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Holloman v. Maine

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 7, 2018

TAJUAN HOLLOMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANK MAINE and AARON GILL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          NATHANIEL M. GORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This action involves a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which plaintiff Tajuan Holloman (“Holloman” or “plaintiff”) alleges that defendants Correction Officer Frank Maine (“CO Maine”) and Sergeant Aaron Gill (“Sgt. Gill”) (collectively “defendants”) used excessive force against him while he was a pretrial detainee in violation of his rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

         The Court presided over a two-day bench trial in late November, 2018. The Court now publishes its findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a).

         I. Findings of Fact

         A. The Parties and Setting

         1. Tajuan Holloman was a pretrial detainee housed at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center (“Souza-Baranowski”), a maximum security state prison in Shirley, Massachusetts, on June 27, 2012.

         2. Souza-Baranowski houses prisoners assigned to the highest security level of the prison system, as well as pretrial detainees who have previously served time in the state penal system.

         3. Souza-Baranowski housed approximately 1, 400 inmates and employed approximately 500 Massachusetts Department of Correction (“DOC”) staff in 2012.

         4. Souza-Baranowski has approximately 365 video cameras throughout the prison facility that record 24 hours a day. The cameras typically store between 10 to 14 days of footage and can store up to a maximum of about 20 days of footage depending on the location and amount of movement recorded. The cameras automatically tape over older footage to accommodate new recordings as the hard drive reaches capacity. DOC personnel assigned to Inter Perimeter Security have the ability to download and save video recordings to an external hard drive or medium upon request but apparently there is no way to preserve video on the video recording system itself.

         5. DOC personnel with authority over inmates are organized in a paramilitary structure, i.e. a strict chain-of-command with assigned posts and responsibilities. That structure includes, in ascending order of rank, Corrections Officer (“CO”), Sergeant (“Sgt.”), Lieutenant (“Lt.”) and Captain. A Superintendent supervises the entire prison.

         6. CO Frank Maine and Sgt. Aaron Gill are correctional personnel employed by the DOC and were assigned to Souza-Baranowski on June 27, 2012.

         B. The Incident on June 27, 2012

          7. On June 25, 2012, an officer at Souza-Baranowski was stabbed and seriously injured by an inmate. Correctional staff responding to the stabbing were also assaulted and injured by inmates.

         8. As a result of that incident, Souza-Baranowski was placed on institutional lock-down by order of the Superintendent. During such a lock-down, inmates are not allowed out of their cells except for court appearances and medical visits. Inmates are not allowed showers and are fed in their cells. Correctional staff have no discretion to permit showers during a lock-down.

         9. During a lock-down, inmates with scheduled court appearances are escorted from their cell blocks to “booking” where they are processed and await transportation to court. They are escorted by a transport team that consists of at least two security staff.

         10. On June 27, 2012, Souza-Baranowski was still on lock-down. Holloman was housed on the second tier of the M2 cell block and had a court hearing scheduled for that morning. He was to be transported to Suffolk Superior Court by the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department.

         11. CO Maine and CO Anthony Basso were the two block officers assigned to M2 that morning for the 7 A.M.-3 P.M. shift.

         12. At some point in the early morning of June 27th, plaintiff requested that he be allowed to take a shower before his court appearance. That request was denied but he was advised to ask an officer on the 7 A.M.-3 P.M. shift.

         13. Later that morning, at about 8:00 A.M., CO Maine remotely opened the door to plaintiff's cell and told him to get ready for court. Plaintiff walked to the railing just outside his cell and called to CO Maine, who was located in the control station on the floor below, to request a shower. Plaintiff was dressed in a tank top and shower slippers.

         14. It is unclear why CO Maine remotely opened plaintiff's cell door at that particular time to allow plaintiff to leave his cell unaccompanied, rather than escort plaintiff from his cell to the entrance of M2 block. In any event, it was understood that plaintiff was to be escorted to “booking” to await transportation to court.

         15. CO Maine told plaintiff that no showers were allowed because of the lock-down and ordered him to return to his cell to get dressed for court. Plaintiff demanded a shower, requested to speak to a supervisor and refused to return to his cell. CO Maine ordered plaintiff to return to his cell several more times but Holloman refused to comply with those direct orders.

         16. CO Maine called the Level 2 corridor for assistance where both Sgt. Gill and Lt. Donald Ferrara (“Lt. Ferrara”) were assigned that morning. Sgt. Gill took the call from CO Maine.

         17. Sgt. Gill promptly proceeded to M2 cell block by himself and ascended the stairs to the second tier with CO Maine where they encountered plaintiff in front of his cell. Holloman again requested that he be allowed to take a shower but Sgt. Gill denied the request due to the lock-down.

         18. Sgt. Gill ordered plaintiff to get dressed and to get his legal materials together for court but Holloman refused.

         19. Sgt. Gill then ordered plaintiff to “cuff-up”, i.e. turn around and place his hands behind his back so restraints could be placed around his wrists. ...


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