Harris v. Monfra, 081320 LAEDC, C. A. 19-13955

Docket NºCivil Action 19-13955
Case DateAugust 13, 2020
CourtUnited States District Courts, 5th Circuit, Eastern District of Louisiana




Civil Action No. 19-13955

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 13, 2020




Plaintiff Dwight Harris is a prisoner currently incarcerated in the Raymond Laborde Correctional Center in Cottonport, Louisiana. He filed this complaint pro se and in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against ten (10) defendants: Deputies Jody-Lee Banks, Eva Banner, Brian Bordelon, James Glass, Joshua Dennis and Kenyatta Knox; Deputy Chief Sue Ellen Monfra; Chaplin Kathy; Detective Chris Rivers, and Lieutenant T. Berrian. Lieutenant Berrian was listed on the caption of Plaintiff's complaint, however the Clerk of Court neglected to issue a summons to be served on this Defendant through the United States Marshal. ECF No. 1, at 1. By Order issued July 28, 2020 (ECF No. 30), the Clerk of Court was directed to issue a summons (ECF No. 31) to Lieutenant Berrian. Although Plaintiff's written submissions and testimony include claims against Sergeant Adrian Drullet, Officer Coleman, and Deputies T. Holmes and Donald Johnson, he does not name these individuals as defendants in his complaint and has not amended his pleadings to add these parties as defendants.

Plaintiff supplemented his complaint by filing a statement of facts, exhibits, and witnesses on January 9, 2020. ECF No. 10. In response to Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (ECF Nos. 12-13), Plaintiff was granted leave to amend his complaint on January 31, 2020. ECF No. 14. In addition, the court held a Spears hearing on June 11, 2020.


A. Factual Allegations

Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center (“JPCC”) on October 1, 2017. ECF No. 10, at 2. He was convicted by a jury on April 25, 2019, but his conviction was reversed on December 8, 2019, and the trial judge ordered that Plaintiff be given a new trial. Id.

Plaintiff contends that during his JPCC incarceration, Deputy Brian Bordelon and Chaplin Kathy violated his right to freely exercise his Muslim faith by declaring prayer rugs, prayer beads, and prayer caps “contraband” posing “a substantial threat to the orderly functions” of the prison facility, even though previous JPCC administrations did not consider these religious items contraband. ECF Nos. 1-1, at 1; 10, at 3. Plaintiff submitted a written grievance concerning the denial of these religious materials, and Deputy Brian Bordelon responded that these items are a threat to the security and cleanliness of the prison facility. ECF No. 10, at 2-3.

Plaintiff further alleges that Deputy Jody Lee Banks violated his privacy rights during a cell search on an unspecified date, during which Deputy Banks threw Plaintiff's Quran under a toilet and tossed his legal documents all over the cell. ECF No. 1-1, at 4. Deputy Banks issued Plaintiff a disciplinary violation after Plaintiff voiced his “strong discomfort” for the way his cell was searched. ECF No. 10, at 5. Plaintiff received a disciplinary hearing before Detective Chris Rivers on September 16, 2019, who dismissed the disciplinary violation based on a “fabricated disciplinary report, ” but administratively segregated him based on his lack of acknowledgment of Deputy Banks's authority to search inmate cells. Id.; ECF No. 1-1, at 4.

Plaintiff alleges that Detective Chris Rivers and Deputies Bordelon and Eva Banner, as supervisors of the prison disciplinary board, deprived him of “the right to a fair and impartial hearing due to their often arbitrary, capricious and malicious findings, when in fact there is no taping of the hearings, offenders cannot call witnesses for or against them, often times there's only one person holding the board, and I have always been denied due process, the compulsory and adversarial process.” ECF No. 10, at 4. He states that his due process rights were further violated because he did not receive assistance of counsel at his disciplinary hearing. ECF No. 1-1, at 4.

On October 19, 2019, Deputy Joshua Dennis and Sergeant Adrian Drullet removed Plaintiff from his cell during evening roll call. ECF No. 10, at 5. Deputy Dennis belittled and harassed Plaintiff, tackled him to the ground, tased him three times “sadistically and wantonly meaning to inflict pain and discomfort, ” handcuffed him, and ran his body into walls and doorframes. ECF Nos. 1-1, at 5; 10, at 5. Plaintiff contends that Deputy Dennis' use of force was in retaliation for Deputy Dennis' role in Plaintiff's “fraudulent” and “unlawful” arrest in 2016. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Sergeant Drullet failed to protect him from Deputy Dennis' use of force. ECF No. 10, at 5. Deputy Dennis took Plaintiff to the prison booking department and charged Plaintiff with “three additional offenses” without receiving a Miranda warning, going through standard intake procedures, or receiving a magistrate hearing. Id.

