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Garcia v. Lewis

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

April 23, 2014

JOSE FRANCISCO GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
NEHEMIA LEWIS, ANDREW SWAN and GREGORY CHAPPELL, in their official and individual capacities, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 59). This matter was submitted for consideration without oral argument. The Court has reviewed the briefing and the record and files herein, and is fully informed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, an inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 for violations of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments arising from an altercation between Plaintiff and three corrections officers. In the instant motion, Defendants assert that Plaintiff's claims are barred under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), because Plaintiff was convicted of custodial assault in connection with the altercation. Defendants also seek dismissal of Plaintiff's claims on qualified immunity grounds. For the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's claims are Heck -barred and must be dismissed.

FACTS

Plaintiff Jose Francisco Garcia ("Plaintiff") is an inmate presently housed at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington. On May 20, 2012, while being held at the Yakima County Jail as a pretrial detainee, Plaintiff was involved in an altercation with several corrections officers. The parties' accounts of the altercation differ substantially.

Plaintiff alleges that the incident began when he summoned for emergency medical assistance using a call button inside his cell. Defendants Nehemia Lewis[1] and Andrew Swan responded approximately five to ten minutes later. Defendant Gregory Chapell unlocked the door to Plaintiff's cell from a control station down the hall. Defendant Lewis then opened the cell door cell, forced his way inside, and immediately began punching Plaintiff in the face and torso. Defendant Swan entered shortly thereafter and proceeded to spray Plaintiff in the face with pepper spray. Defendant Swan also shocked Plaintiff with his taser, firing the weapon's probes into Plaintiff's left arm. Defendants and other officers continued to assault Plaintiff for an unspecified amount of time before eventually restraining him in handcuffs.

According to Defendants, the incident began when Plaintiff asked an officer making his scheduled rounds to speak with Defendant Lewis. A few minutes after being notified of the request, Defendant Lewis approached the front of Plaintiff's cell. Defendant Lewis attempted to speak with Plaintiff through the closed door, but could not hear what Plaintiff was saying. Defendant Lewis motioned to Defendant Chappell to unlock the door. Defendant Lewis then opened the door and asked Plaintiff what he needed. Plaintiff responded, "You wanna go?" Defendant Lewis asked Plaintiff to clarify what he meant. Plaintiff said something about corrections officers "messing with" his brother. He again asked Defendant Lewis, "You wanna go?"

Almost immediately, Plaintiff stepped toward the door and began throwing punches at Defendant Lewis. Defendant Lewis managed to block the first few punches and pushed Plaintiff back inside the cell. Plaintiff continued to throw punches. Defendant Lewis punched back at Plaintiff and eventually managed to wrestle him to the floor. Defendant Swan, who had by that time entered the cell to provide assistance, drew his taser and fired it at Plaintiff in dart mode. At about the same time, corrections officer Garret Goettsch[2] sprayed Plaintiff with pepper spray. Plaintiff continued to struggle and refused repeated orders to put his hands behind his back. Defendant Swan then activated his taser for an additional five seconds. At that point, Plaintiff relented and allowed himself to be handcuffed. Plaintiff was subsequently examined by medical staff and was found to have sustained no serious injuries.

On June 4, 2012, Plaintiff was charged with felony custodial assault by the Yakima County Prosecutor's Office. The case proceeded to trial on February 4, 2013. This trial ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Plaintiff was tried for a second time on March 13, 2013, and was found guilty of custodial assault. Plaintiff was subsequently sentenced to a prison term of sixty (60) months. To date, his conviction has not been overturned or invalidated.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment may be granted to a moving party who demonstrates "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to identify specific genuine issues of material fact which must be decided by a jury. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Id. at 252.

For purposes of summary judgment, a fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. at 248. A dispute concerning any such fact is "genuine" only where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party. Id. In ruling upon a summary judgment motion, a court must construe the facts, as well as all rational inferences therefrom, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). ...


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