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Vaughn v. Gullett

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

December 5, 2019

THOMAS GULLETT, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff (registration no. 1081978), an inmate at Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center ("ERDCC"), for leave to commence this action without payment of the required filing fee. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that the plaintiff does not have sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $10.66. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Furthermore, after reviewing the complaint and the supplemental complaints, the Court will order plaintiff to submit a second amended complaint on a court-provided form in compliance with the instructions set forth below. Plaintiffs failure to do so will result in a dismissal of this action, without prejudice.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), a prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in his prison account to pay the entire fee, the Court must assess and, when funds exist, collect an initial partial filing fee of 20 percent of the greater of (1) the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's account, or (2) the average monthly balance in the prisoner's account for the prior six-month period. After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner is required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these monthly payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit and a certified copy of his prison account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the submission of his complaint. A review of plaintiffs account indicates an average monthly deposit of $53.33. Accordingly, the Court will assess an initial partial filing fee of $10.66.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a complaint must plead more than "legal conclusions" and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a "mere possibility of misconduct." Id. at 679. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to, inter alia, draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). However, they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims alleged. Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004); see also Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980) (even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law). Federal courts are not required to "assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint." Stone, 364 F.3d at 914-15. In addition, giving a pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. U.S., 508 U.S. 106, 113(1993).

         The Complaint and Motions to Compel/Supplemental Complaints

         Plaintiff is an inmate at the Eastern, Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center. He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following defendants, named in his complaint: Thomas Gullett (Correctional Officer); Dalton LaRue (Correctional Officer); Stan Payne (Warden); Cindy Griffith; Jeff Norman; Unknown Pacheco; Unknown Weir (Correctional Officer); Eric Friel (Correctional Officer); John Doe; and Jane Doe. Plaintiff brings this action against defendants in their official and individual capacities.[1]

         Plaintiff filed a fifty-one-page (51) complaint on September 12, 2019. At the time of filing his complaint, he filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, as well as a motion for appointment of counsel. Since the time of filing his complaint, plaintiff has filed five motions to compel [Doc. #6, #8, #10, #11 and #13], a motion for preliminary injunction [Doc. #9] and a motion to issue summons [Doc. #14].

         In his complaint, plaintiff asserts several different claims against the named defendants in this action. Plaintiffs first main cause of action relates to an altercation that purportedly occurred at ERDCC on September 5, 2018.

         Plaintiff claims that he was having trouble with his vision in his right eye, so he was admitted to the T.C.U. at ERDCC. Plaintiff believes he should have stayed in T.C.U. that day, but "white shirts" arranged to have him transferred back to his house, and then in the afternoon, Correctional Officers John Doe and Jane Doe came to get him out of his cell and started yelling at him about a letter they believed he had written. Plaintiff does not indicate what the purported letter pertained to, only that he told the officers that he had not written the letter. Plaintiff states that when the female officer realized that he "either knew something and wasn't talking or [he] really was telling the truth she gave a verbal directive to both of the officers to 'f-ck him up.'"

         Plaintiff claims he was forced and yanked out of the room he was sitting in and pushed into the Administrative Segregation Unit by unnamed officers. Once in the Administrative Segregation Unit, plaintiff states that he told the officers that he "was not taking a cell." Plaintiff states that when they tried to assign him a cell he "checked out immediately." He was then assigned to sit on a bench for two hours, after which time he was taken to a new cell. Plaintiff then checked out of that cell (refused it), after which time he was sat on a bench for another two hours. He claims that at that time, he was taken to a double-man cell that was unoccupied.

         Inside the cell, plaintiff states he was told to strip out. He claims that Correctional Officer Pacheco and Correctional Officer Weir were the assigned officers at the time in the room, although Pacheco was doing the talking. Plaintiff claims he complained to Pacheco that it was impossible to strip out with his handcuffs on and behind his back, but he was told that the handcuffs were not coming off. Plaintiff complains that this was in violation of Missouri Department of Corrections Policy and Procedure as he understood the procedure.

         Plaintiff states that he was told for a third time to strip out with his handcuffs on, and he told Pancheco he could not follow his instructions. Plaintiff claims that he was told by Pancheco that he would be given one last chance to strip out. When he didn't respond, Pacheco called a 10/10 on his radio and Correctional Officer Gullett responded to the cell. Gullett ordered plaintiff to strip out and plaintiff states that he asked Gullett "how?" Plaintiff states that Gullett began to imitate a monkey at this time, presumably making fun of plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that Gullett again gave plaintiff the directive to strip out, and plaintiff again stated that he was unable to do so with his hands cuffed behind his back. Gullett told plaintiff to place his nose on the wall. Gullett then pulled plaintiffs pants and boxers down himself. Plaintiff states that he turned half around and sidestepped and told Gullett that he was going to report him under PREA[2]. Gullett responded that it wasn't a proper PREA complaint. Plaintiff asserts that it was at this point that Gullett "forcefully slammed [his] face into the wall and picked [him] up and slammed [his] face 1st into the concrete floor knocking [him] unconscious instantly." Plaintiff asserts that when he came to consciousness he was bleeding from the head and nose.

         Plaintiff claims that his injuries to his face were significant as a result of the altercation. He asserts that he suffered a broken nose, a fracture to the right side of his nose, a tri-fracture directly under his right eye, several fractures to his cheekbone and a fracture to the right side of his face. He asserts that he had to undergo surgery to correct the fractures.

         Plaintiff alleges mat while he was recovering from surgery, on September 17, 2018, Eric Friel came to his cell door and stated, "This is what you get for disrespecting Captain Larue and our staff. . .for disrespecting the White Bluuds" Plaintiff believes this statement was in reference to him writing up Correctional Officer Larue for making threats against plaintiff. Plaintiff also believes ...

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