Randolph v. Potter et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Paul W. Grimm on 7/20/2017. (c/m 7/21/2017 tds, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
JUAN ALEX RANDOLPH, JR., #007737
OFFICER PARSONS, I
Civil Action No. PWG-16-2739
In this Complaint,
Plaintiff Juan. Alex Randolph,
Jr. alleges that
Defendants used excessive force and failed to protect him from harm during the time he was a
pretrial detainee at the Prince George's County Detention Center. He also claims that Defendant
Parsons threatened to beat him. Defendants Potter, Parsons, Igwe, Cusseaux, and Montgomery,2
through counsel, move for dismissal of the Complaint and, alternatively for Summary Judgment.
ECF NO.7. Defendants filed the Motion without exhibits or declarations, and it will be treated as
a Motion to Dismiss. Defendants' Motion is unopposed.3 For reasons stated herein, Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
The Clerk will amend the docket to reflect Defendants Parsons and Cusseaux's last names as
they appear in the Motion to Dismiss.
2 Service was not accepted on behalf of Defendant Tolbert.
Randolph is presently confined at Patuxent Institution and is no longer a pre-trial detainee. See
(last visited July 17, 2017). After he was evaluated and
found competent to stand trial, Randolph was found guilty of first-degree rape on July 6, 2017, in
the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. Randolph was sentenced to life imprisonment with
all but 35 years suspended. See http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch/
(last visited July
Randolph alleges that on June 14, 2016, Officers Potter and Parsons placed him in "4point restraints, shackles and handcuffs" from 1:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and refused to give him
breakfast. CompI. ~ 1, ECF NO.1.
Defendants Igwe and Montgomery came on shift at 7:00 a.m.
and left the restraints on him. Randolph alleges that he passed out, and Defendants Igwe and
Montgomery took him to the medical unit for treatment.
ld. He claims that Officers Reed and
Cusseaux attacked him.4 ld. ~ 2.
Randolph also asserts that on July 11 or 12, 2016, Parsons beat him up in his cell,
injuring his head and right eye.
CompI. ~ 3.
He claims that Parsons said he was beating
Randolph up because he had been suspended for leaving Randolph in restraints.
ld. A week
later Parsons threatened to beat him and said that "this time [Randolph] wont [sic] live to tell
!d. ~ 4. Further, Randolph alleges that on July 21, 2016, Officers Cusseaux and
Tolbert forced him to come out for recreation with inmates from whom Randolph was supposed
to be kept separate. ld. ~ 5. Randolph states that inmates Miller and McPherson attacked him in
front of Cusseaux and Tolbert on the tier of the housing unit; it is unclear whether Miller and
McPherson were the ones from whom he was supposed to be kept separate.
that Officers Cusseaux and Tolbert did nothing when McPherson chased him with a weapon. ld.
~ 5. As relief, he seeks "compensation."
ld. at 3.
Defendants move for dismissal of the Complaint for failure to state a claim for which
relief may be granted, arguing Randolph's "generalized claim" that he was placed in restraints,
shackles, and handcuffs
from 1:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., without being served breakfast, is
insufficient to state a claim for excessive force against Officers Potter, Parsons, Igwe, and
The date of the attack is not legible in the Complaint.
Defendants argue that Randolph's allegations against Defendants Cusseaux and
Tolbert fail to satisfy the elements required to satisfy the constitutional standard of deliberate
Further, they argue the allegation that Officer Parsons threatened to beat
Randolph up fails to allege a constitutional violation.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for "the dismissal of a complaint if it
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237,
2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D.Md. Dec. 13,2012). This rule's purpose"
'is to test the sufficiency
of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses." Id. (quoting Presley v. City o/Charlottesville,
464 F.3d 480,483 (4th
Cir. 2006)). To that end, the Court bears in mind the requirements of Rule 8, Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), when considering
a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint must contain "a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P.
