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Hendrickson v. Schuster

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

April 2, 2018




         This is a civil rights case filed by Plaintiff Simon David Hendrickson under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff contends that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by failing to protect him from attack by a fellow inmate, James Griffin, and then failing to follow up and investigate his sexual assault claim. Plaintiff also brings a supplemental state law claim under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-123-101.

         Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 31), and Plaintiff has filed a Response (Doc. 35). The Motion is now ready for decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         During all relevant time periods, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee in the Washington County Detention Center ("WCDC"). Plaintiff was first booked in the WCDC on September 18, 2014. (Doc. 33-2 at 1 -4). At the time, he was awaiting trial on rape (forcible fondling) and second-degree sexual assault charges. Id. at 4. When he was booked, he reported having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, asthma, a cold, kidney stones, blood in his urine, and pain in his back and legs. (Doc. 33-3 at 4). He reported being on various medications at that time, including Seroquel[1] and Fluoxetine.[2] (Doc. 33-3 at 4).

         Initial housing assignments at the WCDC are made by booking officers. (Doc. 33-1 at 2). Thereafter, detention officers make the assignments based on the safety and security needs of the detainee and the facility, considering available housing options. Id. WCDC policy requires that inmates charged with sexual offenses be housed separately from other inmates, for the health and safety of all detainees at the jail. Id. In September and October of 2014, when Plaintiff entered WCDC custody, K-block was the designated area for housing sexual offenders. Id. In December of 2014, sexual offender inmates were moved to Q-block. Id. Plaintiff was placed in K-block just after he was booked. (Doc. 33-1 at 42; Doc. 33-6 at 1).

         When detainees enter the WCDC, they are advised they will be disciplined if they engage in sexual activity in the jail. (Doc. 33-1 at 3). Various qualifying offenses that merit discipline are set forth in the WCDC Policy Manual (Doc. 33-8 at 12-28), including rape or other forced sexual acts, making sexual threats, engaging in sexual activity with another consenting person, making sexual proposals, and indecent exposure. According to Defendants, by way of the kiosk, [3] detainees are informed that there is a "zero tolerance policy" for sexual offenses within the facility. (Doc. 33-1 at 4; Doc. 33-10 at 1). According to Defendants, the kiosk contains a flyer that describes the ways in which a detainee may report sexual offenses. Such offenses are commonly referred to in the jail as "PREA" offenses. PREA stands for "Prison Rape Elimination Act, " which is codified at 34 U.S.C. §30301, etseq.

         In October of 2014, Plaintiff was moved between administrative segregation and various cell blocks a number of times. (Doc. 33-6 at 1-2). On October 22, 2014, he was returned to K-block. Id. at 2. On October 23, 2014, Plaintiffs alleged rapist, Griffin, was arrested and taken into custody at the WCDC on charges that included aggravated assault and sexual assault in the second degree. (Doc. 33-7 at 1). He was assigned to K-block. Id. at 2; see also Doc. 34 at 2.

         On December 6, 2014, Plaintiff was moved to Q-block, where sex offenders were being housed at the WCDC at that time. (Doc. 33-6 at 3). On December 9, 2014, Griffin was moved from administrative segregation to Q-block. (Doc. 33-7 at 4). Then, on December 31, 2014, Plaintiff was moved to administrative segregation, L-block. (Doc. 33-6 at 4). Detainees in L-block were locked down 23 hours a day. (Doc. 33-11 at 44). On January 11 and 12, 2015, Plaintiff asked to be placed in the open barracks, or else back in his original pod, Q-block. (Doc. 33-5 at 4). Plaintiff was ultimately returned back to Q-block. (Doc. 33-6 at 4).

         On or about February 10, 2015, [4] Plaintiff testified that he was in a cell in Q-block with three other inmates, including Griffin. (Doc. 33-11 at 48-49 & 60). According to Plaintiff, Griffin was actually assigned to a different cell but had entered Plaintiff's cell during lights-out because he was playing cards with one of Plaintiff's cellmates. (Doc. 33-11 at 51). Plaintiff testified that he complained to a guard, whose name he could not remember, about Griffin being in his cell, and the guard replied: "Shut up. You're all in the same place. Get over it. I've got things to do." Id. at 51-52.

