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Johnson v. Frauenheim

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 17, 2019

SCOTT FRAUENHEIM, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff LaCedric William Johnson is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On October 26, 2018, Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint with this Court. (ECF No. 1.) Before the Court could screen Plaintiff's complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion to add a party. (ECF No. 7.)

         Plaintiff's motion to add a party, (ECF No. 7), is granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) (a party may amend once as a matter of right, but must seek leave of court for further amendments). Therefore, R. Newton is added as a defendant in this action and the Court will evaluate the allegations made against R. Newton.

         Plaintiff's complaint, filed on October 26, 2018, is currently before the Court for screening. (ECF No. 1.)

         I. Screening Requirement and Standard

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity and/or against an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff's complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 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)). Moreover, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of Plaintiff's rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012). 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.

         II. Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff is currently housed at California State Prison, Solano. Plaintiff alleges that the events at issue took place at Pleasant Valley State Prison (“PVSP”). Plaintiff names the following defendants: (1) Scott Frauenheim, Warden of Pleasant Valley State Prison; (2) Correctional Sergeant J. Benavides; (3) Correctional Officer J. Bejinez; (4) Correctional Officer S. Deshazo; (5) Correctional Officer D. Erickson; (6) Correctional Officer S. Espinoza; (7) Licensed Vocational Nurse R. Hansen; (8) Correctional Officer J. Hill; (9) Registered Nurse Ryuan Hoggard; (10) Correctional Officer C. Kennedy; (11) Correctional Officer W. Leon; (12) Licensed Vocational Nurse M. Liebold; (13) Correctional Officer S. Lopez; (14) Correctional Officer G. Luna; (15) Correctional Officer M. Ramirez; (16) Correctional Officer A. Salas; (17) Correctional Officer M. Santos; (18) Licensed Vocational Nurse M. Sharp; (19) Correctional Officer E. Trinidad; (20) M. George[1]; and (21) R. Newton.

         Plaintiff alleges as follows: Custody staff at PVSP have a longstanding practice of using pat-down and unclothed body searches to initiate assaults against targeted inmates as a means of intimidation, harassment, and retaliation resulting in false 115 Rules Violation Reports alleging “battery of peace officer” and disciplinary sanctions, i.e., administrative segregation placement, Security Housing Unit term, increased classification score, forfeiture of good-time/worktime credits, possible transfer and referral to the District Attorney for prosecution. At the time of this incident, Plaintiff fit the criteria of a “targeted inmate” because he was actively pursuing a conversion action in the Superior Court of California, County of Fresno against two PVSP prison guards who intentionally discarded legal files to five active cases, religious property, and personal property.

         On January 29, 2014, at 0930 hours, Facility Bravo (Facility B) yard Defendant Benavides was conducting a controlled yard release with random pat-down searches being conducted by approximately ten correctional officers. During the Building 1 yard release, Plaintiff forgot his identification card in his cell. Since inmates must carry their identification card on their person, Plaintiff summoned Defendant Newton, the Building 1 Control Tower Officer, for an unlock, explaining that he had forgotten his identification card in his cell and requesting an unlock to gain access. Defendant Newton denied Plaintiff's request.

         Defendant Santos, the Building 1 First Tier Floor Officer, ordered Plaintiff to “strip-out” in the lower B section shower. Plaintiff took off all of his clothes except for his boxers, gave them to Defendant Santos and Defendant Leon, the Second Tier Officer, along with his legal folder, and stood waiting until the search of his clothing and legal folder was completed. Defendant Santos approached the shower and told Plaintiff, “Give me your boxers, ” just as Defendant Luna and Defendant Espinoza, a female officer, entered the building and looked towards the shower and the ongoing search. (ECF No. 1, at 7.) Plaintiff stated, “One moment out of respect for the women, I'm Muslim.” (Id.) Defendant Santos then opened the shower gate and barked “Cuff Up! Cuff Up! Get Down!” (Id.) When Plaintiff asked what he had done, Defendant Santos emptied a canister of O.C. pepper spray directly in Plaintiff's face, blinding him. Plaintiff stumbled blindly to the back of the shower, turned the water on, and rinsed his eyes, with his back to Defendant Santos. Defendant Santos then entered the shower and began striking Plaintiff across the knee of his left leg with rapid, hard successive blows with his MEB expandable baton, which caused Plaintiff's surgically repaired knee to weaken, become painful, and a wound on the knee to open up and bleed. When Plaintiff turned around, Defendant Santos left the shower.

