United States District Court, D. Colorado
FINAL FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ, District Judge.
Plaintiff Johnathan Young, Sr. brings a claim for excessive force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against El Paso County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Brock arising out of an incident on July 26, 2010 at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center. (ECF No. 251.)
The Court held a three day bench trial from March 17-19, 2014. (ECF Nos. 288-90.) At the trial, Plaintiff testified on his own behalf, and called as witnesses Allen Burks, Plaintiff's cell mate at the time of the disputed events, and Jason Scott, another inmate who was housed in the same cell block as Plaintiff and Mr. Burks. Defendant testified on his own behalf, and called the following as witnesses: Matthew Klinedinst, Beverly Long, Delaney Jefferson, Gaylen Heinle, Gary Epperson, Paul Billiard, Thomas Thieme, Edward Kafel, and Dr. Diane Al-Abduljalil. All of Defendant's witnesses are employed at the CJC (or were at the time of the pertinent events).
The following are the Court's final findings of fact and conclusions of law.
I. FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Plaintiff was incarcerated at the El Paso County Jail, also known as the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center ("CJC"), in Colorado Springs, Colorado from November 19, 2009 until he was sentenced to the Colorado Department of Corrections on January 28, 2011. (Ex. 95; Testimony of Plaintiff.)
2. Defendant Jason Brock was, at all times relevant to this matter, a Deputy Sheriff with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. (Testimony of Defendant.)
A. CJC Wards and Modules
3. CJC has several modules, each of which contain different wards for housing inmates based on their classification. Modules B (or Bravo) and C (or Charlie) are both maximum security modules. (Testimony of Deputy Matthew Klinedinst.) Within Modules B and C are a variety of wards that serve different purposes. ( Id. )
4. Wards C2 and C1 are maximum security wards with regressive privileges, respectively. In Ward C2, inmates are allowed less time out of their cells than in medium security modules, but they have relatively unrestricted ability to buy commissary items from funds in their inmate accounts. In Ward C1, inmates are allowed out less time than Ward C2 inmates, and their ability to buy commissary items is limited by dollar amount. (Testimony of Deputy Matthew Klinedinst.)
5. Module B is known as a special-management module. There are four wards in the Bravo Module.
6. Ward B1 houses inmates who are on administrative segregation, disciplinary lockdown, or who must be segregated from all other inmates housed in Ward B1. Ward B2 houses inmates with mental health needs. (Testimony of Deputy Klinedinst.)
7. Ward B4 houses inmates with mental health needs, as well as segregated inmates and inmates who are on disciplinary lockdown. Inmates in Ward B4 are locked in their cell for 23 hours per day, with only one hour out of their cells, and have no commissary privileges. (Testimony of Deputy Klinedinst.) Ward B4 is known as the "hole" by CJC inmates. (Testimony of Allen Burks.)
8. Each of the four Bravo wards has a door that opens up into a hallway known as the "Bravo Mod Hallway." (Ex. 62.) This hallway has a desk for deputies and is approximately 40 to 50 yards long. (Testimony of Plaintiff.) In July 2010, this hallway typically was not staffed by any deputy, and no deputy was assigned to the hallway on July 26, 2010. (Testimony of Plaintiff; Testimony of Defendant.)
9. The Bravo Mod Hallway leads to the CJC Main Hallway. (Ex. 62.) Towards the part of the hallway that exits into the CJC Main Hallway, there are a series of visiting booths, some of which have doors and some of which are open stalls. ( Id. ) After passing by these visiting booths, one must go through two separate doors to reach the CJC Main Hallway. ( Id. )
10. CJC has a Special Detentions ("SD") cell for inmates who pose a threat to themselves, other inmates, or deputies. The S.D. cell is considered a place for an inmate who needs a "time out". Inmates are always restrained with cuffs behind their backs when taken to SD. (Testimony of Deputy Klinedinst.)
B. Plaintiff's Prior Incarceration and Medical History
11. Since at least 1992, Plaintiff has a documented medical history of back injuries as a result of his falling off a roof while he was working as a roofer. (Exs. A, F, I, J, L, M, N, A1, A7, A16, A17, A22, A24; Testimony of Plaintiff.)
12. Plaintiff has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, paranoia and Anti-Social Personality Disorder during his previous confinements. (Exs. M, N, X, A1, A5, A12, A15, A22, Testimony of Plaintiff.)
