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Kelty v. Patterson

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 10, 2019

RACHEL KELTY, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before me on plaintiff Rachel Kelty's motion for default judgment against defendant John M. Patterson under Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). I held an evidentiary hearing on this motion on April 9, 2019 at which Kelty testified and presented other evidence. After carefully considering the evidence presented at the hearing and Kelty's post-hearing submission, for the reasons stated below, I recommend that the court grant Kelty's motion for default judgment against Patterson and award Kelty $900, 000 in compensatory damages and $1, 500, 000 in punitive damages.

         1. Procedural Background

         On May 18, 2018, Rachel Kelty initiated this civil rights action against Michael Bednarek, Sarah Cooper, Ana Boatwright, and John M. Patterson based on sexual harassment and multiple sexual assaults she experienced as an inmate at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (“TCI”). (Docket # 1.) Kelty served her complaint on the defendants on May 31, 2018. (Docket # 28 at 1.) On June 25, 2018 Kelty requested an entry of default against Patterson because he neither appeared nor answered the complaint. (Docket # 10.) On June 26, 2018, the Clerk of Court entered default as to Patterson. (Docket # 11.) On July 14, 2018, Kelty amended her complaint, removing Boatwright as a defendant. (Docket # 14.) On December 11, 2018, Kelty reached a settlement with Cooper and Bednarek. (Docket # 22, Docket # 26.) The parties filed a joint stipulation and order of dismissal on February 1, 2019, in which Kelty voluntarily dismissed Cooper and Bednarek. (Docket # 27.)

         Kelty filed a motion for default judgment against Patterson on February 6, 2019. (Docket # 28.) Judge Stadtmueller then referred the case to me for the limited purpose of conducting a hearing on Kelty's motion and issuing a recommendation on whether the motion should be granted and, if so, what damages, fees, and costs Kelty is entitled to. (Docket # 29.)

         2. Amended Complaint

         Kelty's amended complaint states that in 2001, at the age of eighteen, she was sentenced to a term of confinement and assigned to the maximum-security unit at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (“TCI”). (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) Around 2004, Kelty met Patterson, a correctional officer who occasionally worked on the maximum-security unit. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Patterson was approximately fifty years old. (Id. ¶ 12.) After their initial meeting, Patterson was friendly towards Kelty and would joke around with her, establishing a comfortable rapport. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         In June 2005, Kelty was transferred out of the maximum-security unit and moved to a medium-security unit at TCI. (Id. ¶ 15.) She was approximately twenty-two years old. (Id.) Patterson, who was then approximately fifty-one years old, was staffed at the medium- security unit at the time. (Id. at 16.) Upon Kelty's arrival at the unit, Patterson continued his friendly ways, joking with Kelty and not strictly enforcing institutional rules. (Id. ¶ 17.)

         During the summer of 2005, the medium-security unit was hot, and Kelty would sleep without a shirt for comfort. (Id. ¶ 19.) One night in the summer of 2005, Patterson repeatedly shined his flashlight into Kelty's face through her cell door as she slept, causing Kelty to awaken and sit up; the sheet that had been covering her fell off her upper body and exposed her breasts. (Id. ¶ 20.) Patterson stood at the window staring at Kelty and shining his light on her; he left the area only when Kelty's cellmate awoke angry that the light was being shone in the room. (Id. ¶ 21.) Approximately ten more times that summer, Patterson stopped at Kelty's cell after lights-out and shined his flashlight on her. (Id. ¶ 22.) Kelty understood this to be a signal that she was supposed to flash her private parts at Patterson, which she did. (Id.) Around the same time, Patterson also made inappropriate sexual comments to Kelty. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.)

