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Conyers v. Roddy

United States District Court, S.D. California

January 8, 2020

DWAYNE CONYERS, Plaintiff,
v.
CORPORAL MICHAEL RODDY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Hon. Larry Alan Burns Chief United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Dwayne Conyers is a California state prisoner proceeding by and through counsel with a Fifth Amended Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Electronic Case File “ECF” No. 51.) He claims that while in custody of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department awaiting trial for a criminal offense, and while hospitalized as a result of a prescription medication overdose, he was sexually assaulted and harassed by Defendant San Diego County Sheriff's Deputy Corporal Michael Roddy. (ECF No. 51-1 at 1-2.)

         Currently pending is a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant Roddy. (ECF No. 89.) Defendant contends there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute because: (1) the forensic evidence proves Plaintiff's allegations are false, (2) eyewitness and expert medical evidence show he was hallucinating and delusional due to his overdose or mental illness, (3) his allegation that Defendant entered a continuously monitored room in a heavily trafficked area of a hospital and assaulted him unnoticed for 10-15 minutes while he was pressing an emergency call button is implausible, and (4) Plaintiff lied to the investigating detectives and has changed his story multiple times. (Id.)

         Plaintiff opposes summary judgment, arguing the chain of custody of the forensic evidence is compromised and not all evidence was tested, and that his sworn deposition testimony raises genuine issues of material fact. (ECF No. 92.)

         Defendant replies that the chain of custody of the forensic evidence is intact, all relevant evidence was tested, and Plaintiff's deposition testimony fails to raise a genuine issue because it does not refute Defendant's evidence. (ECF No. 93.)

         For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS summary judgment in favor of Defendant Roddy.[1]

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a pro se Complaint on December 15, 2016 in the Central District of California naming as Defendants San Diego County Sheriff's Deputy Corporal Rodriguez, a John Doe Nurse and two John Doe San Diego County Sheriff's Deputies. (ECF No. 1.) The Complaint was transferred to this Court on January 19, 2017. (ECF No. 6.) Plaintiff named the same Defendants in a First Amended Complaint filed March 30, 2017, and a Second Amended Complaint filed May 18, 2017. (ECF Nos. 16, 23.)

         On August 18, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff's Motion for appointment of counsel. (ECF No. 31.) Plaintiff's appointed counsel filed a Third Amended Complaint on January 19, 2018 (ECF No. 36), and a nearly identical Fourth Amended Complaint on January 22, 2018. (ECF No. 38.) Those complaints named as Defendants San Diego County, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, and San Diego County Sheriff's Deputies Michael Roddy and Luciano Rodriguez. (ECF No. 38 at 2.)

         On May 25, 2018, the Court granted a motion to dismiss by San Diego County and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and dismissed those Defendants without prejudice and with leave to amend. (ECF No. 50.) On June 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Fifth Amended Complaint, the operative pleading in this action, naming as the sole Defendant San Diego County Sheriff's Deputy Corporal Michael Roddy.[2] (ECF No. 51.)

         Defendant Roddy filed a Motion to Dismiss on July 20, 2018, which was denied on September 18, 2019, and filed an Answer on November 2, 2018. (ECF Nos. 56, 60, 62.) He filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment on September 30, 2019. (ECF No. 89.) Plaintiff filed an Opposition on October 24, 2019. (ECF No. 92.) Defendant filed a Reply on November 7, 2019. (ECF No. 93.)

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that on June 24, 2016, while he was in the custody of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department awaiting trial in a criminal case in the San Diego County Superior Court, he was transported to the Tri-Care Medical Center in Oceanside, California, and admitted for Dilantin poisoning. (ECF No. 51-1 at 1.) At some unidentified time during his hospitalization:

Defendant Roddy entered Plaintiff's hospital room while Plaintiff was handcuffed to the bed, and Defendant Roddy then approached Plaintiff, looked Plaintiff in the eyes, uttered the racial epithet “nigga”, and said to Plaintiff, “Shut up, I'll blow your head off” and “You['d] better do what I say.” [¶] Immediately after Defendant Roddy issued the aforementioned verbal orders, Defendant Roddy touched Plaintiff's buttocks, exposed Defendant Roddy's penis, masturbated Defendant Roddy's penis, ejaculated onto Plaintiff's bed sheets, and left Plaintiff's room. By the time that Defendant Roddy departed Plaintiff's room, Plaintiff activated an emergency button on the side of his bed.

(Id. at 1-2.)

         Plaintiff alleges Defendant Roddy was acting under color of state law and within the scope of his employment. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff presents a single count for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights to privacy and to be free of sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual battery. (ECF No. 92 at 3.)

         III. Discussion

         Defendant Roddy seeks summary judgment on the basis that: (1) forensic testing found no semen on the bedsheet, (2) eyewitness and expert medical testimony show Plaintiff was hallucinating and delusional during the alleged events, (3) police reports and declarations show he provided false information to law enforcement on the night of the incident and has changed his story multiple times, and (4) declarations from hospital staff show such an assault could not have gone unnoticed by staff because his room was continuously monitored in a heavily trafficked area of the hospital. (ECF No. 89.)

         Plaintiff opposes summary judgment, contending the chain of custody of his bedsheets was compromised and there remains a genuine issue whether Defendant ejaculated on them, and Plaintiff's deposition testimony is sufficient to raise genuine issues of material fact because credibility determinations are not permitted on summary judgment. (ECF No. 92.)

         Defendant replies that the chain of custody of the bedsheets is intact, and Plaintiff's contention that unspecified portions of his deposition testimony raise genuine issues for trial fails notwithstanding the prohibition on credibility determinations because his deposition testimony does not refute Defendant's evidence. (ECF No. 93.)

         A. Legal Standards

         Defendant is entitled to summary judgment if he demonstrates “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party has the initial burden of showing summary judgment is proper “by showing the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact.” Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). Entry of summary judgment is appropriate “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be ‘no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         In order to avoid summary judgment, the nonmovant must present “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). The Court may not weigh evidence or make credibility determinations, and any inferences drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 255. The nonmovant's evidence need only be such that a “jury might return a verdict in his favor.” Id. at 257.

         B. Arguments and evidence in support and opposition to summary judgment 1. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

         Defendant Roddy presents a San Diego County Sheriff's Department Crime/Incident Report by Deputy Sheriff Luciano Rodriguez stating that he was assigned to the Tri-City Medical Center Hospital as a Floor Rover/Escort on June 25, 2016. (ECF No. 89-2 at 8-10.) About 6:45 p.m. that evening, Plaintiff, who was talking rapidly and incoherently, told Deputy Rodriguez he had been raped by a black corporal earlier that morning. (Id. at 8.) Deputy Rodriguez reported the rape allegation to Vista Detention Watch Commander Lieutenant Ausler and was instructed to obtain further details. (Id.) About 7:05 p.m. Deputy Rodriguez asked Plaintiff what happened, and he said: “The big black corporal came into the room this morning while I was lying in bed, circled around my bed and threw me down. He penetrated me and then he cleaned his dick in my bed sheets.” (Id. at 8-9.) Plaintiff took his hospital gown out of a pillow case where he had hidden it and asked Deputy Rodriguez to look at his bedsheets but kept showing him the gown. (Id. at 9.) Deputy Rodriguez stated that Plaintiff “became very agitated by waving his hands and the gown and making incoherently [sic] statements that I could not understand.” (Id.) Deputy Rodriguez then interviewed Nurse Marek Gorski who stated that Plaintiff had been in room 303 by himself since his arrival, and room 303 has a live camera feed used to monitor the behavior of patients and inmates but ...


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