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Dixon v. Groeger

United States District Court, D. Maine

August 2, 2017

RICHARD ALLEN DIXON, JR., Plaintiff
v.
DALTON GROEGER, Defendant

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          John C. Nivison, U.S. Magistrate Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff Richard Allen Dixon, Jr., alleges that Defendant Dalton Groeger violated his constitutional rights while Plaintiff was detained at the York County Jail. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment when he was assaulted by another inmate, and that when he initiated grievance proceedings, Defendant retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 4.)

         The matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 32.) Following a review of the record and the parties' summary judgment filings, I recommend the Court grant in part and deny in part the motion.

         Facts

         Plaintiff, presently confined at the Maine Correctional Center, was detained at York County Jail from July 25, 2015, to September 19, 2015. (Defendant's Statement of Material Facts (“DSMF”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 33; Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts (“PSMF”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 43.) Defendant was a correctional officer at the York County Jail at all times relevant to this action. (DSMF ¶ 2; PSMF ¶ 2.)

         On August 30, 2015, Defendant was assigned to work in the unit of the Jail to which Plaintiff was confined. (DSMF ¶ 3; PSMF ¶ 3.) Throughout that day, Defendant participated with certain inmates in throwing around paper balls. (PSMF ¶ 5.) Plaintiff eventually told Defendant that he needed to start acting like an officer. (Id. ¶ 6.) Defendant responded with an expletive. (Id. ¶ 7.) Later that night as Plaintiff was going to his cell, he took a blue glove from Defendant's desk; Defendant told Plaintiff to put it back and to grow up. (Id. ¶ 9.)

         Defendant was the only officer on duty in the unit that evening. (PSMF ¶ 4.) Plaintiff went to bed around 10:30 p.m. (Id. ¶ 10.) According to Plaintiff, without warning, he felt his face stinging - Plaintiff states it felt like he had been slapped awake - and an inmate was holding a pencil to his neck. (Id. ¶¶ 11 - 12; DSMF ¶¶ 4, 5.) The inmate informed Plaintiff that if he did not stop “running his mouth, ” the inmate would harm Plaintiff. (PSMF ¶ 12.)

         Plaintiff did not see Defendant unlock his cell door, nor hear Defendant unlock the cell door. (DSMF ¶¶ 6 - 7.) Plaintiff, however, saw Defendant standing at the door to the cell, approximately ten feet away, holding the cell door open and watching. (PSMF ¶ 13.)

         The incident involving the other inmate lasted only seconds. (DSMF ¶¶ 8, 12.) The pencil did not penetrate Plaintiff's skin. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff was not physically injured during the incident and did not seek medical attention. (Id. ¶ 11.) Defendant did not enter Plaintiff's cell or speak to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff did not know the other inmate prior to the incident. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff has no direct evidence that Defendant “recruited” the inmate to assault Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 15.)[1]

         On September 1, 2015, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the incident. (PSMF ¶ 15.) On September 8, Defendant entered Plaintiff's cell and confronted him about the grievance. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff told Defendant to leave the cell three time before Defendant left. (Id. ¶ 17.) Defendant did not physically harm Plaintiff in any way when he asked him about the grievance on September 8. (DSMF ¶ 20.)[2]

         Because Defendant had confronted Plaintiff about the grievance, on September 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed a second grievance against Defendant. (Id. ¶ 21.) Following the filing of the grievances, the jail continued to assign Defendant to escort Plaintiff on daily trips to medical, and during one or more of the trips, Defendant called Plaintiff a rat and said he would not be able to “tell his way out of this one.” (Id. ¶ 19.)

         Plaintiff asserts that Defendant also told him he would “get what [he] deserved” and would “get what was coming to [him].” (Dixon Aff. ¶ 7, ECF No. 43-1.) Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant “continued to make intimidating comments to me.” (PSMF ¶ 19.) Defendant objects to some of Plaintiff's statements because they are new and/or contradict Plaintiff's deposition testimony. (Def.'s Reply Statement ¶ 19, ECF No. 45.) Plaintiff contends that he “took a full revocation and probation to get out of York County Jail” because he was afraid of what Defendant might do.[3] (DSMF ¶ 20.)

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “After the moving party has presented evidence in support of its motion for summary judgment, ‘the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, with respect to each issue on which he has the burden of proof, to demonstrate that a trier of fact reasonably could find in his favor.'” Woodward v. ...


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