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Williams v. Castellon

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 25, 2018

RONALD E. WILLIAMS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
HERMAN CASTELLON, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. 74)

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         Plaintiff Ronald E. Williams, Jr. (“Williams”), brought this action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants, officers at the Marion County, Indiana, jail (“the Jail”), for deliberate indifference to serious risk of harm in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment, to which Williams responded pro se after receiving notice under Timms v. Frank, 953 F.2d 281 (7th Cir. 1992), and our Local Rule 56-1(k), though he has since retained counsel. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         Background

         Williams is a prisoner at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash Valley”), an Indiana penitentiary. In 2009 and 2010 Williams was detained at the Jail awaiting trial on charges for which he was subsequently convicted and is currently incarcerated. In the prosecution of that case, Williams cooperated with the state against his codefendant, a man named Jamal Hurst, alias Emilio Mitchell (“Hurst”). During his detention, Williams was kept in administrative segregation, that is, in solitary confinement, for his protection as a cooperating witness. On October 13, 2010, Williams was sentenced to a fifty-five year term, fully executed, in the Indiana Department of Correction. Williams was then transferred to Wabash Valley.

         On June 15, 2015, Williams was transported from Wabash Valley to the Jail in advance of a hearing on his petition for postconviction relief then pending before the Marion County courts. On arriving at the Jail, Williams told the book-in officer that he wished to be placed back in administrative segregation, as he had been in 2009 and 2010. Williams feared that his prior cooperation with the state might be known to other Jail inmates via Hurst and put him at risk of violence at their hands, though he was unaware of any specific threat to himself. Williams did not explain his reasons for wishing to be placed in segregation to the book-in officer.

         The book-in officer responded that the Jail's classification department “knew, and they would handle everything, ” and that Williams would be taken to an appropriate cell. Williams Dep. 43:10-11. Williams pressed the officer, “Man, you sure, you know, I'm trying to go to [segregation.]” Id. 43:14-15. And also, “Man, I'm a little worried, I'm not from here, you know, I've been in [segregation] this long, that's what I'm used to, I would rather go back there.” Id. 28:21-24. The officer replied, “Yeah, classification- they know everything.” Id. 43:16. Williams relented and was escorted by a second officer to a cell in the Jail's general population. When Williams realized he was not being taken to segregation, he again expressed his wish to be placed there to the officer escorting him, but to no avail. We refer to these two officers collectively as “the book-in officers.”

         The next day, June 16, 2015, just before supper, Williams was recognized by a Jail inmate he knew as “T-Bone.” The two men had been in the same segregation block in 2009 and 2010, and T-Bone knew Hurst. At supper-time, Williams ate and was on his way back to his cell through the day room of his cell block when he was “blindsided” by “at the minimum seven people.” Id. 83:24, 84:1-2. Seven inmates attacked Williams in an area of the Jail Williams insists would have been visible to the Jail's security cameras and thus visible to officers manning the cell block's or the Jail's control booth (“the control-booth officers”), which housed a bank of closed-circuit televisions fed from the security cameras. Williams attempted to flee into his cell but his attackers followed him there and continued their assault, beating him with a plastic toilet brush.

         Williams's assailants covered him with a blanket and kept him in the cell, ordering him not to say or do anything as they watched a basketball game. Apparently (the facts are somewhat muddled on this point) Williams remained in his cell with his assailants for hours. No. Jail staff stand regular posts or maintain a regular presence in the cell blocks. Security cameras are the Jail's chief means of surveilling its inmates, supplemented by hourly “tier checks, ” walk-throughs of the cell block conducted by one Jail officer. See Id. 87:23-88:6, 102:19-103:6. Williams was “not sure that [Jail staff] did [a tier check]” while he was being held captive by his assailants, because “at that time [he] was just . . . l[y]ing there under a blanket[, ] . . . bleeding[.]” Id. 88:6-10.

         Shortly before the nightly “lock-down” of the Jail, around 10:30 p.m. or 11:00 p.m., Williams's assailants told him to “get out of [t]here” (though how Williams could have been ejected from his own cell is unclear). Id. 89:18.

[S]o at that time [Williams] went into the sally port or whatever and [he] had [his] head wrapped in a T-shirt, and the officers were already on their way to pick up another person because they said his family had called in saying [threats had been made] towards him, so they thought [Williams] was him at first until [Williams] informed them no, [he was] not him, [he was] different.

Id. 89:18-25.

         Sometime after his assault, while still at the Jail, Williams learned the identity of one of his assailants, a man named Richard Grundy (“Grundy”), said to be the leader of a gang and friends with Hurst. Williams was also informed that inmates at the Jail had been in communication with Hurst, who was then at liberty. Williams's cell mate explained to him that the assault had been premeditated.

         Williams suffered four lacerations to his head, a fractured nose, and a fractured orbital. After a trip to the Jail's medical unit, Williams was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated overnight. He was returned to the Jail the next day and transported back to Wabash Valley on the day after that, his postconviction-relief hearing having been canceled. Williams has not lodged any complaint that he received inadequate medical treatment either at the Jail, the hospital, or Wabash Valley.

         This lawsuit followed. The now operative amended complaint was filed on August 15, 2016. Dkt. 16. After limited discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the single issue of failure to exhaust administrative remedies, Dkt. 29, which motion we denied. Dkt. 40. The instant motion was filed on December 11, 2017, Dkt. 74, and is now fully briefed and ripe for decision.

         On March 27, attorney John Andrew Goodrich filed an appearance on Williams's behalf. Dkt. 87. Nothing at all has been heard from Attorney Goodrich since he appeared, a troubling fact given the pendency of a dispositive motion his client has defended entirely pro se.

         Standard ...


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