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Belden v. Jordan

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville

March 8, 2018

JOHN BELDEN, PLAINTIFF
v.
SCOTT JORDAN, et al., DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge United States District Court.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Ryan Ramey's Motion for Summary Judgment. [R. 38.] Plaintiff John Belden responded, [R. 41], and Ramey replied, [R. 58]. The Court granted Belden an extension to file an Amended Response by January 26, 2018 after viewing video footage of the incident that is the subject of this case. [R. 53.] On January 11, 2018, Belden viewed the video footage, [R. 58-1], but he has not filed an Amended Response. This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, Ramey's Motion for Summary Judgment, [R. 38], is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         The general facts of this case are described in the Court's prior opinion, Belden v. Jordan et al., NO. 3:16-CV-P511, 2017 WL 119477 (W.D. Ky. January 11, 2017). Particularly important to the issue at hand is the altercation between Belden and Ramey. At the time of the incident, April 28, 2016, Belden was an inmate at Luther Lockett Correctional Complex and Ramey was a corrections officer. Belden stated in his verified Complaint that on that day, he was upset after discussing some bad news at the legal office, and Ramey overheard him venting to some friends. [R. 1 at 9-10, ¶ 13, 18 (Verified Complaint).] Belden told his friends that he wished he would have stayed at Kentucky State Penitentiary, (“KSP”), to which Ramey allegedly stated “Good! Go back to Eddyville . . . Go back, Go back, we're [tired] of you ‘all' comming [sic] here, Go back! I can make it happen!” [Id. at 11, ¶ 18, 21.] Ramey disputed Belden's account of this interaction. Ramey stated in his Affidavit that after Belden stated “‘F**k this institution, I want to go back to KSP, ' [he] told Inmate Belden that ‘we can make that happen.'” [R. 38-2 at 1 (Ramey Affidavit).]

         Belden recalled that after this comment, he became angry and distressed, so he hurried back to his dorm to collect himself. [R. 1 at 12, ¶ 25.] After realizing he left his ID card at the legal office, Belden left his dorm and saw Belden talking to Lt. Sarah Crawford. [Id., ¶ 27.] Belden stated that he saw this as an opportunity for Crawford to mediate his issue with Ramey. [Id. at 12, ¶ 27.] Belden stated that he asked Crawford, “Maam' [sic], can you please…help me medate [sic] between me and him” to which Ramey allegedly responded by saying “Oh really! Oh really! What a bitch!” [Id.] Ramey's account is different. He stated that Belden asked to speak to Crawford, but not in front of Ramey, and Ramey responded by saying “something to the effect off-‘are you serious, whatever.'” [R. 38-2 at 1.]

         Belden stated that as Ramey was walking away, he said “now thats [sic] some rat . . . shit.” [R. 1 at 13, ¶ 28.] Ramey denied this narrative. [R. 38-2 at 2.] Belden stated that he reacted by responding “This is fucked up, you been doing this all day.” [R. 1 at 13, ¶ 30.] This caused Crawford to order Belden to allow her to restrain him with handcuffs, to which Belden averred that he complied. [Id.] Belden recalled that he then saw Ramey “sneering a sinister smile and quickly getting closer.” [Id.] Belden stated that he “reacted under the intention [sic] infliction of emotional distress caused by and created ultimately by Defendant c/o Ramey the known ‘Yard Bully'” and “[a] physical altercation insued [sic]” between them. [Id. at 14, ¶ 36-37.] Belden stated that the altercation ended in a “matter of seconds” with Ramey in a “top mounted position” on Belden and striking Belden in the face with his forearm. [Id. at ¶ 38.] Belden averred that he stopped resisting but multiple unidentified officers rushed the scene and struck him in the face with their knees and fists, as well as pulled and kicked his arms. [Id., ¶ 39-40.]

         Belden added that the unidentified responding officers “used knees to push [his] face into [the] ground and [his] upper body was push and pulled and weighted down” even though he was not resisting and he was “pinned down” by Ramey at the time. [Id. at 15, ¶ 42.]

         Ramey remembered this incident differently. Ramey stated that he saw Belden jerk his shoulder “as if trying to get away from Lt. Crawford” when she tried to handcuff him, and he started to respond to help her when “Belden broke free of her grasp and charged toward [him].” [R. 38-2 at 2.] Ramey described the physical altercation as follows:

Belden threw two quick punches that contacted me on the right side of my face. We struggled for a few seconds on our feet. I was then able to throw Inmate Belden to the ground, but in doing so I went down as well. We both struggled to gain control of the other by getting on top. Inmate Belden was able to get on top of me. While he was on top of me, I rolled Belden to the right and I gained top mounted position and pinned him to the ground. When I got on top of Inmate Belden, he wrapped his legs around me to hold me in position. Inmate Belden continued to struggle while I was on top of him. Finally, Inmate Belden stopped struggling when responding officers arrived and pinned his arms down.

[Id.] Crawford's account of the incident in her affidavit provides little detail to support the account of either party:

Inmate Belden stated to me that Officer Ramey had been getting smart with him all day. Officer Ramey responded by saying something along the lines of “really man?” I told Officer Ramey to step back and I walked inmate Belden in the other direction to deescalate the situation. As I walked Inmate Belden away, he started to yell at Officer Ramey and said, “this is f**ked up, you know you have been taunting me.” When Inmate Belden yelled at Officer Ramey I told Inmate Belden to cuff up. As I was about to place restraints on him he charged toward Officer Ramey hitting him multiple times. As Officer Ramey and Inmate Belden struggled I tried to help pull Inmate Belden off of Ramey. I was not successful. Other officers arrived. I secured one of Inmate Belden's ankles to the ground in an attempt to keep him from causing any further injury. Inmate Belden was finally secured in handcuffs.

[R. 38-3 at 1 (Crawford Affidavit).]

         The video footage of the incident depicts Belden initially talking to Crawford and Ramey. At one point, Ramey walks away. As he walks away, Belden says something to him that causes Crawford to begin the process of putting handcuffs on Belden. At that point, Ramey walks back toward Crawford and Belden. As he approaches, Belden breaks away from Crawford, proceeding toward Ramey, and punches Ramey three times in the face. After that, the two struggle on their feet, with several more punches from Belden, until Ramey throws him to the ground. Although Belden is on top at first, two other officers help Crawford roll Belden onto his back. While on his back, Belden wraps his legs around the waist of Ramey, and the other three officers attempt to gain control of his arms. Two more officers come to help after that. At this point in the footage, officers come and go within the frame of the camera but most seem to simply stand and watch the three to four officers kneeling on the ground with Belden as they handcuff him and eventually raise him to his feet. At no point in the footage does it appear that any officer punched or kicked Belden while he was on the ground.

         After Belden was successfully handcuffed and brought to his feet, Belden stated that he was “crying in distress and fear.” [R. 1 at 15, ¶ 45.] Furthermore, he stated that he experienced extreme pain in his left arm and he could not see due to his eyes being swollen. [Id., ΒΆ 46.] After inspecting Belden on May 25, 2016, Dr. Eugene Jacob ...


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