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Knope v. Capps

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 7, 2019

JAMES MICHEAL KNOPE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOE E. CAPPS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN JELDERKS, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pro se Plaintiff Knope, an inmate at the Snake River Correctional Institute (SRCI), brings this civil rights action against SRCI Hearings Officers Joe Capps and Amy Breen[1]; Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) Inspector General, Craig Prins; and ODOC Assistant Inspector General, Melissa Nofziger. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his right to due process during two separate prison disciplinary cases.

         Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed his Response and untimely filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. He subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration of the Order disallowing the filing of the untimely motion. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted and Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration is denied.

         Background

         In a misconduct report dated March 18, 2016, Inspector Blackletter stated that the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) had received information that Plaintiff was involved in the selling and distribution of methamphetamines at SRCI in Complex 2 and Complex 3. (Capps Decl. Att. 3, p. 5). The report alleged that Plaintiff received narcotics and passed them on to another inmate who, in turn, distributed the drugs to other inmates. (Id.).

         Plaintiff was charged with violating ODOC Rule 1.10 (Contraband I), Rule 1.15 (Drug Possession), Rule 4.10 (Distribution I), and Rule 4.35 (Racketeering). (Id.).

         Defendant Hearings Officer Capps opened Disciplinary Case Number 1603-SRCI-0085-SRCI-17A on March 24, 2016. (Capps Decl. ¶ 11). A hearing was held on March 25, 2016. Plaintiff attended and testified. (Capps Decl. Att. 3, p. 14-34). The hearing was recessed in order for Capps to review the evidence. On March 28, 2016, Capps dismissed the charges without prejudice because it appeared the investigation was not complete. (Id. Att. 4, p. 9).

         On April 18, 2016, Capps opened Disciplinary Case Number 1601-SRCI-0172-SRCI-17, a rewrite of the Disciplinary Case he dismissed on March 28th. (Id.) Capps heard additional testimony from Plaintiff and reviewed evidence including misconduct reports and statements from confidential informants. (Capps Decl. Att. 4 and Att. 5).[2]

         During the course of the two hearings Plaintiff asked to call four witnesses: Inmate Michael Lay, Tami Mason-Liebenthal, Inmate Dillon Reedy and Inmate Michael Gillette. (Capps Decl. Att. 3, Att. 4). Capps denied Plaintiff's requests. Capps declined to call Inmate Lay because he had already received a statement from him. (Id. Att. 4., p. 26) He denied Plaintiff's request to call Ms. Mason-Liebenthal, who had allegedly passed on methamphetamines to Plaintiff during her visits to him. Capps explained that her testimony would be unproductive and irrelevant as she would be unlikely to admit to bringing drugs into prison and her credibility had no bearing on the proceedings. (Capps Decl. Att. 4, p. 27). Capps declined to call Inmates Reedy and Gillette regarding the number and results of urinalysis tests administered in Complex 2 because he questioned how they would “know anything about who got hot UAs.” (Caps. Decl. Att. 4, p. 28).

         In his Findings of Fact, Conclusion and Order, Capps dismissed the Racketeering and Contraband I charges and found Plaintiff in violation of Rule 1.15 (Drug Possession) and Rule 4.10 (Distribution I) for conspiring to possess and distribute drugs. (Capps Decl. Att. 4). Capps explained that There is no physical evidence that Inmate Knope received drugs or that any money or property were exchanged involving inmate Knope, however, the confidential information provided indicates Inmate Knope was able to orchestrate the meth getting from complex 2 to complex 3. (Capps. Decl. Att. 4, p.10).

         After Plaintiff sought administrative review, the Inspector General's office reviewed the hearing. In a letter dated July 5, 2016, Defendant Inspector General Prins concluded that Capps had acted in substantial compliance with ODOC's rules and that his findings were based on a preponderance of the evidence. (Capps. Decl. ¶22, Ex. 4, p. 1).

         In a Misconduct Report dated September 6, 2016, Lieutenant C. Anderson wrote that he had begun an investigation on August 15, 2016 into allegations that Knope “had utilized his position as the Leader of the Insane Peckerwood Syndicate (IPS)to order another inmate to be assaulted on the Complex 1 Yard.” (Breen Decl. Att. 3, pg. 17). He reported that information had been obtained that Plaintiff ordered the assault because of his belief that the inmate had provided information to security staff regarding his earlier misconduct report for distribution. (Id.). Plaintiff was charged with violations of Rule 4.45 (Unauthorized Organization I), Rule 2.05 (Inmate Assault I), and Rule 2.10 (Disrespect I). (Id.).

         On September 14, 2016, Defendant Hearings Officer Breen opened Disciplilnary Case Number 1608-SRCI-0148-SRCU-34. (Breen Decl. ¶11). Breen recessed the hearing to review evidence and reopened the hearing on September 22, 2016. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13, Att. 3, p. 12).

         Breen heard testimony from Plaintiff, and reviewed Lt. Anderson's report and information provided in confidential informant statements. In her Findings of Fact, Conclusion and Order, Breen asserted that “[e]ach of the CI's made verbatim statements regarding Inmate Knope's actions in ordering Inmate Johnson to assault Inmate Johansen. The CI's were determined to be believable.” (Breen Decl. Att. 3 and Att. 4).[3]

         During the hearing Breen denied Plaintiff's request to call as a witness Inmate Johnson, who carried out the assault. Breen stated on the record that she was not going to call Johnson as a witness because she wouldn't be able to share his testimony with Plaintiff and it would likely create a threat to the safety, security and orderly operation of the prison. (Id. Att. 3, p. 28).

         Breen dismissed the Disrespect I charge due to insufficient evidence but found Plaintiff in violation of Rule 4.45 (Unauthorized Organization I) and Rule 2.05 (Inmate Assault I). (Id. Att. 3. P. 13).

         After Plaintiff sought administrative review, the Inspector General's office reviewed the hearing. In a letter dated January 4, 2017, Defendant Assistant Inspector General Nofziger concluded that Breen had acted in substantial compliance with ODOC's rules and that her findings were based on a preponderance of the evidence. (Id. p. 1).

         Evaluating Motions ...


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