United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael J. McShane, United States District Judge
an inmate at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution
(EOCI), filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
alleged that defendants brought false misconduct charges
against him in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment
rights. Defendants now move for summary judgment on grounds
that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies
and cannot sustain his claim on the merits. I find that
defendants' involvement in the misconduct charges against
plaintiff advanced a legitimate correctional goal, and
defendants are entitled to summary judgment.
2015, plaintiff received a favorable settlement in a case
brought against Oregon prison officials. Plaintiff alleges
that Officers Watson and Wells subsequently made sarcastic
comments about plaintiff's lawsuit and other grievances,
referred to plaintiff as “esquire” or
“legal beagle, ” and told plaintiff that he could
not “sue us for this one” after plaintiff was
given a disciplinary sanction in June 2016 for prohibited
conduct. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 14-16, 19 (ECF No.
January 3, 2017, plaintiff reported to EOCI officers that his
cellmate, Benton, had a weapon. Plaintiff also gave a note to
an officer that said, “12B knife in drawer for staff
assault.” Defs.' Ex. 1 at 1; Defs.' Ex. 2 at 21
(ECF Nos. 87, 88). Plaintiff stated that “he wanted no
part of it and that he was not going back to the cell until
it was taken care of.” Defs.' Ex. 2 at 21.
Correctional officers searched the cell and eventually found
two homemade knives - made from razor blades, a toothbrush,
and shampoo labels - in Benton's drawer. Defs.' Ex. 1
at 1. Benton and plaintiff were placed in disciplinary
segregation. Plaintiff requested that he be moved to housing
unit E-4, and plaintiff's request was granted. Watson
Decl. ¶ 9 (ECF No. 71). Benton remained in disciplinary
segregation until his disciplinary hearings.
January 4, 2017, plaintiff claims that an inmate in E-4
approached him and said, “Officer Watson told me to
tell you good job setting up your cellmate.” Compl.
¶ 22. Plaintiff claims this statement made him fearful
that Officer Watson was spreading rumors about
January 7, Officer Watson informed Inspector Troy Holman that
“something just doesn't seem right about the
incident that happened with Inmate Benton.” Defs.'
Ex. 2 at 11. Officer Watson explained:
Inmate Benston was locked up while he was at work because he
supposedly had a weapon in his cell. He cellie Inmate
Dawson…came to the Officer station and reported to
Officer Garton that his cellie had a weapon and was planning
to assault staff. So staff came and found a weapon in his
cell…and they locked up Inmate Benton while he was at
work. The weird part to me is that for the last 4 months
I've been on the 5 day on B2[.] Inmate Dawson has been
pestering me about helping him move to the East side.
Constantly asking me to email Lt. Carey to get him moved. I
kept telling Dawson to send kytes and that when he was
eligible he would probably get moved. At one point I told
Dawson he would not be getting moved to the East side and to
stop bugging me. Dawson [alluded] to the idea that if I
didn't move him he would have to come up with his own
way. (that is my opinion)…Magically after they locked
up Benton, Inmate Dawson was moved to the East side to the
unit he wanted to move to. If nothing comes of it oh well, it
just seemed a little off that this old man with no misconduct
history would suddenly want to make a weapon and assault
staff and the one who told on him is a guy with an extensive
misconduct history who is known to be manipulative.
Id. This information was forwarded to the Hearings
Officer conducting Benton's disciplinary hearing.
January 9 and 13, 2017, disciplinary hearings were conducted
regarding the charges against Benton. Defs.' Ex. 2 at 1.
Benton denied making the weapons and claimed that his drawer
had a gap, even when locked, that would allow someone to
place the knives in his drawer. Officer Watson was called as
a witness and provided several mitigating statements.
Hearings Officer had asked Officer Watson to determine
whether the drawer had a gap that would allow someone to
place the knives in the locked drawer. Id. at 12.
Ultimately, on January 13, 2017, the charges against Benton
were dismissed for insufficient evidence. Id. at
same day, Officer Wells issued a Misconduct Report charging
plaintiff with violating Possession of a Weapon I, Property
I, and Disobedience of an Order I. Defs.' Ex. 1 at 4.
Officer Wells apparently had been the Security Office for
Benton's hearing. The Report stated:
On 1-3-17 Inmate Paul Dawson…handed Officer T. Garton
a hand written note that said (12-B knife in drawer for staff
assault). A search of cell 12 bunk B was conducted by
Officers T. Garton and J. Mitchell. There were 2 weapons
found in the locked drawer of [Inmate Benton]. The two
weapons were razor blades attached to a half of toothbrush,
packaged in a small zip lock baggie with Q-tips, see attached
photos. At the time of both the information being passed to
staff and the search for the weapon, Inmate Benton was at
work in the Kitchen.
Inmate Benson was escorted to DSU and had his Administrate
Hearing today Upon the conclusion of Inmate Benson's
Administrative Hearing it was decided by Hearing Officer H.
Nevel that there was insufficient evidence to find Inmate
Benson in violation of any rule The hearing was dismissed for
During the investigation numerous documents were submitted by
staff members providing documentation that leads one to
believe that Inmate Dawson made the weapons and planted the
weapons in inmate Benson's locked drawer after he had
gone to work. He then notified staff of the weapon. It would
appear he did this for two reasons, one had didn't like
Inmate Benson and two he knew if he provided staff with intel
concerning a weapon the administration would be liable for
his safety and he would be moved to the East side of the
Institution. See memo from officer Szilagyi Assignment
There were two inmates assigned to cell 12 Inmate Dawson and
Inmate Benson. It has already been determined by an
administrative hearing [that] Inmate Benson was not the maker
or owner of the weapons. No. other inmates are allowed into a
cell except for the ones assigned to that cell.
January 24, 2017, a telephonic disciplinary hearing was
conducted regarding the allegations against plaintiff.
Id. at 1-2. Officer Wells was the Security Officer
present at plaintiff's hearing. The Hearings Officer noted
that Officer Watson had confirmed Benton's drawer had an
opening wide enough to allow ...