13. Plaintiff has been incarcerated in the Colorado Department of Corrections ("CDOC") or the CJC off and on since the 1990s. (Testimony of Plaintiff.) Plaintiff has three prior felony convictions: Distribution of Marijuana (A Class 4 Felony); First Degree Arson (A Class 3 Felony); and First Degree Burglary (A Class 3 Felony). ( Id. )
14. With permission of the medical staff, Plaintiff used a cane while incarcerated at the CJC. (Ex. 1.)
15. Because of the cane, Plaintiff was ordinarily cuffed with his hands in front if he was attending court, medical appointments, and being transported for visitation. (Testimony of Plaintiff.)
16. Plaintiff has a history of being non-compliant with law enforcement officers during his incarceration. (Exs. A72, 26; Testimony of Plaintiff, Defendant, Deputy Klinedinst & Lt. Gaylen Heinle.)
17. Plaintiff also has a history of initiating lawsuits against government agencies based on his incarceration, or threatening to initiate lawsuits based on his incarceration. (Exs. 42, 6, 88, A82-A84; Testimony of Plaintiff.)
C. Prior Interactions between the Parties
18. Plaintiff and Defendant have had various interactions during Plaintiff's stays at the CJC.
19. On March 13, 2010, Plaintiff was being housed in C2. (Testimony of Plaintiff.) Defendant observed Plaintiff attempt to be an aggressor with another inmate. (Testimony of Defendant.) Following this incident, Defendant had Plaintiff moved from Ward C2 to Ward C1, which was accompanied by a loss of privileges. (Ex. 70.) Plaintiff felt wronged by Defendant moving him, instead of the other inmate, who he believed to be the aggressor. (Testimony of Plaintiff.)
20. Plaintiff, angry with Defendant for what he perceived as an unjustified move to a more restrictive ward, yelled foul comments about Defendant. Deputy Bradley Rickrel overhead these comments. (Ex. 70.) Deputy Rickrel wrote Plaintiff up for his actions, and Plaintiff lost visitation and canteen privileges for ten days. (Ex. 70; Testimony of Plaintiff.)
21. On July 25, 2010, Plaintiff was being housed in Ward C1. In response to another inmate's pleas, Plaintiff took an extra sack lunch off the cart and slipped it under the door of that inmate's cell in violation of CJC rules. (Ex. A43.) Deputies Myers and Mackey confronted Plaintiff about his actions, searched Plaintiff's cell, and found contraband. ( Id. ) During the search, Plaintiff left the cell, walked out to the common area, and hit his cane on a table. ( Id. ) After doing this, Plaintiff was handcuffed and walked to SD. ( Id. )
22. Upon being released from S.D. on July 25, 2010, Plaintiff was placed in Ward B4. (Ex. A43.)
D. Events on July 26, 2010 - Plaintiff's Version
23. On July 26, 2010, Deputy Brock was assigned to supervise Ward B4. (Testimony of Plaintiff; Testimony of Defendant; Ex. 57 at 6.)
24. On that day, Defendant was passing out sack lunches to the inmates in Ward B4. (Testimony of Plaintiff; Testimony of Defendant.)
25. After Defendant had handed out lunch bags to Plaintiff and his cellmate, Mr. Burks, Plaintiff looked in his lunch bag and noted that he did not receive a Kool-Aid. (Testimony of Plaintiff; Testimony of Allen Burks.)
26. Plaintiff called out to Defendant that his lunch bag was missing the Kool-Aid. (Testimony of Plaintiff; Testimony of Allen Burks.)
27. Deputy Brock responded to Plaintiff by stating, "it sucks to be you." (Testimony of Plaintiff.)
28. Plaintiff responded to Defendant Brock's comment by calling him a "fat f**k." (Testimony of Plaintiff; Testimony of Allen Burks.)
29. Plaintiff testified that, at that point, he considered the incident to be over. He said nothing further to Defendant, sat down on the bed, and started to eat his lunch. (Testimony of Plaintiff.) He was not standing at the door, nor was he yelling or cursing. ( Id. )
30. Defendant Brock's report of the incident reflects that, at the time Defendant returned to Plaintiff's cell, at which time, Plaintiff was sitting on his bunk. (Ex. 69.)
31. Defendant then opened the cell door and then instructed Plaintiff to "cuff up." (Testimony of Plaintiff; Testimony of Allen Burks.)
32. Plaintiff put his hands in front of him and asked if he could "cuff up" in the front or use his cane. (Testimony of Plaintiff; Testimony of Allen Burks.) Defendant insisted Plaintiff be handcuffed behind his back. ( Id. )
33. Plaintiff complied with Defendant Brock's order without objection or resistance. (Testimony of Plaintiff; Testimony of Allen Burks.)
34. Defendant did not call for the assistance of other deputies in removing Plaintiff from his cell. (Testimony of Plaintiff; Testimony of Defendant.)
35. Defendant Brock's handcuffing of Plaintiff behind his back to escort Plaintiff out of his cell was ...