United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
J. McAuliffe, United States District Judge.
Christopher (Crystal) Beaulieu, is an inmate at the New
Hampshire State Prison (“NHSP”). She has sued
eight corrections officers and two inmates, asserting claims
arising from three incidents in which Beaulieu alleges she
was assaulted. Before the court is a motion for summary
judgment filed by the eight NHSP corrections officers who are
named as defendants. Plaintiff objects.
judgment is warranted when “there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
“An issue is ‘genuine' if it can be resolved
in favor of either party, and a fact is ‘material'
if it has the potential of affecting the outcome of the
case.” Xiaoyan Tang v. Citizens Bank, N.A.,
821 F.3d 206, 215 (1st Cir. 2016)(internal quotation marks
and citations omitted); see also Commodity Futures
Trading Comm'n v. JBW Capital, LLC, 812 F.3d 98, 105
(1st Cir. 2016) (“the mere existence of some
alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat
an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment;
the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact.” (emphasis in original)
(citation and internal punctuation omitted)). At the summary
judgment stage, the court draws “all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party, but disregard[s]
conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and
unsupported speculation.” Fanning v. Fed. Trade
Comm'n, 821 F.3d 164, 170 (1st Cir. 2016) (citation
and internal punctuation omitted).
party moving for summary judgment must identify for the
district court the portions of the record that show the
absence of any genuine issue of material fact.”
Flovac, Inc. v. Airvac, Inc., 817 F.3d 849, 853 (1st
Cir. 2016) Once the moving party makes the required showing,
“the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must,
with respect to each issue on which [it] would bear the
burden of proof at trial, demonstrate that a trier of fact
could reasonably resolve that issue in [its] favor.”
Id. (citation and internal punctuation omitted).
“This demonstration must be accomplished by reference
to materials of evidentiary quality, and that evidence must
be more than ‘merely colorable.'”
Id. (citations omitted). The nonmoving party's
failure to make the requisite showing “entitles the
moving party to summary judgment.” Id.
January 2012 Incident
January 19, 2012, Beaulieu was housed on C-tier, in the NHSP
Special Housing Unit (“SHU”). Decl. of
Christopher (Crystal) Beaulieu, Aug. 2, 2016 (doc. no. 87)
(“Beaulieu Decl.”), at 1. NHSP Corrections
Officer (“CO”) Kevin Washburn and CO Jason
Whitney were on duty in the SHU control room and they were
responsible for operating the control panels that are used to
remotely open and close SHU cell doors. Id.;
Statement of Jason Whitney, Jan. 26, 2012 (doc. no. 59-15)
(“Whitney Statement”), at 16. NHSP Chef Paul
Laflamme was also in the SHU control room at that time,
socializing with Washburn. Aff. of Jason Whitney, Dec. 9,
2015 (doc. no. 59-7) (“Whitney Aff.”) at para. 8;
Beaulieu Decl. at 1; Statement of Kevin Washburn, Jan. 25,
2012 (doc. no. 59-15) (“Washburn Statement”), at
returning from a state court hearing, Beaulieu was being
escorted by CO Michael Shepley back to her cell. Officers
Washburn and Whitney were on duty in the control room.
(First) Aff. of Christopher (Crystal) Beaulieu, Aug. 2, 2016
(doc. no. 87-1) (“Beaulieu Aff. #1”), at para. 2.
As Shepley and Beaulieu approached the C-tier entrance,
Beaulieu saw inmate Rueben Ruiter outside of his cell on the
tier. Beaulieu Decl. at 1. Ruiter was a “tier worker,
” whose cleaning duties involved being outside of his
cell in the tier corridor at times. Beaulieu asked Shepley to
have Ruiter locked up before they entered the tier and it is
undisputed that Shepley radioed the control room to have
Ruiter returned to his cell. Id.; Statement of
Michael Shepley, Jan. 19, 2012 (doc. no. 59-12)
(“Shepley Statement”), at 1. Ruiter then entered
his cell and the cell door closed behind him. See
Shepley Statement, at 1. After Ruiter was secure in his cell,
Shepley escorted Beaulieu to her cell and radioed the control
room to secure the door to that cell. Id.; Aff. of
Michael Shepley, Dec. 17, 2015 (doc. no. 88-1)
(“Shepley Aff.”), at para. 6. Once the door to
Beaulieu's cell closed, she backed up to the “cuff
slot” and Shepley removed her handcuffs. Id.