         At that point, Defendant Leon emptied a canister of O.C. pepper spray into Plaintiff's face, blinding Plaintiff and causing Plaintiff to inhale mace through his nose, choking Plaintiff, as Defendant Leon yelled for Plaintiff to “Get the fuck down!” (Id.) Plaintiff turned, placed his head under the water to rinse his eyes, due to the burning and blindness, and attempted to comply with the order to prone out on the shower, but pain from the injured knee and leg made compliance difficult. Defendant Santos entered the shower for a second time and began beating Plaintiff across the arm, wrist, elbow, and body with his MEB baton. When Plaintiff stood up and raised his arms to protect himself from blows to his head, Defendant Santos ran out of the shower again.

         As Plaintiff was being beaten by Defendant Santos, Defendant Espinoza made a call over her radio of a disturbance in Building 1. All inmates were ordered down. Defendant Benavides and approximately 10 other officers who were outside of the building entered the building, waving batons and shaking up their canisters of O.C. pepper spray. The officers formed a skirmish line in front of the shower, yelling “Get down!” (Id. at 8.) Defendant Santos then sprayed Plaintiff in the face with another canister of O.C. pepper spray. Further, the officers who had responded to Defendant Espinoza's call also emptied numerous canisters of O.C. pepper spray directly into Plaintiff's face, further blinding, burning, and choking Plaintiff, as they yelled “Get down!” (Id.) As Plaintiff attempted to prone out in a pool of pepper spray, Defendant Santos entered the shower for a third time and began beating Plaintiff across the arms and legs with his MEB baton. Defendant Santos then grabbed Plaintiff by the ankle and dragged Plaintiff out of the shower and onto the dayroom floor.

         Defendant Hill and Defendant Salas then jumped on Plaintiff's back, causing pain, and both began punching Plaintiff in the face and head. Plaintiff's head bounced off of the concrete floor approximately three times. Out of fear, Plaintiff attempted to protect his left wrist, which was swollen, throbbing, and disfigured, by placing it under his torso. While Plaintiff was using his right arm to protect his head and face from punches to the head and face by Defendants Hill and Salas, Defendant Benavides grabbed his right hand and wrist and held it. Defendants Benavides, Luna, Lopez, and Salas were punching and pulling on Plaintiff's wrist, while yelling, “Stop resisting!” (Id. at 9.) At no time did any of the surrounding officers intervene to stop the beating of Plaintiff.

         When an unknown officer began kicking Plaintiff in the genitalia, Plaintiff began twisting his hips, making his genitalia a moving target, to avoid further contact. Other officers began kicking and stomping Plaintiff's legs and torso until Plaintiff became weak. Defendant Kennedy continued kicking Plaintiff. Defendants Benavides, Hill, Lopez, Luna, and Salas continued punching Plaintiff and pulling on Plaintiff's harms. Defendant Hill stated: “He's screaming like a bitch.” (Id.) Plaintiff's wrists were then cuffed behind his back, extremely tight. Defendant Benavides grabbed Plaintiff's ankles and Defendant Ramirez placed flex cuffs on Plaintiff's ankles, tightly, which dug into Plaintiff's flesh, causing bleeding and pain.

         Medical staff were summoned. Defendants Hoggard, Hansen, Liebold, and Sharp brought a gurney. Defendants Benavides, Santos, and Ramirez lifted Plaintiff, placed Plaintiff in a stokes litter, and then placed him on the gurney. Defendant Salas took Plaintiff's boxer shorts off and placed the pepper-spray soaked underwear over Plaintiff's head, burning Plaintiff's face. Plaintiff was naked in the presence of Defendants Hansen, Liebold, Sharp, and Espinoza, all women. Nothing was placed over Plaintiff to cover his genitalia.