8(a)(2), and must state "a plausible claim for relief," as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice," Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678-79; see Velencia, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (discussing standard from Iqbal and Twombly).
"A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 663. In considering a Motion to Dismiss, I accept as true all of the factual allegations
contained in the Complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
I recognize that
Randolph is a pro se litigant, and have accorded the Complaint liberal construction.
v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978); Erickson, 551 U.S. 89,94 (2007) (quoting Estelle
v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)) (noting the pleadings of a pro se plaintiff are held to a "less
stringent" standard than a lawyer).
"Due process rights of a pretrial detainee are at least as great as the Eighth Amendment
protections available to the convicted prisoner." Hill v. Nicodemus, 979 F.2d 987, 991 (4th Cir.
1992) (quoting Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988) (emphasis removed)). The
inquiry with respect to the conditions alleged "is whether those conditions amount to punishment
of the detainee," because the Due Process Clause proscribes punishment of a detainee "prior to
an adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520,
535 (1979). "[N]ot every inconvenience
during pretrial detention amounts to
in the constitutional sense." Martin, 849 F.2d at 870 (citing Bell, 441 U.S. at 537).
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment "protects a pretrial detainee from
the use of excessive force that amounts to punishment," Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395
n.l 0 (1989), and is not simply "an incident of some other legitimate governmental purpose."
Bell, 441 U.S. at 538. The Supreme Court held in Kingsley v. Hendrickson that "the appropriate
standard for a pretrial detainee's excessive force claim is solely an objective one." --- U.S. ----,
135 S. Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015). It is enough that a pretrial detainee show that the "force purposely
or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable," id., regardless of an officer's state
of mind, id. at 2472 (quoted in Dilworth v. Adams, 841 F.3d 246, 255 (4th Cir. 2016); Duffv.
Potter, 665 Fed. Appx. 242, 244 (4th Cir. Nov. 3,2016)).5
Randolph's allegation that he was
5 Kingsley did not overrule cases applying a subjective standard to Eighth Amendment excessive
force claims by convicted prisoners. 135 S. Ct. at 2476; see also Davis v. White, 794 F.3d 1008,
1012 n. I (8th Cir. 2015) (noting same).
placed in restraints, shackles, and handcuffs for nearly seven hours and then he passed out is
sufficient to state a plausible claim of excessive force. Randolph's allegation that he was beaten
by Parsons and suffered head and eye injuries also states a plausible Fourteenth Amendment
claim and survives the Motion to Dismiss.
But, his allegation that Officers Reed and Cusseaux
attacked him, without any details about the alleged attack or the injuries he may have suffered, is
insufficient to state a claim, especially given that the date is illegible, such that it does not put the
defendants on notice as to when the incident occurred or what transpired.
Plaintiff will be
granted twenty-one days to amend to state a claim regarding this attack. If he fails to do so, his
claim will be subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6).
Failure to Protect
The right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment includes the right to be protected
from a substantial risk of serious harm at the hands of other inmates.
See Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825 (1994); Makdessi v. Fields, 789 F.3d 126 (4th Cir. 2015).
claim brought by a pretrial detainee constitutes a due process claim under the Fourteenth
The same standards apply as for an Eighth Amendment
claim brought by a
convicted prisoner. See, e.g., Brown v. Harris, 240 F.3d 383, 388 (4th Cir. 2001); Kamara v.
Prince George's County Dep't ofCorr., No. ELH-15-3952, 2017 WL 735549, at
12 (Feb. 24,
2017) (collecting cases).
"The Eighth Amendment's
prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishments'
certain basic duties on prison officials." Raynor v. Pugh, 817 F.3d 123, 127 (4th Cir. 2016)
(citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832).
These duties "include maintaining humane conditions of
confinement, including the provision of adequate medical care and ... 'reasonable measures to
guarantee the safety of the inmates.' " Id. (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832). But, "not every
injury suffered by a prisoner at the hands of another 'translates into constitutional liability for
prison officials responsible
for the victim's safety.'''
