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Williams v. Verna

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 1, 2017

ANTHONY VERNA, et al., Defendants.


         Plaintiff Shannon Williams, a prisoner in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) proceeding pro se filed the instant civil rights action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) on June 2, 2016. Plaintiff declined United States Magistrate Judge jurisdiction; therefore, this action was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.[1]

         Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's first amended complaint, filed November 9, 2016.



         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or that “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must demonstrate that each named defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676-677; Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-1021 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are still entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor, but the pleading standard is now higher, Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted), and to survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.



         Plaintiff names officer Anthony Verna, officer Brown, and Warden Paul Copenhaver, as Defendants.

         On May 29, 2014, at approximately 3:20 p.m., Defendants Brown and Verna conducted a surprise cell raise at the direction of Warden Copenhaver. Defendant Brown demanded that Plaintiff submit to a visual strip search to which Plaintiff complained. After the search was conducted and it was clear that Plaintiff was not in possession of any contraband, Defendant Brown subjected Plaintiff to a second visual strip search. Plaintiff complained to several different staff members that officers Brown and Verna were embarrassing him and unnecessarily subjecting him to another visual strip search, after the first search did not reveal any contraband.

         Plaintiff was subjected to two more strip searches in his cell where he was required to remove his underwear and bend over and spread his butt checks. After Plaintiff complained that officers Brown and Verna were violating policy, they did not allow him to put his clothing on and instead handcuffed him and made him walk in his underwear across the entire unit. As Plaintiff was being escorted through the housing units in only his underwear, several inmates were laughing and whistling at Plaintiff. Plaintiff eventually yelled that he wanted to file a grievance because officers Brown and Verna were sexually embarrassing him because he did not have any drugs on his person.

         Plaintiff had just undergone surgery on his testicles, and the front of his underwear was stained with blood and fluid drainage. Plaintiff's testicles were swollen from the surgery. After officer Ochoa informed officer Brown that Plaintiff had surgery on his testicles which caused the swelling, officer Brown responded that Plaintiff could “get dressed when you give us some drugs.”

         Several female staff members observed Plaintiff as he walked through the prison in only his underwear. Upon arriving at the lieutenant's complex, lieutenant Zaragoza asked officer Verna “[w]ho brought him down here dressed like this? Did Brown do this? Plaintiff answered, “[t]hey both did. And I want to file a grievance right now for them trying to sexually embarrass me and retaliate against me for complaining and not having no [sic] drugs, in my cell.” Plaintiff requested that lieutenant Zaragoza allow him to get dressed, and Zaragoza responded “I'm going to take you down to R&D strip you out, get you some boxers and if you don[']t have anything, I'm sending you back to your housing unit.” Zaragoza and Verna both conducted a visual strip search of Plaintiff and found no contraband.

         Plaintiff was subsequently un-handcuffed and provided a pair of socks, a shirt and a pair of boxers to place over Plaintiff's briefs. Zaragosa informed Plaintiff that he was going to be released back to his housing unit. However, officer Brown (who was previously absent), showed up at R&D, and Zaragoza told Brown, “[w]e just stripped him out he does not have anything, I'm sending him back to the yard.” Brown, while smiling, answered back, “I'm telling you Lt. this ‘fucker' has big balls, he has something.” Lieutenant Zaragosa responded, “I know how to conduct a strip search, he does not have anything. I am absolutely positive of that.”

         Plaintiff then told Zaragosa, “I am telling you they are tripping, they know I did not have nothing they walked me over here handcuffed, in just my draws after they stripped me out like three times in the unit, with six other officers ain[']t nobody saying I had shit but him [Brown] and Verna. This is bullshit I want you to write both of them up for this.” Lieutenant Zaragosa shook his head and told Brown and Verna “release him back to his unit, ” and walked out of the R&D area.

         After Zaragosa left, Brown stated “I don[']t care what the Lt. says, I want you to stand on this machine, if you refuse you['re] going to the SHU.” Officer Verna then stated, “[g]o ahead and refuse so I can write it up, one way or another you going to the SHU today.” After waiting about 20 minutes for the machine to start programming, officer Brown stated, “it does not look like we can get it started.” Immediately thereafter, Plaintiff was placed back in handcuffs and transported back to the lieutenant's complex. Upon arrival, lieutenant Zaragosa stated, “I thought I told you two to release him back to his unit, why did you bring him back up here handcuffed? What did you do Williams I told you I was sending you back?” Plaintiff responded, “I did not do shit! They mad [sic] cause I ain[']t have nothing, and brought me back for nothing!”

         Plaintiff was placed in a holding cell, and after forty-five minutes to an hour requested to use the restroom, which was denied by officer Verna. After repeated requests to use the restroom, officer Verna told Plaintiff “tell us who has some drugs and I'll let you use the restroom.” Plaintiff eventually urinated on himself, and officer Verna laughed. Officer Verna then told officer Brown “lets get him for refusing a UA.” Officer Brown told Plaintiff “you['re] going to the SHU for a 100 series refusing a UA test.” Plaintiff immediately requested to see lieutenant Zaragosa and yelled that they were “trying to retaliate and cover-up the bullshit yall [sic] did to me. I ain[']t refused no piss test, if that was the case I would not be in handcuffs.” Officers Brown and Verna then transported Plaintiff to the SHU for refusing a UA test. Plaintiff told officer Verna, “[t]his ...

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