         Plaintiff then testified that he went to sleep that night on his stomach with his pants up and a blanket on him. (Doc. 33-11 at 49 & 72). He woke up with Griffin on top of him holding something sharp[5] to his throat, no blanket on him, and his pants down past his "butt." Id. at 48 & 71-72. Plaintiff testified that his pants were baggy and that detainees did not have underwear. Id. at 71. According to Plaintiff, Griffin said, "You're going to do what I tell you to do or I'm going to cut your head off." Id. at 48-49. Plaintiff tried to fight off Griffin and started to yell and scream. Id. at 49. As soon as Griffin "entered him, " Plaintiff was able to throw Griffin off him to the floor. Id. at 50.

         Plaintiff testified that Griffin got on the rail of the bottom bunk and "grab[bed] me again, grab[bed] me by my genitalia and the back of my pants . .. and started pulling me off and [said] 'we're going to handle this down here where I can move around.'" Id. at 52.

         Plaintiff jumped down, and at that time Plaintiff's cellmate yelled at Griffin "to get away from here." Id. Plaintiff started beating on the door to get the guard's attention. Id. According to Plaintiff, a guard he could not identify by name came to the door and said, "I ain't in here for no lovers quarrel, " scanned the tag on the door, and then left. Id.

         Plaintiff testified that a different guard, believed to be named Bonito, unlocked the cell for breakfast. Id. at 53. Plaintiff threw Griffin's belongings out of the cell and then told the guard what had happened. Plaintiff was told to submit a kiosk request about the incident. Id. Plaintiff testified that the guard jokingly asked him if he had enjoyed it. Id. Later, when Plaintiff tried to submit a incident report through the kisok, Griffin stood in front of the kiosk blocking access to it. Id. Griffin told Plaintiff that he already knew Plaintiff was a snitch because he had told the guard what had happened. Id. at 54. Plaintiff testified that at around lunchtime, he asked an officer and the jail nurse if he could talk to someone about the incident because Griffin would not allow him to access the kiosk. Id. Nothing happened, so Plaintiff asked another officer for help, and that officer told Plaintiff he would let someone know that Plaintiff could not access the computer. Id. Later that same day, Plaintiff's cellmate, whom Plaintiff believed was a witness to the sexual assault, was transferred to Benton County. Id. Plaintiff testified that the transfer happened on a Monday. Id.

         Plaintiff further testified that he obtained access to the kiosk either the night after the assault or the following night. Id. He did not include much detail in his kiosk entry because other inmates were sitting nearby. Id. Plaintiff estimated that he was seen by a detective within a day or two of his kiosk complaint. Id. He also asked to see the doctor after the assault happened. Id. at 47, 84. He testified that he was bleeding every time he went to the bathroom and had sores on his "bottom." Id. at 48, 84. Plaintiff testified that he could not recall if he put his request for medical treatment on the kiosk or simply talked to the nurse about his concerns when she brought him his regular medication. Id. at 85. He testified, however, that he told the nurse several times that he was bleeding when he passed stool. Id. at 84-85. Kiosk transcripts submitted to the Court by Defendants indicate that Plaintiff reported to nursing staff, via a kiosk request, that he was suffering from hemorrhoids in late January. See Doc. 33-5, p. 5. On February 9, 2015, around the time of the alleged sexual assault, he was seen by the nurse for complaints about indigestion and was placed on a "bland/veggie" diet for 30 days. (Doc. 33-3 at 9). The nurse's February 9 report contained no mention of bloody stool or Plaintiff's report of a sexual assault, and instead noted only Plaintiff's nausea and yellow stool. Id.

         On February 10, 2015, Plaintiff submitted an inmate request that stated: "I was proprazitioned [sic] for gay sex by Griffin at 2am Tuesday Morning. My witness is Jim Cain my cellmate and I am willing to take a polygraph to show our truth on this matter, or I can also let my lawyer know also when he arrives this week." (Doc. 33-5 at 6). During his deposition, Plaintiff could not recall using this language. (Doc. 33-11 at 64). He believed instead that he had reported being sexually assaulted-not propositioned-by James Griffin. Id. During the deposition, however, when Defendants' counsel questioned Plaintiff as to why he never mentioned in the kiosk request that he had actually been raped, Plaintiff responded that he had been waiting to tell his attorney the whole story.

