Scott v. Ohio Dep't of Rehab. & Corr., 2020-00164JD

CourtCourt of Claims of Ohio
Writing for the CourtGARY PETERSON MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Citation2022 Ohio 1596
PartiesANTHONY A. SCOTT Plaintiff v. OHIO DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION AND CORRECTION Defendant
Decision Date02 March 2022
Docket Number2020-00164JD

2022-Ohio-1596

ANTHONY A. SCOTT Plaintiff
v.

OHIO DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION AND CORRECTION Defendant

No. 2020-00164JD

Court of Claims of Ohio

March 2, 2022


Sent to S.C. Reporter 5/12/22

DECISION OF THE MAGISTRATE

GARY PETERSON MAGISTRATE JUDGE

{¶1} Plaintiff brings this action against defendant for defamation. Plaintiffs claim arises out of a conduct report wherein he was accused of being involved in a drug ring while he was an inmate at the Noble Correctional Institution (NCI). The case proceeded to trial on the issues of liability and damages.

Findings of Fact

{¶2} NCI institutional inspector Jared McGilton authored the conduct report that gives rise to plaintiffs claim. McGilton has been an investigator at NCI for 8 years and conducts administrative investigations of criminal activity at NCI. McGilton commenced an investigation concerning drug activity at NCI at the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016. Plaintiff was not the primary target of the investigation. The primary target of the investigation was moving drugs into the prison and distributing them throughout the compound. McGilton estimated that 8-12 inmates were at some point involved as suspects in the investigation.

{¶3} McGilton testified that plaintiff became a suspect after several visitors to the prison were strip-searched. McGilton explained that the searches did not prove to be successful; however, an informant stated that the drugs were passed through the fence and "Bama" in the chapel was picking them up. McGilton gathered job descriptions of offenders at NCI and determined that plaintiff, who worked in the chapel at the time, is

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originally from Alabama. McGilton asserted that he then searched mail and JPay communications at the prison and determined that plaintiff was also known as Bama.

{¶4} McGilton began watching video surveillance of offenders moving in and out of recreation and noticed that plaintiff was meeting with many of the individuals involved in the investigation. McGilton also informally spoke with staff who worked in the chapel and learned that the door at the back of the chapel was an emergency door, or a "popper-door, meaning any individual on the inside of the chapel could open the door. Immediately outside the exterior popper door of the chapel is an outdoor visitation area. The chapel and the outdoor visitation area are separated by a chain link fence. Defendant's Exhibits 4-6. McGilton determined that plaintiff had access to the emergency door and had the opportunity to retrieve a package passed through the fence. McGilton believed that plaintiff would take the package to the staff restroom in the chapel and break the drugs down to distribute throughout the institution. McGilton was aware that plaintiff's job duties did not consist of cleaning the restroom in the chapel. McGilton added that the officer's desk is located outside another door at the far-left corner of the chapel, a distance of about 40-50 feet. According to McGilton, when standing at the officer's desk, the emergency door is not visible. McGilton conceded, however, that he did not personally witness, nor does he have surveillance video of plaintiff performing any activities as described above.

{¶5} As the investigation was winding down, McGilton authored a conduct report. The conduct report provides as follows:

An investigation was opened related to multiple individuals operating an illegal drug conveyance network. The following pertains to the actions of multiple inmates, to include the main facilitators Davis A715783 D1E13 and Sweeny A514490 D2W99. Utilizing GTL phone monitoring, JPay information, and multiple confidential sources, it was discovered inmates Davis and Sweeny had been operating an illegal drugs network Inmate Sweeny would contact individuals on the outside whom would collect the
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illegal drugs to be conveyed into NCI. Inmate Branch A730735 D1E48 would assist the network by having the illegal drugs conveyed into NCI during his scheduled visits. The package of illegal drugs would be placed through the fence of outside visitation area, near the exterior door of the small chapel. Inmate Scott A679876 worked inside the chapel as a program aid. Inmate Scott aka Bama would retrieve the package of illegal drugs and hide it within the female staff restroom inside the chapel. Inmate Scott, while cleaning the area, would repack the illegal drugs and move them to the compound, splitting them among multiple individuals to distribute for profit. Inmate Scott would also distribute illegal drugs for profit and launder monies obtained from sales of illegal drugs through Cashapp. Plaintiffs Exhibit A.

{¶6} Ultimately, McGilton charged plaintiff with violations of rules 40, 45, and 60.

The charges are as follows:

Procuring or attempting to procure, unauthorized drugs, aiding, soliciting, or collaborating with another to procure unauthorized drugs or to introduce unauthorized drugs into a correctional facility; Dealing, conducting, facilitating, or participating in any transaction, occurring in whole or in part, within an institution, or involving an inmate, staff member or another for which payment of any kind is made, promised, or expected; Attempting to commit; aiding another in the commission of soliciting another to commit; or entering into an agreement with another to commit any of the above acts[.] Id.

{¶7} McGilton added that nine individuals were administratively charged for being involved in the network and that he believed his statements in the conduct report to be true when he wrote them. McGilton continues to believe the statements in the conduct report to be true. McGilton never found drugs on any of the offenders and no one was

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criminally charged because of the investigation. In McGilton's view, the evidence collected did not support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt.

{¶8} McGilton explained that after the conduct report is issued, it is sent to a hearing officer who then sends it to the Rules Infraction Board (RIB) where a hearing is held. McGilton does not sit on the RIB, but he stated that he did provide the RIB with his investigative file. McGilton testified that the RIB reviews the evidence and decides guilt. McGilton testified that the RIB relied on confidential informant statements, but he could not explain why the RIB failed to indicate that it relied on confidential informant statements. After the RIB decision, a security review is conducted by unit staff, and if an offender meets the criteria for a security change, the recommendation is sent to defendant's central office for approval or disapproval and potential placement in a different institution. McGilton added that plaintiff can also appeal the RIB ruling to the warden. McGilton is not involved in the appeal. Plaintiff's appeal was not successful. McGilton declined any involvement in plaintiff's disciplinary proceedings.

{¶9} Regarding distribution of the conduct report, the conduct report is uploaded into defendant's internal DOTS portal, a tracking system for offenders. Once the conduct report is in the portal, any employee of defendant can look up the administrative charges related to an offender. McGilton added that DOTS portal also tracks and makes a record of who accesses the files. McGilton did not show a copy of the conduct report to any inmates and inmates do not have access to DOTS portal.

{¶10} With respect to the claim in the conduct report that plaintiff would lauder money through Cashapp, McGilton testified that at the time he wrote the statement, he had information connecting plaintiff to money laundering through Cashapp. He did not know if he had a sticky note or other paperwork that supported that allegation, but the evidence for that statement is no longer in his file. McGilton conceded that the allegation may also have been intended for a different offender. McGilton explained that he used the same wording for all the conduct reports for the charged offenders and then changed

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the last part to be specific to the offender charged in that particular conduct report. McGilton testified that regardless, the rule violation charges would not have changed.

{¶11} Gary Eno has been the Chaplin at NCI since 1997. Eno recalled that plaintiff was at one point a chapel librarian for a few years....

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