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Epperson v. Beckles

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 10, 2019

KEVIN S. EPPERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. WILFRED BECKLES, et a!., Defendants.

          Kevin S. Epperson, SCI Somerset, Somerset, Pennsylvania, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CONNOLLY, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Kevin S. Epperson ("Plaintiff'), a former inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, now housed at SCI Somerset, Somerset, Pennsylvania, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (D.I. 3) The Complaint also raises a supplemental defamation claim. Plaintiff appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma paupehs. (D.I. 6) He has filed an Amended Complaint and a motion to amend. (D.I. 5, 8) The Court proceeds to review and screen the matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b) and § 1915A(a).

         II. BACKGROUND

         On September 5, 2018, Defendant Sgt. Wilfred Beckles ("Beckles") authored a disciplinary report that Plaintiff had allegedly assaulted inmate Gary Campbell ("Campbell") in the E Building at VCC. (D.I. 3-1 at 14) The report was approved by Defendant Kevin Lorick ("Lorick"). (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Campbell was manipulated by other inmates to provide false information. (D.I. 3 at 8) Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary report for assault and Lorick concluded that the offense could be properly responded to by a disciplinary hearing. (D.I. 3-1 at 14) Plaintiff was removed from E Building to pre-hearing detention, a higher security area. (Id. at 19)

         Plaintiff was served with the notice of disciplinary hearing and pled not guilty. (DJ. 3-1 at 15) He was found not guilty at the September 12, 2018 disciplinary hearing. (Id. at 18) The rational was "No evidence of assault occurred. It is l/M's word vs another l/M's word." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that it "still looks like he is guilty because he is not allowed to be around or on the same tier as Campbell." (D.I. 3 at 10)

         Plaintiff was issued a second disciplinary report authored by Defendant Staff Lt. John Goldman ("Goldman") for giving a false alarm when Plaintiff allegedly called the PREA hotline while impersonating Campbell and starting a PREA investigation. (D.I. 3-1 at 21) Plaintiff was also charged with lying about making the telephone call to the PREA hotline and for failing to obey for committing the offenses of false alarm and lying. (D.I. 3-1 at 21) A disciplinary hearing was held on September 10, 2018, and Plaintiff was found guilty, (/of. at 22) He was sanctioned to loss of all privileges for thirty days. (Id.) He appealed and the finding of guilt was affirmed. (Id. at 23) The appeal report was reviewed by Defendant Randall Dotson ("Dotson") on September 25, 2018. (Id.)

         Plaintiff, who had been housed in E Building and transferred to B Building sought to return to E Building. (D.I. 3-1 at 2) He alleged that the investigation of the assault was illegal because it delayed him from going to the E Building program to start a program to which he had already been classified. (Id. at 10, 19) Plaintiff alleges that his counselor, Defendant DiGiangi ("DiGiangi") illegally delayed group therapy treatment after he was found not guilty of assault. (D.I. 3 at 5) Plaintiff alleges that DiGiangi told Plaintiff that he would be placed in group therapy with the Georgetown people who were transferred to the VCC. (D.I. 3-1 at 28) Plaintiff states that DiGiangi was supposed to call the transfer office and have Plaintiff return to the E Building for the next group session. (Id.) Plaintiff states that was found "not guilty," and DiGiangi is listening to hearsay and is not supposed to hold anything against him. (Id. at 32)

         Sometime between September 28, 2018, and October 15, 2018, Plaintiff was transferred from B Building to V Building. (D.I. 3-1 at 32-33) He alleges that since the transfer, Defendant Counselor Watkins ("Watkins") falsified information about Plaintiff's termination from group therapy. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he was told by two Connections' counselors that he was not terminated from group therapy and he was supposed to be moved back to E Building. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed grievances on the issue of his housing assignment, that Dotson gave an illegal decision when he affirmed the finding of guilt on September 25, 2018, and that he was supposed to be placed in group counseling. (Id. at 2-13, 17, 19-20, 24-35) In February 2019, Plaintiff was transferred to SCI Somerset in Somerset, Pennsylvania. (D.I. 12) Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to stop VCC "staff from falsifying information and documents to punish [him] from [participating in the] treatment program" while Campbell is in B Building and to stop VCC staff from defaming.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b) if "the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions). The Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his Complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).

         An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams,490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and § 1915A(b)(1), a court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or a "clearly baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual scenario. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28; see also Wilson v. Rackmill,878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); Deutsch v. United States,67 F.3d 1080, 1091-92 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding ...


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