         Defendants Bejinez and Trinidad then wheeled Plaintiff, naked, on the gurney across the yard in the presence of the inmate population, custody staff of both genders, and support services staff. Plaintiff was taken to the Facility B medical clinic, where he arrived at approximately 0945 hours. Defendant Deshazo was the assigned medical triage coverage officer.

         Defendants Bejinez and Trinidad lifted Plaintiff off of the gurney in the stokes litter and slammed Plaintiff to the ground in the holding tank. The already tight handcuffs that were under Plaintiff's body clicked even tighter, which caused the handcuffs to dig deeper into Plaintiff's injured wrist, flesh, and bone, causing excruciating pain. Plaintiff asked Defendant Deshazo to loosen, or remove, the cuffs and to summon medical staff for treatment. However, Defendant Deshazo stated “No. And shut up!” while Plaintiff was screaming in pain, hyperventilating, coughing, and sweating. Defendant Deshazo placed a spit mask hood over Plaintiff's head, in violation of CDCR's Department Operation Manual, which forbids placement of a spit hood on an inmate suffering from pepper spray exposure. Plaintiff was showing apparent signs of respiratory distress and weakness from the beating. Plaintiff was choking, gagging for air, hyperventilating, sweating, phlegm and mucus was sticking to the spit hood mask, which clogged up the mask and caused Plaintiff to suffocate and fight for air. Plaintiff's lungs are damaged by Valley Fever spores. Plaintiff was in and out of consciousness. Defendant Deshazo disregarded Plaintiff's pleas for help while the hand and flex ankle cuffs were cutting into Plaintiff's flesh, the spit hood was restricting the oxygen to Plaintiff's lungs and brain, Plaintiff was burning all over from excessive pepper spray, Plaintiff's head was throbbing, and Plaintiff was bleeding and swelling. Defendant Deshazo just ignored Plaintiff, even though he was within 10 feet of Plaintiff. At no time did Defendant Deshazo cover up Plaintiff's genitalia. Instead, Defendant Deshazo left Plaintiff hog-tied, naked, and suffering for an hour. In fact, Defendant Deshazo opened the door to medical and let another inmate in, who witnessed Plaintiff, naked and suffering on the floor.

         All inmates were ordered to lock up for a yard recall over the PA system. Another inmate, who witnessed Plaintiff being wheeled across the yard naked, also witnessed the responding officers exit Building 1 high-fiving and fist bumping.

         At approximately 1045 hours, Defendants Bejinez and Trinidad had a conversation with Defendant Benavides at the Facility B medical entrance. Then, Defendants Bejinez and Trinidad grabbed a gurney, placed Plaintiff on the gurney, and wheeled him, still naked, across the yard to the gym for decontamination. Defendants Bejinez and Trinidad removed the spit mask. After one of the Defendants stated that the showers were not working, they left Plaintiff lying in the stokes litter on the gurney suffering and sat down and held a conversation among themselves. Defendant Benavides entered the gym told Defendants Bejinez and Trinidad to remove Plaintiff's cuffs, take Plaintiff out of the stokes litter, and place Plaintiff on the bench. Plaintiff could not hold himself up and was slumped over because he was weak and could not support himself with his injured arm, wrist, knees, or leg. Defendants Bejinez and Trinidad then just sat back down and resumed their personal conversation.

         At that point, Gomez, who is not a defendant, entered the gym, assessed the situation, filled a bucket with water from a sink, and poured it over Plaintiff's head. After Gomez poured a second bucket of water over Plaintiff, Plaintiff requested that Gomez pour a third bucket of water over him because his penis was burning. Plaintiff informed Gomez that the burning was unbearable. However, Gomez stated that: “You'll be better off without water, water agitates the chemical.” Plaintiff's eyes were never rinsed.

         Defendant Hoggard then entered the gym, stopped approximately ten feet away from Plaintiff, wrote something down on a piece of paper, and exited the gym. Plaintiff assumed that Defendant Hoggard, who is a nurse, was going to return to provide medical care, but Defendant Hoggard did not. Instead, as soon as Defendant Hoggard exited the gym, Defendant Benavides entered the gym, told Defendants Bejinez and Trinidad to prepare Plaintiff for transport to Delta-4 ad-seg (administrative segregation) unit, and gave Plaintiff a pair of boxer shorts. Plaintiff was unable to put the boxer shorts on without assistance.