Shepley then walked off the tier and, as he did so, he
radioed the control room to release Ruiter, so he could
continue his cleaning work. Id.
point thereafter, Ruiter entered Beaulieu's cell twice.
See Defs.' Mem. of Law (doc. no. 59-1), at 16.
After leaving Beaulieu's cell for the second time,
see id., Ruiter approached the end of the tier,
signaled the control room officers, and told them that the
door to Beaulieu's cell was open. The control room
officers then secured Beaulieu's door. See
Washburn Statement; Whitney Statement. Shepley has
specifically denied knowing either that Ruiter had entered
Beaulieu's cell on January 19, 2012, or that
Beaulieu's cell door had become unsecured at any time
after Shepley put her in the cell and called for the door to
be closed and secured. Shepley Aff. at paras. 4, 7. Moreover,
says Shepley, Beaulieu never signaled to him that the door
was unsecured; that if Beaulieu had done so, Shepley would
have radioed the control room to have the door locked; and
that Shepley never noticed anything wrong while he was on the
tier. Id. at paras. 6-7. Beaulieu questions
Shepley's statements and, in her declaration, she says
she believes Shepley knew her cell door was unlocked. She
bases that inference on her claim to have seen Shepley smile
as he walked by the tier with another inmate, and her claim
that Shepley did not check to make sure her cell door was
secured before walking away with that inmate. Beaulieu Decl.
at 1; see also Statement of Christopher Beaulieu,
Jan. 19, 2012 (doc. no. 59-15) (“Beaulieu
Statement”), at 6.
hours later, during the second shift, CO David Miville
noticed bruises on Beaulieu's face. Statement of David
Miville, Jan. 19, 2012 (doc. no. 59-20), at 9. Investigators
later determined that, at some point on January 19, 2012,
during the first shift, Ruiter had entered Beaulieu's
cell and hit her. See id.; Beaulieu Statement (doc.
no. 59-15) at 5. Ruiter was written up for assault and, after
a hearing, was found guilty of the lesser offense of being
“out of place.” Disciplinary Hearing Results,
Feb. 19, 2012 (doc. no. 59-20), at 13; Beaulieu Aff. #1, at
the control room officers has filed an affidavit stating that
he would not have purposefully opened Beaulieu's cell
door while another inmate was out on the tier. Aff. of Kevin
Washburn, Dec. 9, 2015 (doc. no. 59-9) (“Washburn
Aff.”), at para. 7; Whitney Aff. at para. 8. Washburn
has stated that he does not recall opening Beaulieu's
cell when Ruiter was on the tier but that, if it somehow
happened, it was accidental. Washburn Aff. at para. 7;
Washburn Statement (doc. no. 59-10). Whitney also states
that, if Beaulieu's door became unsecured, it would have
been accidental. Whitney Aff. at para. 8. Both officers state
that they did not know Ruiter had entered Beaulieu's cell
while they were in the control room, and that they were
unaware an assault had occurred at that time. Washburn Aff.
para. 4, at 2; Whitney Aff. para. 4, at 2.
August 2013 Incident
August 16, 2013, Beaulieu was housed in the NHSP Secure
Psychiatric Unit. On that date, Corrections Officers Edward
Kirrane and Aaron Belanger were escorting Beaulieu back to
her cell after an appointment. Aff. of Edward Kirrane, Dec.
