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Jones v. County of Sacramento

July 19, 2010

DRAKE S. JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO; JOHN MCGINNESS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF THE SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; SACRAMENTO COUNTY MAIN JAIL COMMANDER ERIC MANESS; SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT CHIEF OF CORRECTIONAL AND COURT SERVICES JAMIE LEWIS; SACRAMENTO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT SERGEANT DANIEL MORRISSEY (BADGE #182); SACRAMENTO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT DEPUTY JUSTIN CHAUSSEE (BADGE #276); SACRAMENTO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT DEPUTY KEN BECKER (BADGE #931); SACRAMENTO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT DEPUTY CHRISTOPHER MROZINSKI (BADGE #945); AND SACRAMENTO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT DEPUTY CHRIS CONRAD (BADGE #1202), DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiff filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after he was allegedly mistreated during his brief detention at the Sacramento County main jail ("main jail"). Defendants John McGinness, the Sheriff of Sacramento County, Erik Maness, a Captain and the jail commander of the main jail, and Jamie Lewis, a Chief Deputy with the Correctional and Court Security Services for Sacramento County ("supervisor defendants") now move for summary judgment with respect to plaintiff's claims against them.

I. Factual and Procedural Background*fn1

On August 5, 2008, plaintiff was helping a friend move and, after getting into a dispute with a third party, was arrested and taken to the main jail. (First Am. Compl. ("FAC") ¶ 18.) After being booked, plaintiff was placed in the sobering cell, which is a cell used to house arrestees that are or are believed to be under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. (Id. ¶ 21; Jones Dep. 156:12-16; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 6.) The parties dispute whether the officers were justified in placing plaintiff in the sobering cell. While plaintiff was in the sobering cell, the drain in the cell began to back up and overflow with liquid, which plaintiff alleges was raw sewage containing human waste. (FAC ¶ 21.) Plaintiff attempted to notify officers of the overflowing substance by tapping on the cell windows, pointing down, and possibly describing what was happening. (Id. ¶ 22; Jones Dep. 157:3-158:15.)

When officers became aware of the overflowing substance, it was already leaking from under the cell door into the hallway. (FAC ¶ 23.) Defendants Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Sergeant Daniel Morrissey and Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Deputies Justin Chaussee, Ken Becker, Christopher Mrozinski, and Chris Conrad ("officer defendants") entered the sobering cell and ultimately removed plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 30.) The parties dispute the amount of force the officer defendants used and whether plaintiff resisted when they attempted to remove him, but agree that plaintiff was ultimately forced to lay face down on the wet floor of the sobering cell. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.) When they entered the cell to remove plaintiff, the officer defendants believed plaintiff had caused the cell drain to back-up and overflow, although it was later determined that plaintiff was not responsible for the problems with the drain. (Id. ¶ 25; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 32 at 2.) Plaintiff further alleges that, while he was laying face down, one of the officer defendants attempted to kick the raw sewage at his face and into his mouth. (FAC ¶¶ 28-29.)

After plaintiff was removed from the sobering cell, he was placed in a safety/segregation cell. (Id. ¶ 31; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 26.) The parties dispute whether plaintiff should have been placed in the safety/segregation cell, and plaintiff further alleges that the officer defendants did not allow him to clean the liquid substance off of him and failed to adhere to the monitoring requirements for an arrestee placed in a safety/segregation cell. (FAC ¶ 35.)

Plaintiff was released from custody after a total of eight hours and criminal charges were never filed against him. Based on the mistreatment he allegedly received, plaintiff filed a written citizen's complaint with the Sacramento County Police Department on September 12, 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 35-37.) The Professional Standards Bureau of the department subsequently conducted an investigation of plaintiff's complaint.

Lieutenant Milo Fitch, who is in charge of the Professional Standards Bureau, initially reviewed plaintiff's complaint and, shortly after reviewing it, contacted Undersheriff Tom McMahon to show him the video footage from plaintiff's detention. (Fitch Dep. 25:10-13, 33:5-9, 16-18.) Lieutenant Fitch met with Undersheriff McMahon and Sheriff McGinness and reviewed the videos. (Id. at 25:4-21.) After watching the tapes, Sheriff McGinness testified that he was relieved that the video from the sobering cell "'does not represent what [he] had been told was depicted on the video.'" (McGinness Dep. 6:4-11.)

The Professional Standards Bureau completed its factual investigation of plaintiff's complaint, which was led by Sergeant Mitchell Andrews. Sergeant Andrews determined that, if plaintiff's allegations were true, the officer defendants' behavior was a violation of the jail's General Order on Use of Force and Discourteous Treatment of the Public. (Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 32 at 1.) The Professional Standards Bureau's investigation materials, which included its factual findings and the videos, were then sent to the supervisor defendants for a determination as to whether the officer defendants engaged in wrongdoing and whether any action would be taken.

On January 22, 2009, Captain Maness, who has served as the commander of the main jail since July 2008 (Maness Decl. ¶ 2), issued his Findings and Recommendations after reviewing the Professional Standards Bureau's investigation. In his Findings and Recommendations, Captain Maness concluded that plaintiff's allegations of misconduct were "unfounded" and recommended that "[n]o further action" be taken. (Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 32 at 2-3.) Specifically, after recounting the factual statements by plaintiff and the officer defendants, Captain Maness stated:

After reviewing the Main Jail video, it is impossible to definitively determine if Jones tensed up and became resistive; although, it does appear that he did. While Deputies Conrad and Chaussee are escorting Jones toward the cell door, it appears that Deputy Chaussee is knocked off balance, causing him to slightly stumble to his left. Presumably, this occurred because Jones became resistive. Immediately afterward, Deputies Conrad and Chaussee took Jones to the ground, with the assistance of Deputies Becker and Mrozinski.

The officers did not slam Jones into the floor, nor do I believe that they intentionally placed him face down in sewage water. They felt a need to have greater control over their suspect, and took appropriate measures, regardless of their surroundings. In fact, in taking Jones to the ground, the officers placed themselves in direct contact with the same sewage water that Jones complained about.

While the video clearly shows that Jones did not flood the cell, the officers were acting, in good faith, on information they believed to be true at the time [i.e., that he did flood the cell].... [With respect to the allegation that an officer making a kicking movement to splash sewage in plaintiff's face, a] review of the Main Jail video corroborates Deputy Chausee's account of the incident. You can clearly see that Jones' elbow is starting to bend, and it appears Deputy Chaussee is simply re-positioning his left knee to hold Jones' elbow in place. Any matter that was splashed into Jones' face and/or mouth would have been unintentional, and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

(Id. at 2-3.)

Captain Maness's Findings and Recommendations were then sent to Chief Deputy Lewis, who has served as the Chief Deputy of Correctional and Court Security Services since late 2007. (Lewis Decl. ΒΆ 2.) Chief Deputy Lewis conducted an independent review of plaintiff's complaint, which included reviewing Captain Maness's Findings and Recommendations and the Professional Standards Bureau investigation. (Lewis Dep. 21:5-16.) In a three-page memorandum dated January 26, 2009, Chief Deputy Lewis described his review of the video tapes, explained ...


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