Plaintiff identifies the following claims against the KSP Defendants. Plaintiff states that Defendant Peede violated his First Amendment rights by placing him in a restricted cell because Plaintiff had filed grievances against staff and violated the Eighth Amendment by leaving Plaintiff in a “frezzing cell naked with burning mace in my eyes. No shower, no clothes, in a dirty cell with feecee's still in the toilet.”

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Beeler violated his Eighth Amendment rights by placing him in a restricted cell “for saying he couldn't read. And retaliation for filing grievances. He violated my 5if Amendment by stealing my picture, books and magazines.” Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Belt violated the First Amendment by retaliating for the filing of grievances and the Eighth Amendment by leaving Plaintiff naked, in a cold cell “with mace all over [him] for six days.”

         Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Pillion violated the First Amendment by throwing away his grievance forms and violated the Fourth Amendment by throwing away his personal property. Plaintiff states that Defendant Pillion searched his cell looking for drugs “and found nothing after 6 days, then decided to give me my property back. When I got it back my property was missing.”

         With regard to Defendant Gardner, Plaintiff alleges that he violated the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment by taking Plaintiff's property and then throwing away valuable items in retaliation. Plaintiff also alleges that “[a]ll of the above c/o's including Gardner having openly expressed how much they do not like people of color.”

         Plaintiff attaches several documents as exhibits. A disciplinary report regarding February 21, 2017, shows that Plaintiff pleaded guilty to flooding his cell. The disciplinary report for that major disciplinary infraction of “[c]reating or causing a health hazard, ” describes the incident as follows:

On February 21, 2017 . . . Cooper . . . flooded his cell 14 Right 15 3 C/H. Lt. Terry Peede ordered Inmate cooper to stop flooding his cell. Inmate Cooper did not comply. Lt. Peede deployed two short burst of OC spray striking Inmate Cooper in the facial and chest area. Lt. Peede then ordered Inmate Cooper to back of up his cell door to be placed in metal wrist restraints. Inmate Cooper complied. Inmate Cooper was placed on property restriction for his behavior.

         He also attaches grievances and responses thereto which predate and are close in time to the incidents that are the basis of this complaint.

         As relief, Plaintiff asks for monetary and punitive damages. He also asks that the Court “place these officers somewhere where they cannot retaliate on inmates . . . .”

         II. ...

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