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Scheetz v. Kaemingk

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

August 12, 2016

DARYL SCHEETZ, Plaintiff,
v.
DENNIS KAEMINGK, Secretary of Corrections, in his individual and official capacity; ROBERT DOOLEY, Chief Warden and Director of Prison Operations, in his individual and official capacity; DARREN YOUNG, Warden, in his individual and official capacity; TROY PONTO, Associate Warden, in his individual and official capacity; ARTHUR ALLCOCK, Associate Warden, in his individual and official capacity; CLIFFORD FANTROY, Director of Security, in his individual and official capacity; CRYSTAL VAN VOOREN, Major Special Security, in her individual and official capacity; and HUNTER SUMMERS, Lieutenant Special Security, in his individual and official capacity, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          KAREN E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Daryl Scheetz, filed this lawsuit under to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arguing that defendants violated his constitutional rights. Docket 1. Scheetz later amended his complaint. Docket 66. Defendants moved for summary judgment and asked the court to stay discovery. Docket 73; Docket 74. The court granted the motion to stay discovery pending resolution of defendants’ renewed motion concerning qualified immunity. Docket 77. For the following reasons, defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

         In 2007, Scheetz pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to serve 15 years imprisonment. Docket 75-3 ¶ 3. On January 26, 2012, Scheetz signed a Suspended Sentence Supervision Agreement. Docket 75-8. In this agreement, Scheetz agreed to follow the rules of the Department of Corrections (DOC). Id. He also acknowledged he had been advised that violating the supervision agreement could result in his suspended sentence being imposed. Id.

         In July 2012, while Scheetz was incarcerated at Mike Durfee State Prison (MDSP), he was investigated for smuggling tobacco into the prison. Docket 41-2. While searching Scheetz’s cell, prison officials discovered a can of chewing tobacco, which is considered contraband at the prison. Docket 41-3. The next day, prison officials found eighteen more cans of chewing tobacco in Scheetz’s closet. Docket 41-4. On July 27, 2012, Scheetz was found guilty of smuggling after a disciplinary hearing. He was sentenced to ninety days in disciplinary segregation and fined $100. Docket 41-9. There was no change to his visiting privileges. Docket 51-11 ¶ 4.

         In August of 2012, Scheetz was transferred to the South Dakota State Penitentiary (SDSP). Docket 75-2 ¶ 5. After the transfer, on August 27, 2012, the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a violation report because Scheetz’s smuggling infraction violated the conditions of his parole. Docket 75-7 at 2. After Scheetz’s attorney asked for several continuances, a hearing before the parole department was scheduled for April 2013. Docket 75-4 ¶¶ 11-13.

         On April 8, 2013, the parole board dismissed the alleged violation. Docket 51-1. In his amended complaint, Scheetz alleges that defendants were aware of the parole board’s decision because it is accessible through the DOC COMS system to which the defendants had access. Docket 66 at 3. He also claims it was common knowledge at both SDSP and MDSP. Id. Ponto and Summers dispute this, averring that they did not access the information and did not even know if it was accessible. Docket 75-1 ¶ 23; Docket 75-5 ¶ 10.

         On April 17, 2013, Scheetz’s visitors were put on Class II visits, meaning the visits took place behind glass through a phone, there was no contact allowed, and only one visitor was allowed at a time. Docket 51-2; Docket 66 at 3. This was nine days after the board dismissed the parole violation allegation. Docket 51-11 ¶ 11. Between his release from the Segregated Housing Unit after he arrived at SDSP and April 2013, Scheetz had Class I visiting status. Id. ¶¶ 6, 10. Under DOC policy, “Inmates may be allowed visits with approved visitors except where there is suspicion that such visitation would jeopardize the security, safety, or the disciplined operation of an institution.” Docket 41-14 at 1.

         Defendants aver that in April 2013, SDSP staff gathered information that led them to believe that Scheetz was involved with a scheme to smuggle contraband with another inmate, Nathaniel Hayes. Docket 75-1 ¶ 6. Scheetz alleges that Hunter Summers told him the information came from a confidential informant. Docket 66 at 3. Defendants aver that the belief that Scheetz was involved stemmed from two recorded phone calls between Hayes and his girlfriend.

         According to defendants, in a recorded phone call on or about April 12, 2013, Hayes asked his girlfriend if she was “coming up, ” and she responded, “We’ll roll them and get ready to come up.” Docket 75-1 ¶ 7. Hayes said, “I told my Homie that if your guys were coming up I wasn’t going to undo it so I’ll make sure he knows that real quick.” Id. ¶ 8. In the second phone call, on or about April 15, Hayes’s girlfriend said, “We’re going to come up tonight . . . I didn’t get anything in the mail[, so] I’ll take some money out of my school fund.” Id. ¶ 9. Special security believed Hayes and his girlfriend were discussing smuggling contraband and that Hayes’s “homie” was Scheetz. Id. ¶ 10. When special security interviewed Hayes’s girlfriend, she told them Hayes was “having someone send her money[, ]” but she did not know who. Id. ¶ 13.

         Scheetz avers that he did not know Hayes and was not associated with him in any way before he was accused of smuggling with Hayes. Docket 51-11 ¶¶ 13-15. In an affidavit, Hayes avers that he had never met Scheetz before he was accused by prison security of smuggling contraband with him. Docket 51-10 ¶¶ 1, 5. Hayes also avers that he never mentioned Scheetz on a phone call from prison and never sold contraband to Scheetz. Id. ¶ 4. Finally, Hayes avers that he never received money from Scheetz for contraband or anything else and neither had anyone he knows. Id. ¶ 3.

         Scheetz filed an Informal Resolution Request on April 24, 2013, asking about his visitation status. Docket 75-11. In the request he claimed that there was “no reason for this punishment” even though prison policy requires a prison staff give him a reason in this situation. Id. After saying that there “was no reason for this change to my visits, ” Scheetz requested the restoration of his Class I visitation status. Id.