         Defendant Hoggard's CDCR 7219 Injury/Assessment Medical Report of Injuries only indicated that Plaintiff had a scratch/abrasion on his left knee and O.C. pepper spray on his torso. Plaintiff asserts that this orchestrated plan of action between Defendants Benavides and Hoggard to minimize Plaintiff's documented injuries was done in order to isolate Plaintiff in ad-seg and to prevent Plaintiff from getting medical care, which would have opened up a serious investigation into excessive force and the completion of an excess force video deposition as required by prison regulations.

         At approximately 1200 hours, Defendants Bejinez and Trinidad had to carry Plaintiff into the Delta 4 segregation unit by putting their shoulders under his arms in order to drag Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff was found unresponsive in Cell #127 at 1600 hours by a Delta 4 unit officer. After officers entered the cell, Delta 4 unit medical staff, Licensed Vocational Nurse D. Hall was summoned. After Nurse Hall ascertained that Plaintiff's injuries were severe and his vitals were high, Nurse Hall made arrangements for Plaintiff to be taken to PVSP Correctional Treatment Center (“CTC”). Plaintiff's visible signs of injury were assessed and documents by Registered Nurse K. Bradley on a CDCR 7219 Injury/Assessment Report. Plaintiff was evaluated by Dr. Ola, given a shot for pain management, and then sent to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital, monitored throughout the night, and then released on January 30, 2014.

         On January 30, 2014, Plaintiff was housed at PVSP CTC for medical evaluation and monitoring. The physical signs of trauma to Plaintiff's head and body were more prominent. Plaintiff's eyes were black and blue, he had broken blood vessels in both eyes, his left wrist was deformed and swollen, he had a loss of feeling in his left hand, he had a numb and tingling sensation in his left extremities, a bruised left bicep and rib, his left knee was swollen with two lacerations, his left shin was swollen, he had a right inside ankle gash, an intense headache and pain all over his body, and his eyes and body were burning from pepper spray. Facility B. Captain A. Shimmins personally came to CTC, visually observed Plaintiff, issued Plaintiff a CDCR 114-D Lockup order, and told Plaintiff that Plaintiff would be released to ad-seg once released by medical and that Plaintiff would be issued a CDCR 115 Rules Violation Report for “Battery on a Peace Officer.”

         On January 31, 2014, at 1000 hours, Plaintiff was allowed to take a shower. After about 20 minutes, the effects of the pepper spray fully wore off.

         On February 3, 2014, at 1000 hours, a doctor inquired about Plaintiff's pain level based on Plaintiff's apparent head and eye injuries. Plaintiff told the doctor that he felt dizzy, severe headache, and blurred vision. The doctor prescribed Plaintiff ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and made Plaintiff a specialty clinic appointment to see optometry.

         At 1100 hours on February 3, 2014, Defendant Santos, escorted by I. Gonzalez, a defendant in Plaintiff's Fresno County Superior Court conversion action, case number 13CECG02602, provided Plaintiff with a CDCR 1083 Property Inventory Receipt. After Plaintiff noticed that there was no documentation of his legal files, books, and religious materials, he refused to sign the property receipt.

         On February 5, 2014, Defendant Santos, along with A. Martinez, another defendant in Plaintiff's Fresno County Superior Court conversion action, case number 13CECG02602, brought Plaintiff's property to Delta 4 unit in order to bring Plaintiff's property within compliance of the 6 cubic feet property guideline policy. Plaintiff alleges that it was apparent that some of his property was already missing. Defendant Santos and Martinez issued an ultimatum: “Throw it away or send it home, ” and began discarding Plaintiff's property. (Id. at 14.)

