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Grant v. Gill

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

October 30, 2017


          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON District Judge

         Plaintiff James Edward Grant, a former state of Wisconsin inmate currently living in Madison, brings claims that defendant prison officials used excessive force on him while they escorted him to a disciplinary hearing, and that he was sexually assaulted during a strip search while housed at the Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI). Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. After I ordered supplemental briefing and gave Grant a chance to conform his proposed findings of fact to this court's rules, see Dkt. 54, the motion for summary judgment is now fully briefed. I conclude that there are disputed issues of material fact over defendant Jeremy Gill's decision to use force against Grant that need to be resolved at trial. I will grant summary judgment to defendants on the remainder of Grant's claims.


          Plaintiff James Edward Grant is no longer in prison. The events in question took place while Grant was incarcerated at WCI. At that time, defendants Jeffrey Gill, Joseph Beahm, Michael Lunde, Aaron Bedker, Todd Olig, and Justen Kitzman were employed at WCI as correctional officers. Defendants Gabriel Umentum, Derek Schouten, and Lukas Marwitz worked as correctional sergeants. Defendant Jesse Schneider was a lieutenant. Defendant Brian Greff was a corrections program supervisor. Defendant Anthony Meli was the security director.

         On May 15, 2014, at about 2:00 p.m., Grant was scheduled to have “due process hearings” on three conduct reports he had received. None of the defendants were directly involved in the events underlying those conduct reports.

         Grant says that on that morning, during the passing of breakfast meals in the Restrictive Housing Unit, defendant Gill came to Grant's cell and asked him, “[A]re you going to your Due Process Hearing?” Grant said yes. Gill responded, “Well you don't get breakfast then.” Grant did not receive breakfast that day.

         At about 2:00 p.m., defendants Gill, Bedker, and Umentum came to escort Grant to the hearing room. Grant says that Gill told him, “If you look at me I will interpret that as a threat to my safety.” Gill placed Grant into wrist restraints and directed him to remain facing forward once his cell door was opened. Grant did not say that the wrist restraints were too tight.

         Most of the escort and following events is captured on the recording made by Bedker. See Dkt. 43-1. Gill began escorting Grant to the hearing room. Bedker recorded the escort. Umentum followed behind by several feet. As soon as the escort began, Grant started talking directly to the camera making statements that defendants Beahm and Gill had broken another inmate's thumb. Grant was told multiple times during the escort by Gill to remain facing forward, because he turned his head several times. He also accused Gill of squeezing his arm too hard during the escort.

         Grant and Gill and entered the “due process room” where the hearing would be held. They moved into the room, out of the range of the camera held by Bedker, who was still following.[1] At this point, Gill says that Grant turned his head to the left, which Gill took as a threat because he thought that Grant was looking to see where Gill was so that he could prepare an attack. Grant admits that he did not keep his head forward, but he states that he looked down when Gill grabbed Grant's hand to handcuff it to a ring inside the hearing room. Gill then pushed Grant into the wall while loudly telling him to continue facing forward. Gill says that he “directed” Grant into the wall. Grant says that Gill “threw” him into the wall.

         This happened as Umentum was walking into the room. It is unclear from Umentum's declaration whether he saw Gill's use of force. Umentum radioed for other security staff to respond to the due process room in the Restrictive Housing Unit to assist, and he requested that staff bring leg restraints. Bedker entered the due process room about three or four seconds after Gill.

         Defendants Beahm and Schneider responded to Umentum's radio call. Beahm applied leg restraints to Grant. Because of Grant's reported non-compliance, Schneider decided to place Grant into “control status” and for staff to escort Grant to a strip cell for a strip search. Control status can be used for segregation inmates who exhibit disruptive behavior. If an inmate is placed into control status, the inmate must undergo a strip search before he is placed in the control cell. “Staff-assisted” strip searches, in which a restrained inmate's body parts are manipulated by prison officials, are used when an inmate has already demonstrated non-compliance.

         Once Grant was secured at the strip cell, Gill was relieved by defendant Schouten. Gill had no involvement with the strip search. A nurse checked Grant's complaint of injuries: she stated that he had no markings on his right wrist, and that she could fit three fingers in each ankle restraint. In his deposition, Grant admits that he did not sustain any physical injury from the events, although he does say that he suffered pain in his jaw, and that the restraints or defendants' actions hurt his wrists and ankles.

         Beahm conducted the strip search. The parties agree that Umentum secured one of Grant's arms during the search. They disagree about whether defendants Schouten or Olig secured the other arm. Defendants Greff and Lunde were also present for at least part of the strip search but did not directly take part. Defendants Marwitz and Kitzman were not present for any of these events.

         Bedker's footage shows how Beahm conducted the strip search. Grant remained handcuffed with his face toward the strip cage. Beahm cut off Grant's clothes and had him kneel. Beahm used bladed hands to lift Grant's scrotum and spread Grant's buttocks. Beahm also inspected Grant's mouth, hair, ears, fingers, armpits, feet, and toes. Beahm found no contraband. Grant's midsection was wrapped in a towel and he was taken to his cell. He did not appear at his due process hearing.

         Gill gave Grant a conduct report for disobeying orders during the escort and for lying when he said that Beahm and Gill had broken another inmate's thumb. Defendant Meli reviewed the conduct report and allowed it to proceed as a major offense.


         Grant brings claims that defendants retaliated against him, used excessive force against him, and performed an unnecessary strip search for the purpose of humiliating him.[2]

         To succeed on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “A genuine issue of material fact arises only if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists to permit a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Brummett v. Sinclair Broad. Grp., Inc. , 414 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2005). All reasonable inferences from the facts in the summary judgment record must be drawn in the nonmoving party's favor. Baron v. City of Highland Park, 195 F.3d 333, 338 (7th Cir. 1999). If the nonmoving party fails to establish the existence of an essential element on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment for the moving party is proper. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         A. Excessive force

          In his operative complaint, Grant alleged that defendants violated the Eighth Amendment by using excessive force against him at several points during the events detailed above. “The unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain on a prisoner violates his rights under the Eighth Amendment.” Lewis v. Downey,581 F.3d 467, 475 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation omitted). To prevail on a claim of excessive force against a correctional officer, a plaintiff must prove that the officer applied force “maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm, ” rather than “in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline.” Hudson v. McMillian,503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992) (quoting Whitley v. Albers,475 U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986)). The factors relevant to this determination include (1) why force was needed; (2) how much force was used; (3) the ...

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