         Troy Ponto arranged a meeting with Summers to explain to Scheetz why his visits had been restricted. Docket 75-5 ¶ 4. During the meeting, Ponto attempted to discuss the smuggling investigation. Id. ¶ 5. Scheetz alleges that Summers and Ponto asked him to inform on other inmates during this meeting. Docket 66 at 4. When he refused, they told him "we'll get back to you[.]” Id. Ponto and Summers aver that, when they explained that they would not restore Scheetz’s visitation status, he became upset and refused to say anything during the meeting. Docket 75-5 ¶¶ 6-7; Docket 75-1 ¶20.

         After this meeting, in June 2013, Scheetz sent a letter to Warden Robert Dooley explaining the situation. Docket 66 at 4. During Dooley’s walk through of SDSP, Scheetz approached Dooley and asked Dooley about his visit restriction. Id. at 5. Dooley told Scheetz that he received his letter but that he would not change Scheetz’s visit status. Id. Dooley avers that, during this meeting, Scheetz did not mention that he believed defendants were retaliating against him for the dismissal of his parole violation. Docket 75-2 ¶ 7.

         In his amended complaint, Scheetz alleges that he had a chance meeting with Clifford Fantroy and asked him to look into his visit status. Docket 66 at 4. Later, Scheetz spoke to Fantroy again, and Fantroy told him that his name was not on any type of investigation at the prison and that Fantroy could not understand what was going on. Id.; see also Docket 75-14 at 2 (Scheetz claiming in a Request for Administrative Remedy that “senior staff” told him that his name had “not come up in any investigation up here”).

         Scheetz alleges that he spoke to Young about his situation, and Young told Assistant Warden Arthur Allcock to look into it. Docket 66 at 5. Allcock, however, told Scheetz in passing that Scheetz “must have done something wrong” and did not contact him further. Id.

         On September 5, 2013, Scheetz approached Dooley, Crystal Van Vooren, and Darin Young during their walk through of SDSP. Docket 75-12. Scheetz told them that he was on Class II visits and that he thought it was in retaliation for the infraction at MDSP and the dismissal of his parole violation. Id. He asked defendants to restore his visit status. Id.

         On October 2, 2013, Scheetz was notified that his children were being taken off his visitors list for not “meeting requirements.” Docket 51-3. Scheetz asked a prison official why his children were taken off his list, and he alleges he was told it was because their social security numbers had been lost by prison officials. Docket 66 at 6. After Scheetz provided the information, his children were returned to his visit list. Id.

         On October 7, 2013, in a meeting with Scheetz, Van Vooren showed him an email from Dooley that stated he would not get his visitation status back, a decision he based on “reports” about Scheetz. Docket 75-14 at 2. Scheetz claimed in a Request for Administrative Remedy that these “reports” were made by Van Vooren and “based on lies and false accusations.” Id.

         Between September and November 2013, Scheetz grieved his visitation issue through the prison administrative process. Docket 66 at 5-6. In a Request for Administrative Remedy dated October 8, 2013, Scheetz requested restoration of normal visiting privileges. Docket 75-14 at 2. In this request, Scheetz states, “It is obvious by now that this action against my family and I is a purely retaliatory decision led by Ms. Van Vooren.” Id. He also states that the email Van Vooren showed him

proves my contention, it is retaliation rather than an investigation, because had a real investigation truly been done surely I would have been cleared of any wrongdoing. Add to that the fact that senior staff has told me that my name has not come up in any investigation up here and it is very plain to see what is really going on.

Id.

         On October 21, 2013, Scheetz complained that his mother and daughter were not on his visit list. Special security responded saying that his daughter’s visitation had been restored. Docket 51-5. On December 20, 2013, Scheetz was told that Special Security would not return his mother to his visit list. Docket 51-7. On January 7, 2013, however, the prison told Scheetz that his mother was never actually removed from his visit list; she was merely on Class II visits. Docket 51-9. Prison official Steve Baker avers that the confusion was caused by the fact that Scheetz’s mother uses two different names. Docket 75-6 ¶ 11.

         On December 24, 2013, Scheetz filed a Request for Administrative Remedy, asking about his visitation status. Docket 75-16. He complained that he had “been on Class II visits since April 17, 2013[, ] on one of Ms. Van Vooren’s whims.” Id. at 2. He asked what reason Van Vooren had to keep his mother off of his visit list “unless it’s just a personal vindictive grudge.” Id. He sought a reason why he was on Class II visitation status. Id. at 3. He stated, “[I]n the last 15 months I’ve done nothing to warrant this[, ]” and that his normal visits were taken away for no reason. Id. Finally, he stated, “Look, I get it you people are mad at me for my actions in Springfield.” Id. On March 5, 2014, after Scheetz filed the current suit, he was returned to Class I visiting status. Docket 75-6 ¶ 12.

         On December 26, 2013, Scheetz filed a pro se civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Docket 1. Defendants answered, arguing that Sheetz’s visitation restriction was not due to his exercise of a constitutionally protected right. Docket 32.

         Defendants moved for summary judgment and argued that Scheetz’s claims were baseless and that he was punished because he smuggled contraband into the prison. Id. In Scheetz’s response to this motion, he spelled out clearly and for the first time that he was alleging that his punishment was in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights, specifically, defending himself in a parole hearing. Docket 49.

         Defendants’ motion for summary judgment was referred to a magistrate judge on April 23, 2015. Docket 53. The magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation that dismissed all claims except for Scheetz’s Eighth Amendment claim based on retaliatory punishment. Docket 58. In response, Scheetz requested leave to amend his complaint. Docket 62. The ...


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