         On February 6, 2014, Plaintiff was brought before the Initial Classification Committee (“ICC”) in Delta 4 unit for ad-seg review. The ICC consisted of, but was not limited to, Defendant Warden Frauenheim, Chief Deputy Warden R. Fisher, and Facility B Captain Shimmins. Plaintiff was informed that he would be held in ad-seg pending charges and adjudication of CDCR 115 Rules Violation Report, Log Number #14-FB-01-080, for “Battery on a Peace Officer Resulting in the Use of Force” on January 29, 2014. When Plaintiff stated that he was assaulted by staff and the reports are falsified, Fisher told Plaintiff that Plaintiff should save his statements for a 602 grievance or the Rules Violation Report hearing.

         On February 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed a health care staff complaint against Defendant Hoggard for leaving Plaintiff in the hands of custody staff to suffer from his various injuries and pepper spray exposure and not providing any medical care.

         On February 12, 2014, Plaintiff was issued CDCR 115 Rules Violation Report, Log Number #14-FB-01-080, for “Battery on a Peace Officer Resulting in the Use of Force.” The Rules Violation Report was signed by Defendant Santos and dated for January 29, 2014. At this point, Plaintiff became aware of the extent of Defendant Santos' falsified allegations in his report to cover up the excessive force. Defendant Santos' false misrepresentation were presented to the Fresno County District Attorney and presented at the Rules Violation Report disciplinary hearing.

         On February 18, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by the mental health department and prescribed Citalopram for severe depression and anxiety and weekly therapy sessions due to the trauma Plaintiff suffered. Also, on February 18, 2014, Plaintiff was taken to the specialty clinic for an optometry examination. It was ascertained that Plaintiff suffered eye damage from the assault and a bi-focal was added to his prescription. Plaintiff also suffered a stigmatism.

         On February 19, 2014, Plaintiff was issued a CDCR 837 Crime/Incident Report, Log # PVSP-FBP-14-01-0022, dated 1/29/14, and which contained staff reports from Defendants Benavides, Bejinez, Erickson, Espinoza, Hill, Kennedy, Leon, Lopez, Luna, Newton, Ramirez, Salas, Santos, Hansen, Hoggard, Liebold, and Sharp. Plaintiff alleges that this was the first opportunity he had to view the coordinated cover up that followed the assault. Plaintiff states that the reports were falsified in order to cover up the systematic brutality by guards.

         On March 11, 2014, Sergeant Clark, along with Correctional Officer Ruggles, conducted an excessive force video deposition in Delta 4 unit at 1925 hours. On March 18, 2014, Sergeant Clark and Correctional Officer Ruggles conducted a second excessive force video deposition because they “ran out of tape on the last one.” (Id. at 16.)

         On March 20, 2014, Plaintiff sent an excessive force staff complaint to Defendant Frauenheim.

         Also, on March 20, 2014, Plaintiff requested a voluntary dismissal of Fresno County Superior Court Case No. 13CECG02602 because he was suffering from severe depression, severe headaches, fear of further retaliation, and inadequate law library provisions that limited him to three items of legal resources per week. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Benavides denied Plaintiff two court-ordered telephone court conference calls in Case No. 13CECG02602, hindering Plaintiff's access to the court on December 23, 2013 and January 6, 2014. On April 23, 2014, the voluntary dismissal without prejudice of Case No. 13CECG02602 was granted.

         Also, on April 23, 2014, Plaintiff's staff complaint (PVSP 14-0683) against Defendant Santos for falsified reports, assault, and battery was granted in part.

         On September 18, 2014, medical staff issued Plaintiff a second pair of eye-wear to conclude the correction of the damage to his eyes caused by the January 29, 2014 assault.

         In September 2015, Plaintiff needed an operation to remove a lipoma tumor lesion in his right lateral flank, where Defendant Kennedy and other officers kicked Plaintiff in the rib area with military style boots.

         On September 22, 2015, Plaintiff suffered temporary blindness in his right eye. He was diagnosed with ocular migraines as a result of defendants beating Plaintiff in the head.

         Plaintiff asserts that “Defendants” are being sued in their individual capacity and their official capacity.

         Plaintiff seeks $5, 000, 000.00 in compensatory damages for each defendant in each cause of action, $5, 000, 000.00 in punitive damages for each cause of action, declaratory relief, costs of suit, and/or attorney's fees.

         III. Discussion

         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8

         Pursuant to Rule 8(a), 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). “Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Swierkiewicz ...

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