United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court is the United States Magistrate Judge's
Report and Recommendation (Doc. 33) pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Report and Recommendation
addresses the Motion to Stay (Doc. 22), filed by Defendants
Major Craig White, Sergeant Willie Washington, Captain John
Wells, Colonel Allen Verret, Captain Billy Verret, Lieutenant
Jarod Verret, and Lieutenant Troy Rogers. The Motion to Stay
is opposed by Plaintiff, Darvin Castro Santos. (Doc. 23).
Neither party objected to the Report and Recommendation.
Magistrate Judge recommended that Defendants' Motion to
Stay be granted and the matter stayed until resolution of the
related criminal proceeding pending in state court. (Doc. 33
at p. 2). The Magistrate Judge further recommended that the
Clerk of Court close the above-captioned civil case for
administrative and statistical purposes, pending further
order from the Court. (Id.). For the reasons that
follow, the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
an inmate at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, filed
this action on September 10, 2016, for injuries sustained by
him as a result of alleged excessive force and failure to
intervene in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as
Louisiana state law. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that on
January 28, 2016, while he was an inmate at Elayn Hunt
Correctional Center, he witnessed six guards (the Defendants)
beating another inmate, Charlie Morris. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 7).
Plaintiff claims that when he told the Defendants to stop,
the Defendants jumped on him and started hitting and kicking
him. (Id.). According to Plaintiff, Col. Verret
grabbed him by the throat and choked him while Capt. Verret,
Lt. Verret, Major White, and Capt. Wells hit him with their
fists and radios and forcefully restrained him with
handcuffs. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 8-9). Plaintiff claims
that Defendants dragged him from D Tier Fox 6 to Beaver 2-C
unit, “while hitting him and banging his head on the
poles in the walkway.” (Id. at ¶ 10).
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants threw him against two metal
doors and beat him a second time as Defendants continued to
drag him to Beaver 2-C Tier unit. (Id.).
asserts that once they arrived at Beaver 2-C Tier, he was
placed in the shower by Lt. Rogers. (Id.). After an
extended period of time, Plaintiff asserts that Capt. Wells
and Sgt. Washington ordered him to “come to the bars,
” at which point Capt. Wells sprayed him in the face
with pepper spray while making racially charged statements.
(Id. at ¶¶ 11-16). Plaintiff alleges that
Sgt. Washington subsequently removed his handcuffs and leg
irons, after which Capt. Wells ordered him to remove his
clothing. (Id.). Plaintiff claims that after he
complied with the orders and removed his clothing, Capt.
Wells sprayed his genitals and anus with pepper spray.
(Id. at ¶¶ 17-20). Plaintiff asserts that
he immediately rushed toward the shower faucet to “stop
the burning, ” but Capt. Wells ordered him to turn the
shower off. (Id.). Capt. Wells allegedly then gave
him a jumpsuit. (Id.). After Plaintiff put the
jumpsuit on, Capt. Wells allegedly ordered Sgt. Washington to
put Plaintiff back in the handcuffs and leg irons.
(Id.). Plaintiff claims that he was then escorted by
Capt. Wells and Lt. Rogers to an area between Beaver 1 and
Beaver 2 units, where Capt. Wells allegedly pulled out a
folded knife and threatened to kill him. (Id. at
¶¶ 26-26). Plaintiff alleges that Capt. Wells cut
his hand with the knife and that Lt. Rogers subsequently
drove him to the diagnostic center, where EMT's cleaned
his face but refused to stitch his hand or face, “in
order to keep the injuries off the record to help hide the
fact that [Plaintiff] had been beaten.” (Id.
at ¶¶ 31-32). Although several investigators took
pictures of Plaintiff's physical condition, Plaintiff
claims that he never received pain medication or antibiotics
for his injuries. (Id.). After the incident,
Plaintiff claims that he was placed “in the
Dungeon” for seven days without a shower, until he was
transferred to Angola on February 17, 2016. (Id. at
1, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion to Stay Proceedings,
asserting that Plaintiff has been charged with five (5)
counts of Battery of a Correctional Employee, La. R.S.
14:34.5, arising out of the January 28, 2016, incident that
forms the basis of Plaintiff's Complaint in this matter.
(Doc. 22 at ¶ 3). Defendants claim that the criminal
charges are currently pending in the Eighteenth Judicial
District Court, Parish of Iberville, State of Louisiana.
