United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
KWESI B. AMONOO, Plaintiff,
KAREN SPARLING, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
STEPHEN L. CROCKER Magistrate Judge.
se plaintiff Kwesi B. Amonoo is proceeding in this
§ 1983 civil suit on claims that three correctional
officers at the New Lisbon Correctional Institution (NLCI)
violated his rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment by
confiscating and destroying his prayer oil on two separate
occasions. On March 1, 2017, defendants filed a motion for
summary judgment. Dkt. 36. After plaintiff responded to the
motion, defendants filed a motion for sanctions in which they
argue that this entire case should be dismissed with
prejudice because plaintiff fabricated evidence in opposing
summary judgment. Dkt. 54. After reviewing the documents in
question, I agree with defendants that two of plaintiff's
documents appear to be obvious fabrications. I also agree
that dismissal with prejudice is an appropriate sanction for
plaintiff's actions. Before dismissing the case, however,
I will give plaintiff one more opportunity to prove that the
documents are not falsified by submitting the original
documents in question so that I may review them. If my review
confirms that they are fabrications -- or if plaintiff fails
to submit the originals by the deadline below -- I will
dismiss this case with prejudice and assess a
“strike” against plaintiff under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(g) for filing a frivolous lawsuit. On the other hand, if
a review of the document raises questions as to their
authenticity, I will issue a separate opinion addressing the
merits of defendants' summary judgment arguments.
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
First Amendment and RLUIPA claims arise out of two separate
incidents in which correctional officers confiscated and
destroyed prayer oil found in his cell - in February 2014 and
October 2014. Defendants concede in their summary judgment
materials that they discarded oil that was confiscated from
plaintiff's cell on the two dates in question.
February 2014 incident, the undisputed facts show that
Officer Cara Holsclaw confiscated a bottle of oil, along with
other items, during a random search of the cell plaintiff
shared with another inmate. Holsclaw apparently assumed the
oil belonged to plaintiff's cell mate and, after pouring
out the oil, she returned the bottle to the cell mate. To
support their theory that the oil did not belong to
plaintiff, defendants submitted evidence showing that
plaintiff had not received any new prayer oil since 2011.
Additionally, plaintiff testified at his deposition that a
bottle of prayer oil typically lasts four or five months.
Thus, defendants argue, plaintiff likely did not have any oil
in his possession in February 2014.
second incident, in October 2014, also occurred after a
random cell search. This time, Officer Kelly Kutina
confiscated a spray bottle containing a substance she could
not identify. She took it to the officer's station,
intending to ask plaintiff about it later. At some point,
Officer Lori McDonald came upon it, saw that it was leaking,
and threw it away. The undisputed facts show that plaintiff
received a new bottle of prayer oil the following day from an
order he had placed previously.
present compelling arguments in their summary judgment
materials as to why these facts cannot sustain First
Amendment or RLUIPA claims. They argue that plaintiff cannot
sustain a claim regarding the February 2014 incident because:
(1) the bottle of oil that was discarded belonged to
plaintiff's cell mate, not plaintiff, and (2) even if it
was plaintiff's oil, his religious exercise was not
substantially burdened by its disposal because he could have
simply bought more oil. Instead, the evidence shows that
plaintiff chose to spend his money on snacks and other items
and did not purchase or receive any new oil for several
months. With respect to the October 2014 incident, defendants
argue that plaintiff's religious exercise was not
substantially burdened because he received a new bottle of
oil the day after his first bottle was destroyed.
defendants argue that there is no basis for injunctive relief
under RLUIPA because, contrary to the allegations in
plaintiff's complaint, inmates are permitted to
possess prayer oil so long as it is contained in its original
bottle. In other words, none of plaintiff's oil would
have been destroyed if it had simply been stored properly.
Alleged Falsified Documents
attempt to raise a factual dispute, plaintiff appears to have
submitted two pieces of fabricated evidence. First, plaintiff
submitted a property receipt/disposition form, allegedly from
2013, purportedly showing that he receive a bottle of oil at
NLCI one year before the February 2014 incident in which
Officer Holsclaw disposed of oil from his cell. Dkt. 46-1.
Plaintiff points to the receipt as evidence to refute
defendants' position that the oil Holsclaw destroyed
belonged to plaintiff's cell mate and not to him, and
also to demonstrate that having prayer oil on hand was
essential to his religious practice. Without the 2013
receipt, DOC's property records show that the last time
plaintiff possessed prayer oil was in 2011.
support of their motion for sanctions, defendants point to
evidence showing that plaintiff's 2013 property receipt
is fabricated. In particular, Lynn Washetas, the Corrections
Program Supervisor at NLCI, submitted a declaration stating
that the 2013 property receipt is not found in the property
file kept at the prison. Dkt. 36, ¶ 6. It looks
different than other NLCI property receipts because it does
not list the institution at the top, and is not Dated: the
top. Dkt. 36-1 at 3-6. The reason it looks different,
defendants argue, is that the receipt is actually a receipt
that was issued to plaintiff while he was at Redgranite
Correctional Institution in 2009.
comparing the two receipts, I agree that the 2013 receipt
appears to be an alteration of the 2009 receipt. It appears
that plaintiff took the 2009 receipt and added “1
oil” to the list of other property items he received.
It also looks like he whited out “2009, ” changed
the date at the bottom from “2-23-09" to
“2-23-13, ” changed the unit from “F”
to “B, ” and smudged the signature of the
officer. Other than these changes, the receipts are
identical, including the specific property received and
destroyed by plaintiff.
second document plaintiff appears to have fabricated is a
property inventory document showing that he arrived at NLCI
with two 8 ounce bottles of hair oil, which he apparently
could use as prayer oil. Dkt. 46-1. He relies on the
inventory to support his claim that the oil destroyed in
February 2014 was his, and also to show that, because his
prayers were so important to him, he always had oil on hand
to use in performing his prayers. Again, however, defendants
submit evidence showing that the property inventory was
falsified. They submit an authenticated property inventory
showing what property ...