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Harris v. Hays

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

September 30, 2019

RODRIQUEZ HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
BRETT HAYS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Anne Precythe, Stanley Payne, Troy Steele, and Lonnie Smallen’s Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 20]. Plaintiff opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted. Plaintiff will be granted leave to amend his complaint.

         Facts and Background

         Plaintiff filed this action against Defendants Brett Hays, Michele Mayes, Cody Bennett, Troy Steele, Stanley Payne, Lonnie Smallen, and Anne Precythe for, inter alia, alleged violations of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment arising from Hays’ alleged use of excessive force on Plaintiff. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that: Hays used excessive force (Count I); Mayes and Bennett failed to intervene in Hays’ use of excessive force (Count II); Steele and Smallen failed to protect Plaintiff from Hays (Count III); and Precythe, Steele, and Payne failed to train or supervise subordinates, resulting in Plaintiff’s injury (Count V). Plaintiff also claims First Amendment retaliation against Mayes (Count IV) and assault (Count VI) and battery (Count VII) against Hays.

         For the purpose of this Motion to Dismiss, the allegations in the Complaint are taken as true. Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges the following:

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated. He began his prison sentence at the ERDCC on October 4, 2016. Plaintiff has been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and depression. Due to childhood abuse and lack of contact with family, Plaintiff felt alone and helpless at ERDCC. When his Complaint was filed on December 12, 2018, Plaintiff was still housed at ERDCC, although he has since been moved to an MDOC facility 15 miles away. Plaintiff is set to be released from prison in November 2019.

         Precythe has been the Director of MDOC since February 2017. Steele was the warden at ERDCC until at least February 8, 2018, the date Hays assaulted Plaintiff. In 2018, Payne succeeded Steele as warden of ERDCC. In February 2018, Hays reported directly to Functional Unit Manager Smallen.

         ERDCC has a long history of its correctional officers assaulting inmates and its inmates dying under suspicious circumstances. Over the last few years, correctional officers at ERDCC have increased their use of force against offenders to unprecedented numbers. Many offenders have attempted to commit suicide rather than deal with some of ERDCC’s correctional officers.

         In 2010, before being hired with the MDOC as a correctional officer, Hays was charged with domestic violence and for his failure to appear in court in the State of New Mexico. In 2011, a Scotland County, Missouri court issued a full order of protection against Hays for adult abuse.

         Hays began working for MDOC as a correctional officer I in December 2011 at the Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”) in Charleston, Missouri. Hays has been the subject of several internal investigations at MDOC, including one previous allegation of offender abuse and seven inquiries for making inappropriate comments to offenders. He has been involved in 77 uses of force since he started working for MDOC. Also, in 2012, Hays made unprofessional comments toward staff at SECC.

         In 2014, a Mississippi County, Missouri court entered another full order of protection in favor of the mother of his son and against Hays for adult abuse. Hays informed MDOC of the order of protection against him and informed MDOC that the prosecuting attorney still wanted to pursue domestic charges against him.

         In February 2015, Hays was written up multiple times for not following MDOC policies. In July 2015, Hays was promoted to correctional officer II. That October, Hays left his car unlocked in the SECC parking lot with a hand gun visible in the front seat in the Employee of the Month spot. During a use of force incident in January 2016, Hays was observed standing with his arms crossed, not assisting, resulting in his supervisor believing Hays to be negligent. A February 2016 note was made that Hays lacked supervision of his staff and failed to meet the minimal expectations of his job duties.

         In June 2016, Hays told an offender “I’m going to rape you until your guts fall out” and “all I have to do is flick your guts.” Another correctional officer who witnessed this event stated that Hays demeaned the offender and said things to aggravate him. Hays got close to the offender and stated, “you are just a bitch.” Hays later admitted that he threatened the offender by saying he was “going to kill your bitch ass.” In September, October, and November 2016, Hays violated multiple MDOC policies and procedures.

         In December 2016, Hays transferred to ERDCC and began working in Housing Unit 2. In February 2017, Hays admitted he was overly familiar with his subordinates in a less than professional manner, which led to complaints from subordinates. That month, Hays was also counseled for failing to keep the records of subordinate staff members confidential. In July 2017, Hays was placed on a 90-day performance plan to show improvement in professional conduct when dealing with subordinate employees. In January 2018, ...


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