         Also on February 10, Plaintiff was moved to booking and then returned to Q-block. That same day, Griffin was moved to administrative segregation, L-block. Deputy Jonathan Brown filed an incident report about the Plaintiff's alleged sexual assault on February 10. (Doc. 33-4 at 2). Deputy Brown indicated that he was notified by Plaintiff that Griffin had propositioned him for gay sex at 2 a.m. one morning. Id. at 3. According to Deputy Brown's report, Plaintiff told him that Griffin had woken him up by grabbing his penis and telling him that he wanted to have sex with Plaintiff. Id. The report continued as follows:

Hendrickson told me that he told Griffin to leave him alone and to not touch him. He also told him that he wasn't that way, meaning homosexual. Hendrickson said that Griffin kept trying to get him to have sex with him. Hendrickson also said that he, (Griffin, ) wanted to give him oral sex. Hendrickson said that he felt very uncomfortable. Hendrickson said that after this, Griffin went to sleep and no other contact or propositions were made. Hendrickson also said that a Detainee Cain (54yoa, ) was also in the cell during this time and was a witness to everything that was taken place.

Id. Deputy Brown forwarded the report to the appropriate officers. Id. Griffin was then moved to booking so that he could be separated from Plaintiff in a different housing unit. Id.

         Plaintiff's complaint was forwarded to Detective John Schuster, an investigator for the Washington County Sheriff's Office. Detective Schuster began working at the Sheriff's Office in this capacity in either 2012 or 2013. (Doc. 36-3 at 12-13). He believes that during his time as an investigator for Washington County, he investigated approximately six allegations of sexual assault at the WCDC. Id. He testified that out of the six allegations, none were ultimately substantiated. Id. at 14. Detective Schuster further testified that in each of the six cases, he interviewed the victim first, followed by the suspect, and then the witnesses. Id. at 17, 20-21. In every case except Plaintiff's, the victim immediately agreed to speak with Detective Schuster; however, for some reason, Plaintiff declined to speak to Detective Schuster without his attorney present. Id. at 14.

         On February 11, 2015, Detective Schuster submitted a supplemental report to Deputy Brown's report. (Doc. 33-4 at 4- 7). According to the supplemental report, Detective Schuster began his interview with Plaintiff by reading him a statement-of-rights form. When Schuster arrived at the question on the form that asked whether Plaintiff wished to have his attorney present, Plaintiff responded that he did, in fact, wish to speak to his public defender, Robert Scott Parks, before he answered any further questions. Id. at 5; Doc. 33-13 at 14. Detective Schuster reminded Plaintiff that he was a victim and not a suspect. (Doc. 33-4 at 4-7). However, Plaintiff indicated that he had been told by his public defender never to speak with police or give an interview without talking to his attorney first. Id.; see also Doc. 33-11 at 55.

         Detective Schuster testified in his deposition that he usually tells victims that the investigation is intended "to prove [the victim] correct, " but that charges could later be brought against the victim if the victim lied or gave a false report of a sexual assault. (Doc. 36-3 at 48). In Detective Schuster's experience, inmates make false reports of sexual assaults for various reasons, including wanting to be moved to another cell block, or lying due to mental health issues. Id. at 48-49. In Plaintiff's case, he indicated to Schuster that he was sexually assaulted on Monday, February 9, at around 2 a.m., and he gave Schuster the names of witnesses. (Doc. 33-4 at 7). Detective Schuster ended the interview with Plaintiff by advising him that he would attempt to contact his public defender, Parks. Id. at 5. Schuster did not attempt to collect physical evidence from Plaintiff, nordd he attempt to speak to Griffin, the accused rapist. Schuster testified that without knowing Plaintiff's exact accusations, he could not "confront [Griffin] without knowing what I'm trying to find out." (Doc. 36-3 at 29).

         On the same afternoon as the initial interview with Plaintiff, Detective Schuster sent an e-mail to Plaintiff's attorney, Parks. In the email, Schuster told Parks that he had attempted to interview Plaintiff about an uninvited sexual assault, but that Plaintiff refused to speak to him without first consulting his attorney. (Doc. 33-4 at 6; Doc. 33-13 at 2). Parks replied in an email that he planned to see Plaintiff the following morning after court and asked if Plaintiff was "ok." (Doc. 33-4 at 6). Detective Schuster again ...

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