(Id. at ¶ 3, n. 3). Defendants contend that if
Plaintiff is ultimately convicted of these criminal charges,
Plaintiff's claims of excessive use of force will be
barred by the Heck doctrine,  which prohibits
civil rights actions that would necessarily imply the
invalidity of Plaintiffs criminal conviction. (Id.
at ¶ 4). As such, Defendants seek a stay of these
proceedings until a final determination is reached as to the
criminal charges currently pending against Plaintiff in state
Motion to Stay
originally opposed the Motion to Stay on the basis that
Defendants have not provided “[a] Bill of Information,
indictment or affidavit of probable cause . . . to prove any
overlap in this case with a criminal proceeding.” (Doc.
23 at p. 2). Plaintiff argues that even if he is convicted of
a battery charge, if Defendants used excessive or unnecessary
force after Plaintiffs alleged attack on Defendants, any
claims for excessive force used after that point would not be
barred by Heck. (Id. at pp. 1-2).
the Defendants did not provide sufficient information for the
Court to determine whether the criminal charges pending
against Plaintiff arise out of the same incident that forms
the basis of Plaintiffs Complaint, the Magistrate Judge
issued a Notice and Order on July 3, 2017, ordering
Defendants to file the charging document(s) related to the
criminal charges pending against Plaintiff. (Doc. 27).
6, 2017, Defendants filed a Notice of Compliance, (Doc. 28)
which includes a copy of the Bill of Information filed on May
25, 2016, by an assistant district attorney (Doc. 28-1) and a
Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Motion to Stay
Proceedings (the “Supplemental Memorandum”).
(Doc. 28-2). The Bill of Information states that on January
28, 2016, Plaintiff committed a battery on “Capt.
Verrett” by hitting him with a closed fist, Plaintiff
committed a battery upon Lt. Martel and Sgt.
Collins by spitting blood in their faces, and
Plaintiff committed a battery upon Major White and
“Col. Verrett” by spitting on them. (Doc. 28-1 at p.
2). In the Supplemental Memorandum, Defendants argue that
Plaintiffs criminal charges are “due to Plaintiffs
actions in the incident on January 28, 2016, that forms the
basis of Plaintiffs Complaint.” (Doc. 28-2 at
p. 1). Defendants assert that, “[t]he crucial aspect of
these criminal charges set forth in the Bill of Information
regards the striking of Capt. Verret with a closed
fist” and the fact that “Plaintiff makes no
factual allegations that he struck Capt. Verret with a closed
fist at any time during this incident, for self-defense or
otherwise.” (Doc. 28-2 at p. 2).
response, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants have failed to
show any factual overlap between the allegations in the
Complaint and the criminal charges in the Bill of
Information. (Doc. 29). Plaintiff points out that while the
Bill of Information states that the offenses occurred on
January 28, 2016, there is no indication as to whether the
offenses occurred before, during or after the officers
allegedly used excessive force against Plaintiff.
(Id.). Because the Complaint alleges that Capt.
Verret began hitting Plaintiff after Plaintiff was
handcuffed, Plaintiff asserts that the only time he could
have hit Capt. Verret was before Plaintiff was placed in
handcuffs. (Doc. 29 at pp. 1-2) (citing Doc. 1 at
¶¶ 8-12). Thus, Plaintiff argues that if he did hit
Capt. Verret, Capt. Verret's use of excessive force was
likely retaliatory and Plaintiff's conviction for battery
of an officer would not necessarily be invalidated if
Plaintiff is successful on his excessive force claim.
(Id.). Plaintiff makes the same arguments with
respect to Major White and Col. Verret, and asserts that the
remaining Defendants, Capt. John Wells, Sgt. Willie
Washington, Lt. Jarod Verret and Lt. Troy Rogers, have made
no showing that they are entitled to a stay of these
proceedings under Heck. (Id.).
APPLICABLE LAW AND ANALYSIS
Heck v. Humphrey, the Supreme Court held that,
“when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983
suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in
favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity
of his conviction or sentence.” 512 U.S. 477, 487
(1994). The Supreme Court further held, “[I]f it would,
the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can
demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been
invalidated.” Id. Thus, “A § 1983
claim which falls under the rule in Heck is legally
frivolous unless the conviction or sentence at issue has been
reversed, expunged, invalidated, or otherwise called into
question.” Hamilton v. Lyons, 74 F.3d 99, 102
(5th Cir. 1996) (citing Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d
279, 283 (5th Cir. 1994)). Further, “[T]he
Heck rule applies only when there has been a
conviction or ...