Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Demyers v. The City of St. Louis

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 31, 2019

TONI DEMYERS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et. al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The case arises out of the April 20, 2017, alleged sexual assault of Plaintiff by then-deputy sheriff Christopher Jones (“Jones”) while she was in custody as a pretrial detainee. Plaintiff filed suit in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City on June 5, 2017, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of St. Louis (“City”); Jones, in his individual and official capacities; City Sheriff Vernon Betts (“Betts”), in his individual and official capacities; City Division of Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass (“Glass”), in his individual and official capacities; and City Medium Security Institute (“MSI”) Superintendent Jeffrey Carson (“Carson”), in his individual and official capacities.[1]Defendants subsequently removed the case to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction.

         On May 14, 2018, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Glass, Carson, and Jones[2] in their official capacities only. ECF No. 50. Thus, the only remaining claims in Plaintiff's third amended complaint are § 1983 claims against the City and Betts in his official capacity alleging municipal liability; against Jones in his individual capacity; and against Betts, Glass, and Carson, in their individual capacities, for failure to train or supervise.[3] The matter is now before the Court on Defendants' motion (ECF No. 72) for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Viewing the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, for purposes of the motion before the Court, the record establishes the following. Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee incarcerated in MSI on charges of robbery in the first degree and armed criminal action. On April 20, 2017, she was transported by two deputy sheriffs from MSI to the St. Louis City Justice Center (“CJC”), where she understood she had a court appearance. Defendant Jones, a deputy sheriff who worked in the transfer holds division of the Sheriff's Department, submitted Plaintiff's transfer order to a more junior deputy, Tim Walsh, who submitted the transfer order to MSI, despite believing that the request seemed suspicious. Walsh did so because Jones was well-established and well-respected within the Sheriff's Department. Plaintiff did not in fact have a court appearance scheduled that day.

         When Plaintiff arrived at the CJC, she was taken to a holding tank to await her purported court appearance. Jones informed Plaintiff that he wanted to see her, and he put food obtained from an outside location in the neighboring cell. Jones then moved Plaintiff to the neighboring cell, and she ate the food provided by Jones. After she finished eating, Jones said “You got yours. Now where's mine?” Jones told Plaintiff he was “hands-on” and that she was going to “turn around.” He then grabbed Plaintiff's breast, made her turn around, put his hands down Plaintiff's pants, and touched her “private area.” ECF No. 17 at ¶ 15. Jones then stopped his assault on Plaintiff, perhaps as the result of other deputies approaching the cell.[4] Plaintiff was then transported back to MSI.

         Upon returning to MSI, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Jones with Lieutenant Rose Johnson, who is in the processing unit of the City's Division of Corrections. Lieutenant Johnson notified her supervisor, and law enforcement were called the same day. Superintendent Carson called Commissioner Glass, who then alerted the City Sheriff's Department of the incident. Sheriff Betts directed Sergeant Tim Haill[5] to conduct an investigation into the allegations. After observing the camera recording of the incident, Sergeant Haill reported his observations to Sheriff Betts, who then observed the tape for himself. Sheriff Betts sent Jones home that same day, and Jones was formally suspended on April 24, 2017. Jones ultimately resigned his position before he was formally terminated. The Sheriff's Department did not conduct any further investigation of Plaintiff's complaints because it was “clear what happened.” Betts Depo. 75:11-14.

         Investigator Percy Harrington investigated Jones's assault on Plaintiff on behalf of the City Division of Corrections. He conducted an investigation because Plaintiff reported the incident to Division of Corrections employees. Investigator Harrington did not have any concerns over the course of his investigation that other sheriffs were involved in the incident, and he had never before investigated any other claims of improper transfer. He had, however, investigated complaints from inmates pertaining to physical contact, although such contact was not necessarily sexual in nature.

         When inmates are held at MSI, they are in the custody of the City's Division of Corrections. However, the City Sheriff's Department is responsible for the transportation of inmates. When an inmate is scheduled to appear in court, the Sheriff's Department presents transfer orders to the Division of Corrections, which then prepares the inmate for transfer. The order sheet contains the inmate's name, date of birth, address, picture, and the division to which they are going. It is not uncommon for the Sheriff's Department to submit transfer orders throughout the day. It is the responsibility of the Division of Corrections to cross-check the docket sheet with the transfer list supplied by the Sheriff's Department. The Division of Corrections is not supposed to allow an inmate to be transferred without the proper paperwork.