On the night of October 31, 2019, Officer Coleman announced a shakedown of Plaintiff's cell and ordered him to strip down to his boxer shorts, squat, and cough. Id. Plaintiff complied with these orders and was handcuffed “to the front” of the cell. Id. Deputy T. Holmes was present during the cell search and told Officer Coleman that Plaintiff had “shoulder issues.” Id. Officer Coleman began violently throwing Plaintiff's legal paperwork and mail around the cell. Id. at 6. Plaintiff stated to Officer Coleman: “Come on, Deputy, you don't have to do that.” Id.

Lieutenant T. Berrian and Deputy Kenyatta Knox were also present during the October 31, 2019 cell search. Id. Lieutenant Berrian said to Deputy Knox: “Go and hope he does something stupid.” Id. After Officer Coleman finished his search, Lieutenant Berrian entered Plaintiff's cell and tossed his mail, legal paperwork, and pictures around the cell, dropped his Quran on the ground, and stomped on it. Id. Plaintiff then stated to Lieutenant Berrian: “You are violating my rights.” Id.

Deputy Knox “violently shoved” Plaintiff's left shoulder while he was still handcuffed. Id. Plaintiff stated to Deputy Knox: “You are hurting me.” Id. Deputy Knox then pulled a pair of handcuffs from his pocket, struck Plaintiff in the face, and re-broke Plaintiff's nose - on which Plaintiff recently had received facial reconstructive surgery. Id.; ECF No. 1-1, at 2-3. Deputy Knox struck Plaintiff in the head, face, and neck. ECF No. 10, at 6. Lieutenant Berrian then “joined in” and struck Plaintiff “unmercifully, unprovoked, unwarranted, sadistically and maliciously intending to inflict pain and suffering.” Id. Lieutenant Berrian placed Plaintiff in a “chokehold, ” during which he “almost lost consciousness” and “hit the floor.” Id.; ECF No. 1-1, at 2-3. Plaintiff was forced to lie down and Lieutenant Berrian straddled his back and struck him in the back of the head and neck with bare hands and/or a baton. Id. Deputy Knox uncuffed Plaintiff, and Lieutenant Berrian re-cuffed him “to the rear, ” while Deputy Knox taunted loudly: “We fucked him up, bitch.” ECF No. 10, at 6. Plaintiff was charged with a battery of an officer (Deputy Knox) and resisting arrest by force or violence for the October 31, 2019 incident. Id.

Plaintiff was taken to the JPCC infirmary to see a nurse that same night (October 31, 2019), and was tased twice by Deputy James Glass in the infirmary. ECF No. 1-1, at 3. Due to Plaintiff's “excessive amount of blood, ” the JPCC nurse called a doctor, who ordered Plaintiff's transfer to University Medical Center (“UMC”), where Plaintiff received a CT scan showing that his nose had been rebroken. Id.; ECF No. 10, at 6.

Plaintiff attaches to his statement of facts five (5) written statements signed by fellow JPCC inmates who witnessed the October 31st cell search and altercation. Inmate Jourdan Marchese states that he saw “inmate Dwight Harris get assaulted by Deputy Knox and Lt. T. [Berrian] while inmate Harris was already in handcuffs and detained.” Id. at 9.

Inmate Byron E. Montgomery, Jr. alleges the following: On Oct. 31, 2019, I, Byron E. Montgomery Jr. was in my cell, 4AL3B when the staff conducted a search of 4A left side. . . . As the cell next to me on my right side, cell 2AL, was opened, the occupants were handcuffed and ordered to stand to the side. Then without warning or provocation, Dept. Knox began to punch inmate Dwight Harris about the face with unbridled ferocity while shouting, “I *TOLD* you I'd fuck you up!!! I started to shout “He's in *CUFFS*!!! That's cowardly!!! When Lt. Berrian joined up with Dept. Knox in beating the heretofore mentioned inmate Harris, who mind you was handcuffed and posed no threat. Both men continued to pummel inmate Harris until his nose bled profusely. The officers did not stop until inmate Harris laid face down in a puddle of his own blood. This act of extreme cowardice was a disgrace to behold.

Id. at 10.

Inmate Joshua Francovich states that he saw deputies, including Deputy Knox, beat and assault Plaintiff on October 31, 2019, while Harris was in “handcuffed” and “innocent, ” made “no move of assault, ” and was simply expressing his concern about the other deputies destroying his legal paperwork. Id. at 11.

Inmate Brandon Antoine alleges that on October 31, 2019, he witnessed Lieutenant Berrian handcuff plaintiff during a shakedown and Lieutenant Berrian and Deputy Knox attack plaintiff for trying to confront the officers on why his legal mail was getting thrown all over the floor. Id. at 12.

Inmate Kevin Stewart states: “I watched inmate Dwight Harris get shook down but before, he was handcuffed in the front, brought out the cell. Lt. [Berrian] then started...

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