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Fuller v. Gates

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division

January 12, 2015

CAPT. JIM GATES, et. al., Defendants

DeLano Renee Fuller, Plaintiff, Pro se, Elmore, Al.



Plaintiff, Delano Renee Fuller (" Plaintiff"), has filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging rights, privileges, or immunities afforded him under the Constitution or laws of the United States were abridged during his incarceration at Hamilton A& I Correctional Facility (" HAI") in Hamilton, Alabama.[1] (Doc. 1-1).[2] Plaintiff names as defendants the following individuals and entities: HAI corrections officials Captain Jim Gates, Lt. Terry Tucker, Sgt. Smith, [3] " COI" Randy Barnes, " COI" Jonathon Stidham, and " COI" Ronnie Hall; Platinum Homes Trailer Plant and its plant manager (Eugene), supervisor (Jammie), " lead person" (Tony) and human resource manager (Sheila); [4] and Lamb Motors and Dwight Lamb. Plaintiff seeks injunctive and monetary relief. On March 21, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint. (Doc. 12). In accordance with the usual practices of this court and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Plaintiff's complaint was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a preliminary report and recommendation. See McCarthy v. Bronson, 500 U.S. 136, 111 S.Ct. 1737, 114 L.Ed.2d 194 (1991).

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Pub. L. No. 104-134, § 804, 110 Stat. 1321, and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, requires this court to screen complaints filed by prisoners against officers or employees of governmental entities and to dismiss a complaint or any portion of a complaint it finds frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Thus, under § 1915A the court may sua sponte dismiss a prisoner's complaint prior to service. Nevertheless, to protect a pro se prisoner's right of access to the courts these complaints are read by less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); Harmon v. Berry, 728 F.2d 1407, 1409 (11th Cir. 1984); Watson v. Ault, 525 F.2d 886, 891 (5th Cir. 1976).


Since he " ha[s] not previously amended [his] complaint and [Defendants] ha[ve] not filed a responsive pleading, " Plaintiff " could have amended [his] complaint as a matter of course" pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a). Coventry First, LLC v. McCarty, 605 F.3d 865, 869 (11th Cir. 2010). Although leave of court was not required to file an amended complaint, it is within the court's discretion to rule upon the motion to amend the complaint. (Id.). In light of the less stringent standards applied to pro se prisoner pleadings, it is recommended that the motion (Doc. 12) be GRANTED. Herein, the undersigned shall consider the claims and allegations made in both the complaint and amended complaint.


Plaintiff contends the job placement board at HAI is governed by Lt. Tucker and Officer Hall. (Doc. 1-1 at 5). After his arrival at HAI on March 26, 2013, Plaintiff constantly asked Lt. Tucker and Officer Hall about getting a day labor job and wrote request slips to Captain Gates " pleading for a job." (Id.). Plaintiff contends two Caucasian inmates who arrived on the same day he did, Brandon Croy and Ryan Kotlic, were sent to work at Platinum Homes and FMI, the latter of which is a fireplace manufacturing plant. (Id.). He also alleges many other white inmates who came to the facility after March 26, 2013, " went to work before [he] did." (Id.).

Plaintiff claims Lt. Tucker and Officer Hall distributed jobs to Caucasian inmates and the majority of the African-American inmates were " overlooked or sent on day labor (slave labor) jobs if the . . . Pilgrim's Pride" chicken plant, where 97% of the African-American inmates worked, did not have any openings. (Id.). He claims Lt. Tucker and Officer Hall did not place African-American inmates " on jobs at Kinro Windows, Pl[atinum] Trail[e]r Plant, [or] Lamb's Motors." (Id. at 7). He asserts " there's one black parolee [(Richard Pyles)] at Lamb's Motors, and 3 white inmates"; " [a]t Kinro's, there is only [one] black inmate [(Michael Washington)] . . . [and] ten white inmates, or more"; and " Benny Hamilton is the only black inmate at Platinum Homes . . . with 13 or more white inmates[.]" (Id.).

