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Bason v. Stover

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 27, 2019




         Pro se plaintiff Corey Allen Bason (“Bason”), a state prisoner, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Ryan Stover (“Stover”), Warden Douglas Fender (“Fender”), Lake Erie Correctional Institution (“LECI”), and Core Civic (collectively, “defendants”). (Doc. No. 1.)

         For the reasons that follow, this action is dismissed.

         A. Background

         Bason is a state prisoner confined at LECI. He alleges that on February 11, 2019, it was rumored in his unit that he had engaged in a sexual act with another inmate, Jordan Neal (“Neal”). (Id. ¶ 1.) That rumor led to a fight between Neal and another inmate, “Young.”

         Defendant Stover is an institutional correctional counselor employed by defendant Core Civic, which operates LECI under contract with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. (Id. at 2-3.[1]) Bason alleges that Stover came to Bason's housing unit to handcuff Neal for fighting and announced: “That is what happens when you get caught sucking dick on the back wall.” (Id. ¶ 2.) Stover did not identify Bason by name and Bason does not allege that Stover was the source of the original rumor. But Bason claims that with Stover's statement, “all eyes turned to Plaintiff” who was embarrassed because of Neal's affiliation with the Heartless Felons gang and fearful for his safety. (Id. ¶ 3.) Bason claims that after Stover's statement, rumors of his alleged sexual conduct with Neal spread through LECI and he was fearful that the Heartless Felons would act on their dislike for gays. (Id. ¶¶ 4-6.)

         Bason contends that the rumors of his conduct with Neal were false, and he asked the unit manager, Jesse Harsin (“Harsin”) to review camera footage regarding the incident in question. According to the complaint, Harsin did so and “saw for himself” that Bason and Neal “were just standing and talking.” Bason asked Stover to make an announcement that the rumors were false, but Stover refused to do so.[2] (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) Bason claims he was involved in three unreported fights with other inmates stemming from Stover's statement. (Id. ¶ 10.) As a result of “this ongoing crisis, ” Plaintiff states that he does not feel safe at LECI. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         Bason met with Mr. Sackett (“Sackett”), Inspector of Institutional Services, who advised Bason to file an informal complaint to begin the grievance procedure, which he did. (Id. ¶ 9.) But Bason was not satisfied with the response that Stover was spoken to about the issue, stating that Stover's statement “caused massive chaos and stress in my life … and defamed my character.” Bason responded to Sackett that Stover must make another public announcement that his first statement was not true. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) Bason did not receive the relief requested and filed an appeal to the Office of the Chief Inspector, indicating that other inmates “are still to this very day talking about, questioning me, and taunting me about the announcement [Stover] made.” (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Bason's appeal was unsuccessful: “The Inspector investigated your complaint which did not yield proof to support your claim. Furthermore, there is no evidence that demonstrates any harm was done to you or that some form of action against you that would be considered egregious or continuous as outlined in AR 5120-0-04.” (Id. ¶ 17.)

         Based upon these facts, Bason assets three claims for relief. In Claim No. I, Bason claims that in violation of the Eighth Amendment, Stover acted with deliberate indifference by making an inappropriate homosexual comment in the presence of homophobic inmates and putting Bason at a substantial risk of serious physical harm. (Id. at 8.) Bason alleges that he is openly transgender and many LECI staff and inmates are homophobic. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 22.) Bason asserts that Stover's statement “created a situation that could have resulted in substantial risk of serious physical harm, or even death[, ]” and “created an atmosphere that placed Plaintiff [at] risk of imminent personal injury of other serious or irreparable harm.” (Id. ¶ 24.) In addition to violating his rights under the Eight Amendment, Bason claims that Stover's conduct was inconsistent with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (“ODRC”) policies concerning LGBTI inmates. (Id. ¶ 28.)

         In Claim No. II, Bason asserts that all defendants acted with deliberate indifference in failing to protect him from a substantial risk of harm, constituting cruel and unusual punishment. (Id. at 12.) Bason alleges that the fight between Neal and Young before Stover's statement demonstrated that “the crisis was real[, ]” but no LECI official met with him to determine if he was in imminent danger of death or serious physical harm. (Id. ¶ 31.) With respect to the three unreported fights Bason alleges took place with gang members because of Stover's statement, he claims that if defendants had protected him, he would not have been harmed[3] or threatened by other inmates. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 33.)

         In Claim No. III, Bason asserts that all defendants discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation in violation of his constitutional right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. at 13.) He alleges that the defendants “go out of their way” to protect non-gay inmates when rumors place these inmates in imminent danger of death or serious physical harm by placing them in a protective housing unit or consulting with them on how to proceed. (Id. ¶ 35.)

         For relief, Bason asks this Court to (1) declare that defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and ODRC policy concerning LGBTI inmates, (2) order defendants to transfer him to a different institution, (3) award him compensatory damages in the amount of $25, 000.00 against each defendant, and (4) award him punitive damages in the amount of $100, 000.00 against each defendant. (Id. ¶¶ 36-39.)

         B. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must review and dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Hill v. Lappin,630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that Twombly /Iqbal standard applies to review of prisoner complaints under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) for failure to state a claim). To pass this threshold review, the complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible when the complaint contains “factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the Defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The complaint must contain more than ...

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