Makdessi, 789 F.3d at 133 (citation
omitted). "[C]orrections officers have 'a duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of
other prisoners,' for '[b ]eing violently assaulted in prison is simply not part of the penalty that
criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.'"
Raynor, 817 F.3d at 127 (citation
omitted) (alteration in Raynor).
To establish a constitutional violation, the prisoner must satisfy a two-part test, consisting
of an objective and a subjective component.
See Danser v. Stansberry, 772 F.3d 340, 346-47
(4th Cir. 2014). Objectively, the prisoner "must establish a serious deprivation of his rights in
the form of a 'serious or significant physical or emotional injury,'" id. (quoting Brown v. NC.
Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 733 (4th Cir. 2010)), or a "sufficiently
Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 34 (1993).
Subjectively, a prisoner must establish that the
prison official involved had "a sufficiently culpable state of mind" amounting to "deliberate
indifference to inmate health or safety." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. To establish a culpable state
of mind, there must be "evidence suggesting that the prison official had actual knowledge of an
excessive risk to the [inmate's or detainee's] safety."
Danser, 772 F.3d at 347. That is, there
must be evidence that prison officials were "aware of facts from which the inference could be
drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists," and that the officials drew the inference.
Raynor, 817 at 128 (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837).
Here, Randolph alleges he was compelled to go to recreation with inmates from whom he
was supposed to be kept separate.
CompI. ~ 5. He states he was attacked in front of Officers
Cusseaux and Tolbert, and the two officers did nothing when inmate McPherson chased him
with a weapon.
CompI. ~ 5. These allegations state a plausible claim for relief and survive the
Motion to Dismiss.
Plaintiff claims Officer Parsons threatened him with a second beating.
Compl. ~ 4. A
detainee or inmate cannot state a claim of assault based on verbal abuse by guards, without more.
See Collins v. Cundy, 603 F.2d 825, 827 (lOth Cir. 1979); Barney v. Pulsipher, 143 F.3d 1299,
1310 n.11 (10th Cir. 1998) (stating that mere verbal threats are not actionable under ~ 1983); see
also Carter v. Morris, 164 F.3d 215,219 n.3 (4th Cir. 1999) (characterizing use of racial epithets
as "undeniably deplorable and unprofessional behavior" but rejecting it a basis for constitutional
claim); Shabazz v. Pico, 994 F. Supp. 460, 474 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) (stating that "verbal harassment
or profanity alone, 'unaccompanied
by any injury no matter how inappropriate, unprofessional,
or reprehensible it might seem,' does not constitute the violation of any federally protected right"
under ~ 1983).
The threat alleged in this case is inexcusable, but it fall short of actions
proscribed by the Fourteenth or the Eighth Amendments. See Carter, 164 F.3d at 219 n.3;
Collins, 603 F.2d at 827; Pink v. Lester, 52 F.3d 73, 75 (4th Cir. 1995) ("[N]ot all undesirable
behavior by state actors is unconstitutional.").
Of import here, Randolph does not allege that he
was in fact attacked or harmed as a result of the threat.
Accordingly, this claim will be
I find the Complaint states plausible claims for violations of Randolph's rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment for use of excessive force and for failure to protect. Defendants' Motion
to Dismiss will be GRANTED as to the claim of a verbal threat of beating by Officer Parsons
AND will be DENIED as to Randolph's excessive force and failure to protect claims. Randolph
will have the opportunity to supplement his pleading to state a claim with regard to the alleged
attack by Officers Reed and Cusseaux, and Defendants shall file an Answer.
has not been accepted by the County Attorney for Prince Georges County for Officer Tolbert,
counsel will be directed to provide an address under seal where Officer Tolbert can be served.
The Pro Bono Coordinator shall locate a membe
this action, see 28 U.S.C.
e Maryland Bar to represent Randolph in
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