Plaintiff was " insulted" by the job board's distribution tactics, and after he had been at HAI for two months without getting a job, he spoke out in the cafeteria and asked Lt. Tucker, " What kind of work-release is this; a boot-leg work release?" . (Id. at 10). Lt. Tucker then dismissed the inmates from the chow hall (where the placement office is also located) and took Plaintiff into his office with Officer Hall. (Id.). Lt. Tucker asked Plaintiff if he " knew what they did to smart a-s punks" like him. (Id.). When Plaintiff responded he was not a smart a-s punk and was fifty-four years old, Officer Black[6] burst into the room. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges tempers flared and Lt. Tucker stated he should " knock the s--t out of ya'll and beat you're a-ses." (Id.).[7] Three times Officer Hall " aggressively" asked Plaintiff, " 'You are out there running your mouth at the Lieutenant?'" (Id.). Plaintiff answered back three times, " No!!! I was asking for a job!!!" (Id.). Lt. Tucker told Plaintiff he " better be glad" because Lt. Tucker thought Plaintiff " was one of those young punks with [his] pants falling off." (Id. at 11). Plaintiff considered this to be a racial insult. Lt. Tucker then instructed Plaintiff if he wanted something from him to " pull him to the side and not address him in from of the other inmates." (Id.). Lt. Tucker then told Plaintiff to " get out of here." (Id.).

An hour and a half later Plaintiff was called to the shift office and given a day labor job " with a mean old white man" moving furniture and clothing for two days at $80.00 per day. (Id.). Thereafter, he continued to go to the job placement office almost every day asking for work. (Id.). " After about a month of persist[ence] and Officer Hall lying con[s]tantly about giving [him] a job" while " lining up the best jobs for white inmates, " on the first week of June, Plaintiff was sent to take a physical exam at Platinum Homes, " one of or the most prestigious jobs among the inmates, " along with Caucasian inmates Michael Rainey and Joshua Moreland. (Id. at 12). He was hired, but on the morning of his third day of work an employee named Tony approached Plaintiff as Plaintiff was assembling bathroom sinks and told Plaintiff " Eugene told him to tell [Plaintiff] to go outside because" the prison van was there to pick [Plaintiff] up. (Id.).

Plaintiff asked what was wrong, and Tony told Plaintiff " Jammie[, ] one of the supervisors, told him that Eugene the plant manager had hired too many when they hired [Plaintiff] and the two young white inmates." (Id. at 13). Plaintiff rushed about the plant to find out what was happening, but Sheila, the human resources employee, left her office when she saw Plaintiff approaching. (Id.). Plaintiff immediately went toward the break room and saw Eugene and Sheila talking. (Id.). Plaintiff explained what he had been told. (Id.). According to Plaintiff, Eugene acted nervous, as if he were scared of Plaintiff because of his race. (Id.). Eugene responded that the reason he was letting Plaintiff go was not because he had hired too many employees but because Plaintiff was not keeping up with production. (Id.). Plaintiff states this explanation is not possible because he is extremely physically fit, more so than the two inmates hired at the same time he was. (Id. at 13-14). Eugene simply responded he might be wrong but he had a " gut feeling and . . . had to let [Plaintiff go.]" (Id. at 14).

When he got back to the prison, Plaintiff was relieved to discover he was not in trouble for being terminated and acted as if he were confused about the matter when speaking with Lt. Tucker. (Id.). Lt. Tucker then stated he was going to tell Plaintiff the truth and informed Plaintiff he was " fired from Platinum Homes . . . because someone out there in the . . . plant heard [him] making racial comments about Platinum Homes not hiring no black people or black inmates." (Id. at 15). Plaintiff denies he ever made such a statement but also asserts the statement is true. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges he was " racially discriminated against and fired for no other legitimate reason and lied and conspired against by Eugene, Tony, Jammie, Sheila[, ] Lt. Tucker and Officer Hall, " who acted " as if [Plaintiff] was the culprit of racism" when all he wanted was a job. (Id.).

Plaintiff began working at Lamb Motors on June 22, 2013. (Id. at 5). He claims Lt. Tucker and Officer Hall did not " willfully place[]" him on the job, but rather he received the assignment because inmate Richard Pyles, an African-American who also worked at Lamb Motors, requested it. (Id. at 5-6). Plaintiff declares that during the first week he was employed at Lamb Motors he overheard Officer Stidham murmur to Lt. Tucker, asking how Plaintiff got the job, and Lt. Tucker responded Pyles had requested it. (Id. at 17).

