United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
JAMES CLAYTON SOLOMON REG. #03633-063 PLAINTIFF
HUNTER PETRAY, Captain, Benton County Detention Center, DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
LEON HOLMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a prisoner civil rights case which, unfortunately, took
nearly seven years to get to trial. The day for trial finally
came on May 22, 2017. All parties appeared and announced
ready for a trial to the Court. After nearly three days of
testimony, the case is ready for findings of fact and
conclusions of law.
been convicted of a federal offense and served a term of
imprisonment, in 2007 James Clayton Solomon was on supervised
release in the jurisdiction of the Western District of
Arkansas when he was charged with committing new crimes while
under supervision. On January 7, 2008, United States District
Judge Robert T. Dawson found that Solomon had violated the
conditions of supervised release and sentenced him to five
years in prison. United States v. Solomon, No.
2:07CR20009-RTD (Jan. 7, 2008) (Document #29). Judge Dawson
allowed Solomon to self-report and gave him until April 2,
2008, to surrender at the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving
his sentence. Id. On February 6, 2008, Solomon wrote
a letter designed to suggest that he was committing suicide.
He sent one copy of the letter to a local newspaper and
another copy to Judge Dawson. On Judge Dawson's copy he
wrote, "judge dawson, may you die a slow and painful
death by a disease. You're not a god!" Solomon did
not commit suicide. He absconded. He was later apprehended in
California and returned to the Western District of Arkansas
where he was placed in the custody of the United States
Marshals Service and housed in the Benton County Detention
Center, which contracted with the United States Marshals
Service to house prisoners. Solomon was then indicted for
failing to surrender for service of sentence in violation of
18 U.S.C. §§ 3146(a)(2) and (b)(1). United
States v. Solomon, No. 2:08CR20029 JLH (Document #5).
Solomon entered a guilty plea on May 23, 2008, before United
States District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren. On October 10,
2008, Judge Hendren sentenced Solomon to a term of
imprisonment of twenty-four months to run consecutive to the
sentence in Case No. 2:07CR20009 and consecutive to sentences
imposed in two different state court cases.
commenced this action pro se by filing a handwritten
complaint on August 31, 2010. He initially named as
defendants the United States Marshals Service and twenty-four
officers of the Benton County Detention Center. In an
addendum to the complaint, he subsequently identified two
Deputy United States Marshals, Susan Jones and Cory Thomas,
as defendants. The complaint and addendum alleged that
Solomon had been beaten by deputies at the Benton County
Detention Center on two occasions, once in late April of 2008
and once in late August of 2008. He referred to the incident
in April of 2008 as a "blanket party." He also
alleged that he was tasered in the August incident.
Deputy United States Marshals were named as defendants
because, according to Solomon, they had conspired with the
deputies at the Benton County Detention Center for him to be
beaten as a result of writing a letter to Judge Hendren.
Solomon also alleged that Thomas had used excessive force
against him on a separate occasion.
Solomon's court-appointed counsel filed a seven-count amended
and supplemented complaint, which Solomon verified. Document
#146. That complaint reiterated the essential facts alleged
in Solomon's original complaint and addendum but did so
with more clarity. The amended and supplemented complaint
named as defendants Deputy United States Marshals Susan Jones
and Cory Thomas, as well as the following officers of the
Benton County Sheriffs Department: Sheriff Keith Ferguson,
Sheriff Kelley Cradduck, Major Gene Drake, Captain Hunter
Petray, Captain Robert Holly, Lieutenant Carter, Sergeant
Robbins, Sergeant Torres, Sergeant Larry Vaughn, Sergeant
Charles Tomlin, Deputy Fry, Deputy Carlton, Deputy Wright,
Deputy Johnston, Deputy Roland, Deputy Rankin, Deputy
Elkington, Deputy Lockhart, Deputy Strickland, Deputy
Lowther, Deputy Morrison, Deputy Wales, Deputy Juan
Hernandez, Deputy Duncan, Deputy Engleman, Deputy Randy
Bryson, Deputy Reyes, and Deputy Christopher
Johnson. Sheriff Cradduck was named in his official
capacity. All of the other defendants were named in their
first four counts were aimed at the Marshals. Count I alleged
that Jones and Thomas retaliated against Solomon for writing
an "unsavory letter to Judge Hendren." Count II
alleged that the John Doe United States Marshals 1-5
retaliated against Solomon for writing the letter to Judge
Hendren. Count III alleged that Jones and Thomas conspired
with personnel of the Benton County Detention Center to cause
the beating that he endured during the "blanket
party" on May 19 or the early hours of May 20, 2008.
Count IV alleged that Thomas used excessive force by striking
an unprovoked blow to Solomon on or about April 25, 2008.
last three counts targeted the Benton County defendants.
Count V alleged that Deputy Strickland, Sergeant Torres,
Deputy Roland, Deputy Duncan, Deputy Bryson, and Sergeant
Vaughn beat Solomon during the "blanket party" on
May 19, 2008, or the early morning hours of May 20, 2008.