15, 2015 (doc. no. 59-2) (“Kirrane Aff.”), at
para. 4; Aff. of Aaron Belanger, Dec. 4, 2015 (doc. no. 59-4)
(“Belanger Aff.”), at para. 4. In their sworn
declarations, Kirrane and Belanger state that Beaulieu
appeared agitated during the escort. Once the officers
arrived at Beaulieu's cell, Kirrane released the buckle
on the leather “belly belt” attached to
Beaulieu's handcuffs. According to the officers, before
they could close the door, Beaulieu turned quickly, while
still handcuffed, and swung the leather belt and metal buckle
toward Kirrane. Kirrane Aff., at para. 4; Belanger Aff., at
para. 4. While Beaulieu does not specifically dispute that
she swung the belt toward the officers, she previously
described that act as inadvertent, stating in an (unsworn)
Inmate Request Slip (“IRS”) that the officers
“had the door closed most [of] the way when I slipped
and hit the window [with] the buckle.” IRS, Aug. 17,
2014 (doc. no. 59-21), at 1. But, regardless of
Beaulieu's subjective intent, both officers perceived
that her conduct was intentional.
and Kirrane then went into the cell to retrieve the belt and
took Beaulieu to the floor. Kirrane Aff., at para. 4;
Belanger Aff., at para. 4. According to the officers,
Beaulieu became “resistive” and disobeyed their
orders. While Beaulieu generally denies resisting, it is
undisputed that during the struggle for the belt, she
attempted to pull the handcuffs beneath her body. Kirrane
Aff., at para. 4; Belanger Aff., at para. 4. And, at some
point during the struggle with Beaulieu, Officer Belanger
injured his shoulder. Belanger Aff. at para. 5. In an effort
to secure Beaulieu's compliance and to stop her
resistance, Belanger delivered a “knee strike” to
Beaulieu's left leg, while Beaulieu was on the floor.
Kirrane Aff., at para. 4; Belanger Aff., at para. 4. Once the
officers regained control of Beaulieu, they took back the
belt, brought Beaulieu to the cell door, and removed her
handcuffs through the tray slot. Both officers join in saying
that they used no more force against Beaulieu than was
reasonably necessary to regain possession of the belt, after
she had attempted to strike Kirrane with it. And, say the
officers, they used that modest amount of force without
malicious or sadistic intent. Kirrane Aff., at para. 5;
Belanger Aff., at para. 6.
part, Beaulieu does not offer a specific account of the
events in question. Rather, she generally denies the accuracy
of defendants' version of the relevant events surrounding
the August 2013 incident. Second Aff. of Christopher
(Crystal) Beaulieu, Aug. 2, 2016 (doc. no. 87-7)
(“Beaulieu Aff. #2”) at para. 11. She also
generally denies offering any resistance during the incident
- again, without providing any specific facts or details to
rebut defendants' version. Id., at para. 8.
Beaulieu also says the officers weighed more than she did;
they called her a “rat bitch” during the
incident; and Kirrane prevented her from blocking
Belanger's knee strike. Id., at paras. 8-9.
the incident, Beaulieu received medical attention, but only
complained of wrist pain. Statement of Aaron Belanger, Aug.
16, 2013 (doc. no. 59-5). She appears not to have complained
of pain in, or injury to, her leg where Belanger delivered
the knee strike. Beaulieu was later found guilty of the
disciplinary offense of “throwing or propelling an
object or substance at another person or which may cause
property damage.” DOC Disciplinary Log Search (doc. no.
87-9); Beaulieu Aff. #2, at para. 2.
March 2014 Incidents
Beaulieu alleges that, while she was an inmate in the Secure
Psychiatric Unit in March 2014, inmate Scott Collier harassed
her and assaulted her by spraying her with a firehose.
Beaulieu sent an Inmate Request Slip to SPU Capt. Paul
Cascio, and then filed grievances with the SPU Director and
the Commissioner's Office, in which she complained about
a number of things, including that Collier had sprayed her
with a hose. Beaulieu also complained that Collier had
acquired information about her criminal charges - a sexual