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Brock v. Coonts

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

April 30, 2018

AMERICO J. BROCK A/K/A DOMINIQUE J. BROCK PLAINTIFF
v.
SGT. JESSIE COONTS et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         Plaintiff, Americo J. Brock A/K/A Dominique J. Brock, filed the instant pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action proceeding in forma pauperis.[1] This matter is before the Court on initial review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons stated below, the Court will dismiss some of Plaintiff's claims and allow other claims to proceed for further development.

         I. SUMMARY OF FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff was a convicted inmate at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP) at the time of the events alleged in the complaint. He names the following KSP personnel as Defendants: Sgt. Jessie Coonts; Corrections Officer Ryan Inglish; Nurse Amanda Switzer; and Unit Administrators Michael Spindler and Troy Belt. He sues each Defendant in his or her official and individual capacities.

         Plaintiff asserts that he was housed in a cell walk which he states was condemned and previously used to house death row inmates, even though he was not serving a death sentence. He states that he was placed there because he was given a “‘Special Classification Status' due to extra-judicial disciplinary proceedings.” He states that he was given only a pair of boxers and a “salvaged/unsanitary” mattress. He maintains that the cell has not been sanitized in 117 years, was visibly dirty, and did not have a water supply.

         Plaintiff states that on January 21, 2017, Defendant Inglish walked up to his cell and “derogitorily refers to me as a ‘Puerto Rican monkey, ' in spiteful attempt to ‘stage a fallout' (i.e. pick a fight) in objections to the racial-slander.” Plaintiff asserts that he is of Hispanic descent. He states that he was “exhausted being I'm practically starved of meals and coincidentaly placed on a ‘hunger-strike, status'” in violation of Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) policies and procedures and that he demand to see a supervisor. According to the complaint, Defendant Inglish called Defendant Coonts, who conducted a “negligent' investigation, ” and that the two “conspiratorily cultivate a falsified allegation of an attempt at ‘self-harm' []an absolute fabrication, as implied in the absence of a disciplinary - report” for such conduct.

         Plaintiff states that he was then “seated quietly at my bed” and was “caught completely off guard” when “Sgt. Coonts yells sarcastic rhetoric (‘Hey Spick-Head!) before unloading ½ canister of MK-9 pepperspray into my face and chest . . . area, causing temporary blindness and irritation, witch lasted a complete week, before finaly fading away.” He states that “neither employee was faced w/ an immediate threat. I'm housed ‘behind bars, ' and ‘practicaly naked, ' for crying out loud!” He reports that “Its not until this point, incident is logged in ‘5 minute constant watch log, ' and an ‘apprehencion-team' is requested via inst. radio-system.” Plaintiff states that he waited fifteen minutes for the Apprehension Team to arrive during which he was “undergoing multiple ‘spasms' due to shock of MK-9 application, a newly administered chemical agent” under KDOC policies and procedures. He maintains that he does not know the names of the members of the Apprehension Team because they were wearing suit and helmets.

         Plaintiff further states, “Its not untill 15 minutes later, that Im demanded to ‘turn-around, and cuff-up!' Reluctantly, I comply, allowing handcuffs and shackles to be applied. Come this point, Im quite litaraly ‘dragged' up a flight of stairs . . . .” He states that he was dragged to a shower “where Im pinned between a ‘plexiglass shock-shield' and . . . a frigid brick wall.[]” Plaintiff asserts that after another fifteen minutes of being pinned against the cold brick wall, Defendant Switzer arrived and “spitefully asks ‘why must I continuously cater to this Spick?'” before being directed to check his ankle and wrist restraints, which Plaintiff contends were “entirely too tight!” He states that he was then dragged across the room to the shower. He states, “Whereas, as opposed to allowing me to take a ‘civilized' shower, Im seated in a ‘folding-chair' and quite literaly ‘water-boarded' []a torturing-technique . . . . as apprehencion team applies ‘shock-shield.'” He states that the corrections officers and supervisor “constantly makes rhetorics (further implication of malice)[.] ” Plaintiff further states that Defendant Switzer “under Sgt. Coonts' supervision, literaly poors an entire ‘tea-pitcher' of water . . . over my face witch causes me to assophicate/resusicate, on the water alone!” and that he was “practicaly begging Nurse Switzer to stop[.]” He maintains that he was commanded by Defendant Coonts to sit still or that he “may be ‘sprayed again.'” He states, “Having choked/gagged on this water three times before finally ‘giving in' (note: I felt I was ‘near-death'!) Im quite literaly ‘dragged' from the shower, back across the room to frigid-cold brick wall, now soaking wet.”

         Plaintiff further reports that Defendant Switzer was then again directed to check his ankle and wrist restraints. He states that she “fails to note tightly applied matalic-restraints, [illegible] caused swelling[].” He states that he was then dragged down a flight of stairs and “practicaly thrown back in my cell[, ] the ‘Death-cell' . . .” and “housed on 5 minute constant watch a complete week before Im even offered a formal (civilized) shower.” Plaintiff states that, seven days after he was pepper sprayed, he was “escorted to the shower and allowed to Decontaminate myself of pepperspray, (MK-9) an extremely excruciating process, in witch pepperspray ‘re-activated, ' again and again untill full cleaning.”

         Plaintiff states that he was preparing to defend himself in a disciplinary hearing. However, he states, “I wasn't even issued a disciplinary report in the first place! witch further implies my innocence.” Plaintiff maintains that he filed a grievance which was handled by Defendants Belt and Spindler, “each of whom [were] Defendants in U.S. Dist. Court cases . . . . Further implication of 1st amendment Retaliation . . . in which Grievance #2017-02-039 exceeds nearly 3 months before ‘informal resolution' is issued.'” He states that he moved immediately for a Grievance Committee hearing which was “delayed another 2 months.” He maintains that the delays violated KDOC policies and procedures. Plaintiff reports that he then appealed to the Warden on grounds that Defendants Belt and Spindler retaliated against him in “effort to avenge” pending cases “in prolonging the Grievance-Process ‘a complete 5 months!'” He states that the Warden took another two months to respond and that he then appealed to the KDOC Commissioner where he stated “as ‘Grounds for appeal' the many retaliatory efforts made, to avenge” his pending U.S. District Court cases. He states, “However, each appeal is spitefully ‘affirmed.'”

         As relief, Plaintiff requests compensatory and punitive damages.

         II. STANDARD

         When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of it, if the court determines that the complaint is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See § 1915A(b)(1), (2); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).

         In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[A] district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true.” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). “But the district court need not accept a ‘bare assertion of legal conclusions.'” Tackett, 561 F.3d at 488 (quoting Columbia Natural Res., Inc. v. Tatum, 58 F.3d 1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995)). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).

         Although this Court recognizes that pro se pleadings are to be held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991), “[o]ur duty to be ‘less stringent' with pro se complaints does not require us to conjure up unpled allegations.” McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979) (citation omitted). And this Court is not required to create a claim for Plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). To command otherwise would require the Court “to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district court from its ...


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