On the evening of August 27, 2013, Plaintiff was called to clean debris left from a car accident on " Interstate 22." (Id. at 5). Thereafter, Plaintiff was accused of taking personal items (a ring and necklace) belonging to the accident victims. (Id.). Plaintiff asserts he knew he was being watched and denies taking anything from the accident scene. (Id.). After the job was completed, Plaintiff admits " he retrieved the ring and necklace" in his work area at the back of Lamb Motors and fellow inmate Charles Crabtree saw him put the jewelry in his socks as they were being transported back to the prison by a Lamb Motors' security officer. (Id. at 18).

Plaintiff asserts he " did not think [Crabtree] was going to tell on" him. (Id.). But Crabtree did inform the shift officers that Plaintiff had stolen jewelry from the scene of the accident. (Id.). Plaintiff denies he took the jewelry from the accident. (Id.). Instead, he asserts the jewelry was among " many valuables" he " found" at Lamb Motors during the three months he " washed, cleaned, and . . . detailed cars in the direct sun and heat . . . without an inkling of shade." (Id.). Plaintiff states that " anytime Mr. Lamb or Brian [the salesman] did not want anything taken from a vehicle[, ] they made it known[.]" (Id. at 19).

In any event, corrections officers shook down Plaintiff's bed area looking for the jewelry that night. (Id. at 6). They found nothing. (Id.). When Plaintiff was called to go to work the next morning, another officer intercepted him, and his bed area was shaken down again. (Id.). Nothing was found. (Id ). Plaintiff was then taken to the shift office and sat there for two hours, which caused him to miss work. (Id.). The next morning Plaintiff's bed area was shaken down for the third time. (Id.). On this occasion Officer Stidham and another officer conducted the search. (Id.). The ring and necklace were found in a box containing the addresses of Plaintiff's " sister's Pastor" and a " friend." (Id. at 7). Plaintiff asserts he was using " the two addresses in a kite mail fashion to attempt to mail the ring and necklace out" of HAI because he had never seen as much racism in his fifty-four years--twenty-three of which he has spent incarcerated--as he had at HAI. (Id. at 8).

Plaintiff alleges " [Lt.] Tucker immediately took [him] off [the] job, " even though Mr. Lamb did not accuse him of stealing anything from the vehicle and no one had claimed the ring or necklace. (Id. at 19). Plaintiff asked Capt. Gates in front of Sgt. Smith if he could speak with Mr. Lamb, but Capt. Gates refused and informed Plaintiff if he tried to get in touch with Mr. Lamb he would receive a disciplinary charge. (Id.).

On August 30, 2013, Plaintiff was charged with violating " Rule 509[, ] possession of state and or other's property, " with regard to the confiscated ring and necklace. (Id.). Officer Barnes was the hearing officer at the disciplinary hearing that took place on September 8, 2013. (Id. at 19-20). The statement of charges Officer Barnes read against Plaintiff made it sound as if Plaintiff was caught during a routine shakedown trying to smuggle jewelry. (Id. at 20). Officer Barnes refused to ask five of the eight questions Plaintiff submitted to be asked to Officer Stidham. (Id.). Officer Barnes also threatened to remove Plaintiff from the room after telling Plaintiff to shut up several times. (Id.). Finally, Officer Barnes did remove Plaintiff from the room, and the hearing was conducted outside of his presence. (Id.).

Plaintiff asked to appeal from the disciplinary hearing, but Officer Barnes told him that was not done at HAI. (Id.). On September 9, 2013, Plaintiff went to disciplinary court, a guilty verdict was entered, and Plaintiff suffered a loss of privileges. (Id.). The next day he received a final copy of the disciplinary report. (Id.). When he noticed his questions were not contained in the report, he requested and received a copy of his questions. (Id. at 20-21). The copy of his questions showed Officer Barnes deemed only three of Plaintiff's questions relevant, but Plaintiff does not state what those questions or the answers to them were. (Id. at 21). Plaintiff was told he would have to seek free world remedies if he wanted to protest the disciplinary infraction. Plaintiff alleges his disciplinary hearing was inadequate and unprofessional. (Id.).

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that after he was caught with the jewelry " [Lt.] Tucker immediately took [his] job at Lamb's Motors and gave it to (white inmate) David Dotson." (Id. at 7). He declares Caucasian inmates Jerry Thomas and Larry Norrell were both found to be in possession of synthetic marijuana, which he contends is illegal and considered prison contraband, but they were not given a disciplinary charge or removed from their jobs. (Id. at 7-8). Moreover, Caucasian inmate Charles Crabtree was caught with cell phones and ...

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