Count VI alleged that Captain Petray, Captain Holly, Sergeant
Robbins, Sergeant Torres, Sergeant Vaughn, Sergeant Tomlin,
Deputy Fry, Deputy Carlton, Deputy Wright, Deputy Johnston,
Deputy Roland, Deputy Rankin, Deputy Elkington, Deputy
Lockhart, Deputy Strickland, Deputy Lowther, Deputy Morrison,
Deputy Wales, Deputy Hernandez, Deputy Duncan, Deputy
Engleman, Deputy Bryson, Deputy Reyes, and Deputy Johnson
used excessive force against Solomon in August of 2008 when
they entered Solomon's cell, beat him, and repeatedly
tasered him. Count VII alleged that the officers of rank at
the Benton County Detention Center failed to supervise and
train the personnel of the Benton County Detention Center
properly and fostered a custom whereby the use of excessive
force was allowed and condoned.
subsequently filed a motion stating that, after the
completion of discovery and a review of all of the evidence
exchanged, he was requesting that the Court dismiss his
claims against Sheriff Cradduck, Captain Holly, Sergeant
Robbins, Deputy Reyes, Sergeant Torres, Sergeant Tomlin,
Deputy Fry, Deputy Carlton, Deputy Wright, Deputy Johnston,
Deputy Rankin, Deputy Elkington, Deputy Lowther, Deputy
Morrison, Deputy Engleman, Deputy Bryson, and Deputy Johnson.
Document #193. The Court granted that motion and dismissed
those defendants. Document #194.
before trial, Solomon agreed that Count V, concerning the
"blanket party, " should be dismissed as to Deputy
Strickland, Deputy Duncan, and Sergeant Vaughn. The Court
therefore granted summary judgment as to those three
defendants on Count V. Document #213 at 2. Thus, when trial
commenced, the only remaining Benton County defendant on
Count V was Deputy Roland. Id.
the trial, near the completion of his case-in-chief, Solomon
moved to dismiss his claims against the United States
Marshals Service defendants. That motion was granted and
those claims were dismissed with prejudice. Document #261.
Solomon also dismissed his claims against Deputy Roland and
Deputy Duncan during the trial. Document #260. Deputy
Roland had been the remaining named defendant on Count V,
which alleged the beating during the "blanket
party." With his dismissal, no defendants remained in
all of the dismissals described above, the remaining
defendants were Sheriff Ferguson, Major Drake, Captain
Petray, Lieutenant Carter, Sergeant Vaughn, Deputy Lockhart,
Deputy Strickland, Deputy Wales, and Deputy Hernandez. The
remaining counts were Count VI, which alleged excessive force
in August of 2008, and Count VII, which alleged a custom or
practice of allowing or condoning excessive force at the
Benton County Detention Center, as well as a failure to train
and supervise the Benton County Detention Center personnel.
August 22, 2008, Captain Hunter Petray, the jail
administrator at the Benton County Detention Center,
assembled a specialized emergency response team, which the
defendants called the SERT team, for an operation in the
section of the detention center where Solomon was housed. The
SERT team is the jailhouse version of a riot squad or a SWAT
team. The members of the team received special training and
wore additional protective gear so they could enter a pod and
quickly gain control of inmates without suffering injury.
When inmates and their cells needed to be searched for
contraband, a SERT team would be deployed.
Petray's decision to assemble the SERT team on August 22,
2008, was precipitated by some inmates in the section of the
detention center where Solomon was housed flooding their
cells, apparently by stopping their toilets or breaking
sprinkler heads. According to Petray, inmates would take
advantage of shift changes to gain extra rolls of toilet
paper or clothing. They would report to an officer on duty
during one shift that they were out of toilet paper or
"whites" and, when the shift change came, would
reiterate the request for additional toilet paper or whites.
Those additional items would be hidden and used at a later
time to plug the drain in the toilet, which would cause
flooding in the pod.
the officers had been unable to determine which inmates were
causing the flooding, the SERT team was assembled to go into
the cells in the affected area, search the inmates and their
cells, seize any contraband found, and order inmates who had
plugged their toilets to clean the area.
team assembled on August 22 included Sergeant Larry Vaughn,
Sergeant James Jessen, Corporal Christopher Lockhart, Deputy
Charles Strickland, Deputy Chad Wales, Deputy Frischman,
Deputy Michael Charles Dowdle, and Deputy Juan Hernandez.
After being briefed, they assembled outside the area where
the operation was to occur and divided into teams of two.
Frischman and Hernandez went to cell 220 of Pod E-102, where
Solomon was housed. Cell 220 was on the second floor of the
pod with a landing or mezzanine, bounded by rails, outside
the door to the cell.
and Hernandez ordered Solomon to get on his knees and put his
hands on the wall. He complied with all of the orders that
they gave. They searched the ...