         The Sherriff's Department and the Division of Corrections do not share policies and procedures, nor do they exercise oversight over one another. The Division of Corrections has a policy against sexual abuse and harassment of inmates, and the Sheriff's Department has a policy of limiting physical contact with persons in custody to that which is necessary to ensure safety. The Sheriff's Department also has a policy against providing outside food to inmates, as well as a policy against insubordination or disrespect toward superior officers. The Sheriff's Department and the Division of Corrections both require their employees to undergo training regarding their respective policies. The Sheriff's Department also provides informal training to junior officers on inmate transportation by way of shadowing senior officers.

         Upon review of the record, Sheriff Betts testified, by way of deposition, to the following. Prior to the incident with Plaintiff, Sheriff Betts had not been made aware of any complaints regarding improper inmate transfer, nor did he have cause to be concerned that such transfers were taking place. Jones had a good reputation prior to his assault on Plaintiff, including being punctual and having good attendance. Sheriff Betts had never received any complaints about Jones prior to the incident with Plaintiff.

         Sheriff Betts recalls one other deputy sheriff engaging in misconduct after the incident involving Plaintiff, [6] which was brought to Sheriff Betts's attention. Specifically, he recalls an incident involving then-deputy sheriff Jack Price, who had been “involved with some of the inmates” in a sexual capacity. Betts Depo. 61:10-15. Then-deputy Price was caught after he was recorded having a telephone conversation with an inmate, and Sheriff Betts suspended, and then terminated, Price. Other than the incidents involving Jones and Price, Sheriff Betts was not aware of any other complaints or reports about staff members having inappropriate relationships or sexual contact with prisoners and inmates, nor was he aware of instances occurring prior to his election as Sheriff in January 2017. He was also unaware of any complaints of staff members bringing outside food to inmates.

         Superintendent Carson testified, by way of deposition, about an incident involving a Department of Corrections staff member engaging in sexual contact with an inmate in 2015. An investigation was conducted, and the staff member was ultimately fired. He also recalled an incident in which a staff member was talking with an inmate over the telephone, which resulted in the staff member being fired.

         Plaintiff submitted the affidavit of Regina Steed, who swore that on or around December 4, 2015, she was a detainee at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center, in Vandalia, Missouri. She states that during her incarceration, she was improperly transferred from her facility to the CJC to attend court six or seven times, despite not having a scheduled court appearance. On those occasions, Jones engaged in sexual contact with her, including, on one occasion, sexual intercourse. Sometimes Jones would provide food or money in Ms. Steed's account in exchange for sexual acts. Ms. Steed claims that other sheriffs were aware of Jones' actions and described one occasion in which a sheriff named “Price” and another were present.

         Ms. Steed states that in October 2016, she complained to “Sheriff Mitchell” and “Sheriff Harrison” that she was being transferred without a court hearing. Ms. Steed asserts that every time she was called without a court date, she complained at MSI intake. Ms. Steed asserts that the last time that she was wrongfully called to the CJC, she complained to “Ms. Lewis, ” who then contacted Lieutenant Johnson.[7] According to Ms. Steed, Lieutenant Johnson confirmed that Ms. Steed did not have a court hearing scheduled that day and returned her to the facility in Vandalia, after which Jones never again improperly transferred Ms. Steed. Ms. Steed does not state that she told Lewis or Johnson about any sexual contact. She is not aware of any investigation having been conducted regarding her complaints. Lastly, Ms. Steed states she is aware of two other female inmates for whom Jones ordered transfers and then engaged in sexual misconduct, and she provides the name of one of the inmates. She does not, however, provide any dates on which these incidents occurred, identify how she knows of the incidents, or state whether the other female inmates ever reported the sexual misconduct. However, Ms. Steed states that it was “common knowledge” that sheriffs were engaging in sexual acts with inmates. ECF No. 79-8.

         Lieutenant Johnson testified to the following at her deposition. Inmate complaints regarding improper transfer were minimal, and she had occasionally discovered that an inmate was ordered transferred but did not have a court appearance scheduled on the docket sheet. In those instances, she would call the Sheriff's Department and return the inmate to his or her cell. She was aware of rumors that deputy sheriffs were talking on the phone with inmates or giving them food items, but none of the purported misconduct was sexual in nature. And she had never heard any complaints from inmates about sexual misconduct, other than ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.