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Estate of Roemer v. Shoaga

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 27, 2017

THE ESTATE OF JAMES ROEMER, Plaintiff,
v.
ALI SHOAGA, in his individual capacity, DAVID JOHNSON, in his individual capacity, NATHAN ALGIEN, in his individual capacity, THOMAS BOYER, in his individual capacity, and CHASE FELZEIN, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

          ORDER

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Docket No. 109] and Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 110] filed by defendant Ali Shoaga.[1] The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from the June 13, 2012 murder of James Roemer by his cellmate, Paul Farley.

         A. Background[2]

         1. Factual Background

         Mr. Farley has an extensive history of violence and threats against other inmates. Mr. Farley was incarcerated by the Arizona Department of Corrections (“ADC”) beginning on August 6, 1997. Docket No. 110-4 at 2. In July 2011, Mr. Farley was transferred to the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”) to serve a lengthy sentence for a robbery he committed in Pueblo, Colorado. Docket No. 110 at 1, ¶ 1 (citing Docket No. 110-1). On June 23, 2011, before Mr. Farley was transferred to Colorado, Herb Haley of the ADC wrote a letter (“Haley letter”)[3] summarizing Mr. Farley’s history and “current management concerns.” Docket No. 110-4 at 2. The ADC provided materials about Mr. Farley to the CDOC, which the CDOC used to assess Mr. Farley for placement in its various facilities. See Docket No. 109-3. The Haley letter was included in these materials. Plaintiff’s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“PSUMF”) 23; Docket No. 109-9 at 12, 71:4-72:19.

         The Haley letter indicated that Mr. Farley was incarcerated in the ADC for armed robbery, aggravated assault, manslaughter, and theft by extortion. Docket No. 110-4 at 2. The letter also stated that “Inmate Farley has an extensive disciplinary history, most notable for: causing death/great bodily harm, sexual assault, weapons possession/ manufacture, assaults, fighting, and throwing on staff and other inmates.” Id. at 3. The letter also listed the following security and safety concerns regarding Mr. Farley: While being transported to the ADC from Kansas, Mr. Farley escaped using force. Id. at 3. In 1999, Mr. Farley was disciplined for sexually assaulting his cellmate with a lethal weapon. Id. In 2000, Mr. Farley sliced open his cellmate’s back with a razorblade. Docket No. 110 at 2-3, ¶ 6(e) (citing Docket No. 110-4 at 26-43). In 2001, while in administrative segregation, Mr. Farley assisted the inmate in an adjoining cell to commit suicide by strangling him with a bed sheet, resulting in a manslaughter conviction. Docket No. 110-4 at 3.

         The Haley letter states that Mr. Farley was targeted by the Aryan Brotherhood, a prison gang, and was either a victim or predator in relation to 25 other inmates. Docket No. 110-4 at 3. The letter also recounts various threats and other statements made by Mr. Farley, including “documented statements to investigators that he ‘had tried to enter protective segregation [“PS”] for the purposes of killing a PS inmate,’ . . . ‘I want to put steel in someone,’ and ‘it would be easier to find a victim in PS.’” Id.[4] The letter rejected explaining these statements away as “‘bravado’ to ensure a single cell setting” because “the violence this inmate has demonstrated in the past has clearly established a threat towards other inmates.” Id.

         2. Mr. Farley’s Transfer to Colorado

         At the CDOC’s intake facility, the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center (“DRDC”), a CDOC case manager completed a Notice for Administrative Segregation Hearing to set a hearing to determine if Mr. Farley would be placed in administrative segregation. Docket No. 109 at 4, ¶ 11 (citing Docket No. 109-5); Docket No. 116 at 2-3, ¶ 11. The notice recited some of Mr. Farley’s past disciplinary history and stated, “Offender Farley’s excessive violation of policy, procedures, and disregard for authority poses a threat to the safety and security of the facility, staff, and other offenders.” Docket No. 109-5.

         Defendant Ali Shoaga was the chairperson of the three person administrative segregation hearing committee and, as chairperson, he was responsible for making the recommendation as to whether Mr. Farley should be placed in administrative segregation. Docket No. 110 at 2, ¶ 4. On September 1, 2012, Mr. Shoaga recommended Mr. Farley not be placed in administrative segregation, stating:

At his hearing, offender Farley admitted that he was guilty of the infractions committed while in Arizona. The available information indicates that all of offender Farley’s disciplinary infractions happened nearly a decade ago. The information available also seems to indicate that some of the reason for his confinement in Segregation while in Arizona was due to custody issues. There is no documented evidence of disciplinary infractions within the last ten years.

Docket No. 110-2.

         At his deposition, Mr. Shoaga testified that he had reviewed the materials from the ADC, including the Haley letter, before the administrative segregation hearing. Docket No. 109 at 6, ¶ 23 (citing 109-9 at 12, 71:21-72:19). He also testified that he was aware that Mr. Farley posed more than a low risk,[5] but he thought that the CDOC’s classification system and treatment programs would “mitigate the level of risk.” Docket No. 109-9 at 5, 34:14-17 and at 6, 40:19-25. Defendant David Johnson, the associate warden at DRDC, affirmed the recommendation. PSUMF 34; Docket No. 141 at 11, ¶ 51-53.

         3. Murder of Mr. Roemer

         On September 22, 2011, Mr. Farley was transferred to the Sterling Correctional Facility (“SCF”) in Sterling, Colorado. Defendant’s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“DSUMF”) 45. Because he was placed in the general population at SCF, Mr. Farley was required to have a cellmate. PSUMF 40. After approximately nine months, Mr. Farley was reassigned to a cell with Mr. Roemer. PSUMF 41; DSUMF 45.

         In response to a discovery request, plaintiff stated that “Mr. Roemer’s relationship with Mr. Farley prior to his murder was permeated with fear and malcontent.” Docket No. 110-11 at 10, Resp. to Interrogatory 21. On May 25, 2012, Mr. Roemer met with his mental health provider, Michelle Long, and expressed concerns about his safety, describing Mr. Farley as a “murderer.” Docket No. 110-11 at 4, Resp. to Interrogatory No. 7.

         Approximately two weeks before the murder, Mr. Farley became “extremely agitated with Mr. Roemer and . . . pinned [Mr. Roemer] against the wall of their cell and told him, ‘Don’t you know what I could do to you?’” Docket No. 110-11 at 10, Resp. to Interrogatory 21. “After that point, Mr. Roemer ...


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