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Williams v. Watson

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

January 11, 2019

OFC. T. WATSON, et al., Defendants.



         Michael Jerome Williams, a prisoner without a lawyer, was granted leave to proceed against Officer T. Watson for retaliating against him in violation of the First Amendment by filing a false disciplinary report against Williams and encouraging other officers and inmates to verbally harass Williams. He was also granted leave to proceed against Mrs. B. McGee for retaliating against him in violation of the First Amendment by filing a false witness statement in support of Officer Watson's bogus charge. Williams seeks summary judgment arguing that the undisputed material facts entitle him to judgment as a matter of law. Neither of the defendants moved for summary judgment, and the deadline to do so has past. Because there is a genuine dispute of material fact, summary judgment must be denied.

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying” the evidence which “demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Substantive law determines which facts are material; that is, which facts might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or show “that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The court will not “make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or decide which inferences to draw from the facts; these are jobs for a factfinder.” Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). Instead, the court's sole task in ruling on a motion for summary judgment is “to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Id. at 770 (quotation omitted).

         Here is what is alleged to have happened. Officer Watson entered Williams' humanities class on November 1, 2016, between 8:00 a.m. and 8:53 a.m. (ECF 65-2 at 45, 53-54, 58.) Officer Watson began insulting various inmates in the class. (Id. at 45, 57-58.) Williams claims (and Officer Watson denies), that Officer Watson told Williams that, “I bet you like getting hugged by men. I bet you like rough hands on your back when you're getting fucked. I'm gonna make sure you get hugged tonight.” (Id. at 18, 45.) Williams reported the comment and filed an administrative complaint under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). (Id. at 55.) According to the prison's policy, Officer Watson and Williams were to remain separated while the PREA complaint was pending. (Id. at 261-71.) Williams was placed in a holding cell pending investigation. (Id. at 55.)

         Williams alleges that when Officer Watson learned of the PREA complaint, she retaliated against him by issuing a false disciplinary report claiming that he had made the sexually explicit statements to her. (ECF 6 at 3-4.) According to Officer Watson's conduct report, at 8:17 a.m. on November 1, 2016:

I Ofc. T. Watson was advising another offender that he has to be on time for school when offender Williams, Michael # 864989 yelled stating, “she got a bad ass attitude because ain't nobody hugging her ass at night.” [illegible]Williams continued stating “yo attitude would be better if somebody was hitting that thang on a daily basis.” I retrieved his information and informed him that he would be receiving a write up” Offender Williams then replied, “I don't give a fuck.”

(ECF 65-2 at 51.)

         Although it is unclear when Officer Watson learned that Williams had filed a PREA complaint against her, the conduct report was filed at 1:00 p.m. the same day. (Id.) Officer Watson's conduct report was supported by Librarian B. McGee's witness statement, which states:

McGee was standing by the class room to ask a question about count. When I heard offender Williams, Michael #864989 say out loud that she has a attitude because she not getting hugged at night. It would be better if she was getting fucked.

(Id. at 52.) Williams tells me that McGee was not present where she could have heard the comments that she reported, that her allegations are false, and that they were made for the purpose of retaliating against him. (ECF 65 at 4.)

         Williams further asserts that, after his relocation, Officer Watson entered Williams' new housing unit, spoke with a correctional officer, and then gave Williams a nasty look as she was leaving. (ECF 6 at 4.) Another officer then approached Williams and stated, “people who make complaints are cowards and snitches.” (Id.) Two months later, Officer Watson again entered Williams' housing unit and gave him a dirty look. (ECF 71 at 2.) Williams alleges that, as a result of his interactions with Officer Watson, other prisoners accused him of being a “snitch” and an “officer slayer” and have threatened to “give [him] a reason to make a PREA report.” (ECF 6 at 5.) Officer Watson, however, contends that she did not go anywhere that her employer did not ask her to go to execute her duties, and did not enter Williams' dorm with the purpose of intimidating him. (Id. at 65-2 at 9-10, 18.)

         Williams' PREA complaint was investigated, and it was found to be unsubstantiated. (ECF 65-2 at 44.) By the same token, the conduct report against plaintiff was dismissed. (Id. at 59.) Williams asserts that the conduct report was dismissed because the allegations in it were not believable (ECF 65 at 5), but that is not a fair characterization of the evidence. The charges were dismissed because the investigator viewed Officer Watson's use of the phrase “hitting it” as similar but inconsistent with McGee's version of events, which used the phrase “getting fucked.” (65-2 at 58-59.)

         “To prevail on his First Amendment retaliation claim, [Williams] must show that (1) he engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment; (2) he suffered a deprivation that would likely deter First Amendment activity in the future; and (3) the First Amendment activity was at least a motivating factor in the Defendants' decision to take the retaliatory action.” Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 866 (7th Cir. 2012) (quotation marks and citations omitted). The defendants concede that Williams engaged in First Amendment activity, but they assert that there are genuine ...

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