         Kelty asserts that Patterson sexually assaulted her three times. The first sexual assault occurred sometime between June 30 and July 6, 2005. (Id. ¶ 26.) Patterson instructed Kelty to go to the blanket room to retrieve a laundry bag. (Id. ¶ 27.) Patterson accompanied Kelty to the blanket room, instructed her to enter, and blocked the door so that she could not exit. (Id. ¶ 28.) Without Kelty's permission, Patterson grabbed her breast and kissed her on the mouth. (Id. ¶ 29.) After that assault, Kelty attempted to avoid Patterson as much as possible, but he would force interactions, such as approaching the table where Kelty was eating with other inmates or opening the door to Kelty's cell soliciting her to come out. (Id. ¶¶ 30-32.)

         Approximately two days after the first assault, Patterson opened the door to Kelty's cell and instructed her to get some sheets from the same blanket room where the prior sexual assault had occurred. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.) Patterson accompanied Kelty into the blanket room and blocked the exit. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) Patterson then lifted Kelty's shirt and touched and kissed her breasts; he also touched her buttocks and her crotch outside her clothes. (Id. ¶ 37.) Patterson pushed his body into Kelty so that she could feel that he had an erection. (Id. ¶ 38.) A few days after the second sexual assault, Patterson stopped by Kelty's cell following her shower time and watched her get dressed. (Id. ¶ 39.)

         Sometime between July 21 and July 26, 2005, Patterson sexually assaulted Kelty a third time. (Id. ¶ 40.) Patterson opened Kelty's room and instructed her to obtain cleaning supplies from a janitor's closet and accompany him to a room across from the maintenance room in AB North. (Id. ¶¶ 41-42.) Patterson instructed Kelty to go inside and clean the room, followed her inside, and shut the door. (Id. ¶¶ 43-45.) Patterson instructed Kelty to remove her shorts, which she did. (Id. ¶ 46.) Patterson then forcibly placed Kelty on a table, knelt down, and began performing nonconsensual oral sex. (Id. ¶ 47.) Patterson then forcibly placed Kelty's hand on his erect penis. (Id. ¶ 48.) Kelty pushed Patterson away and left the room. (Id. ¶ 49.)

         At no time did Kelty consent to any of Patterson's sexual acts. (Id. ¶ 50.) During every sexual assault, Kelty was terrified. (Id. ¶ 51.) Kelty was not sexually attracted to men, which was known to Patterson. (Id. ¶ 52.) Patterson's sexual assaults caused Kelty fear, anger, shock, and disgust. (Id. ¶ 53.) They made Kelty feel worthless and disposable because, given Patterson's position of power over her, she had no recourse; she did not feel like she could report the assaults to any authority and, even if she did, she did not think any authority would believe her. (Id. ¶ 54.)

         On or about October 6, 2005, the Fond du Lac Police Department commenced an investigation into Patterson's sexual assault of Kelty. (Id. ¶ 55.) On October 7, 2005, Patterson gave a statement to police admitting that he twice sexually assaulted Kelty at TCI. (Id. ¶ 56.) That investigation resulted in two felony charges being filed against Patterson on October 19, 2005, for his sexual assault of Kelty. (Id. ¶ 57.) On April 12, 2006, Patterson pleaded no contest to two counts of having had sexual contact with Kelty without her consent. (Id. ¶ 58.) He was sentenced to probation. (Id.) Kelty received no compensation as a result of Patterson's prosecution, nor has she received any other award of damages as a victim of Patterson's sexual assaults. (Id. ¶ 59.)

         Kelty's amended complaint claims that Patterson's behavior violated her right to humane conditions of confinement as guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and her constitutional right to privacy. (Id. ¶ 94.) She also claims that Patterson's conduct constituted intentional discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. ¶ 98.) Kelty claims that Patterson's conduct caused physical, psychological, and emotional injuries, and financial loss, which she will continue to suffer in the future. (Id. ¶¶ 95, 99.) She also claims that Patterson's unlawful conduct was intentional and malicious or was wantonly committed in reckless or callous disregard of her constitutional rights. (Id. ¶¶ 96, 100.) Kelty requests compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney's fees and costs. (Id. at 16.)

         3. ...

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