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Tinsley v. Main

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 28, 2019

RUSSELL TINSLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
MERRILL MAIN, PH.D., STU CLINICAL DIRECTOR, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          MADELINE COX ARLEO, U.S.D.J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter having been opened to the Court by two separate motions for summary judgment. The first motion for summary judgment is brought by Defendants Merrill Main, Ph.D., R. Van Pelt, and Christopher Beaumount, Ph.D. ("the DHS Defendants") (ECF No. 137), and purportedly seeks summary judgment on Plaintiffs First Amendment retaliation claims as to all DHS Defendants. The DHS Defendants' motion, however, squarely addresses only the retaliation claims arising from Plaintiffs publication of a book and his promotion of a website, which are pending against Defendant Van Pelt.[1] The second motion for summary judgment is brought by Defendant Sherry Yates and seeks summary judgment and dismissal of the Complaint against her. (ECF No. 170.) For the reasons explained in this Opinion, the Court will grant summary judgment as to Defendants Van Pelt and Yates. Because the DHS Defendants have not properly moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs First Amendment retaliation claims against Main and Beaumount in connection with Plaintiffs filing of grievances, the Court does not consider these claims in the instant motion. Because summary judgment may be warranted on these claims, the Court will provide Defendants with 30 days within which to file a new summary judgment motion directed at the remaining retaliation claims against DHS Defendants Main and Beaumount, and will also provide Plaintiff the opportunity to file opposition to that motion.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2] AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         a. Factual Background

         In May 2010, Plaintiff was civilly committed to the Special Treatment Unit ("STU") as a sexually violent predator ("SVP") under New Jersey's Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVPA"). Plaintiff appealed his commitment to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, which affirmed his commitment in an unpublished decision. In re Civil Commitment o/R.T., No. A-2521-13T2, 2016 WL 674215, at *1 (NJ. Super. Ct. App. Div. Feb. 19, 2016). Plaintiff was civilly committed as a sexually violent predator due to his sexually related arrests and convictions.[3] See id at *2-5.

         On or about August 2015, Plaintiff published a book: Civilly Committed!, ISBN-10 1516825292.[4] (Id. at ¶ 9 (citing ECF No. 1-6 PagelD: 101).) A review of the topics in the book shows that it is critical of the SVPA and the STU, and views Plaintiffs continued detention as an SVP to be unnecessary and unconstitutional. It appears undisputed that Plaintiffs book includes personal identifying information and the un-redacted names of his victims. (Id. at ¶ 10 (citing ECF No. 1-6 PagelD: 102).) It is also undisputed that Plaintiff is associated with a website with the domain name, "pimpinentertainment.net."[5] (Id. at¶ 11 (citing ECF No. 1-6 PagelD: 101).)

         On August 29, 2015, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Defendant Main together with a "Press Release" about his book "Civilly Committed." In the letter, Plaintiff asks Defendant Main to review the book and provide comments, concerns, suggestions, and recommendations. (ECF No. 138-16, Plaintiffs Opposition at Ex. N.) It is also undisputed that Plaintiff was subsequently placed on Program MAP by Defendant Van Pelt in connection with the publication of the book and his alleged promotion of the website.[6]

         On September 22, 2015, Defendant Van Pelt, wrote a Memorandum with the subject "Program Map", which states as follows:

Resident Tinsley's pattern of poor judgment has reached the point at which its consequences compel DHS to intervene. His recent publication, available to the general public for purchase, specifies the name of one of his victims, who was a minor at the time of the offense. Such an action by Mr. Tinsley does not only demonstrate poor judgment, it's reflective of dismal treatment progress. Furthermore, Mr. Tinsley continues to promote his website that, by its very name, glorifies pimping which many would define as very much part of 'rape mentality.'
Mr. Tinsley will be placed on Program MAP effective immediately. He is strongly recommended to pull his 'book' from publication to prevent further harm to his victims. His poor judgment, how it relates to treatment participation and progress, will be addressed while on Program MAP. As such, Mr. Tinsley's job will be suspended. Although Mr. Tinsley will not be prohibited from publishing or sending anything that can legally be published or sent, his restrictions will also include him having to process future correspondence and publications, written, music, and otherwise, with his therapists, particularly those to official entities, but excluding legal correspondence. His Treatment Team looks forward to the opportunity to assist Mr. Tinsley in exercising better judgment regarding such matters.
Mr. Tinsley will be given the opportunity to process his MAP placement in the Process Group during the next 30 days. Should he require more time to process his MAP-related behavior and how it affects his victims and progress in treatment, Mr. Tinsley's Program MAP cycle may be extended beyond 30 days.The Treatment Team will continue to monitor and assess Mr. Tinsley as he progresses through the MAP process and necessary interventions will be implemented as needed.

(ECF No. 1-6, Ex. D-2 at page 4.)

         On November 23, 2015, Plaintiff was also placed in treatment refusal in connection with the publication of the book and continued promotion of the website, and for failing to meaningfully engage in treatment, and was reassigned from Treatment Group 14 to Treatment Group 1. (ECF No. 138-5, Plaintiffs Opposition at Ex. C.)

         On November 23, 2015, Defendant Main wrote to Plaintiff in response to a grievance submitted by Plaintiff. In the letter, Defendant Main informs Plaintiff that his "'book' is clearly evidence that you are refusing treatment by striving to turn whatever treatment you receive into a self-serving process." Defendant Main further states that Plaintiff "risk[s] re-victimizing [his] victims by including full name along with city and state of residence at time of offense[, ]"[7]"repeatedly call[ing his victims] prostitutes", and seeming to "take responsibility for [his] offenses but then, essentially, claim[ing] to be innocent." Defendant Main's letter to Plaintiff provides several examples from the book. (See ECF No. 138-5, Plaintiffs Opposition at Ex. C.)

         Defendant Main further explains that Plaintiffs therapists and evaluators have been telling him that the website "pimpinentertainment.com" is "troubling as it is supportive of rape dynamics." (Id.) Defendant Main suggests that Plaintiffs therapists may be able to help him formulate a domain name change that will cause him minimal financial loss. (Id.)

         The letter further states:

Mr. Tinsley, we respect your right to publish whatever you wish and to name your business as you see fit. However, your book and domain name stand as evidence of no meaningful participation or progress in your treatment. We offer rewards for that participation and progress in the form of paid institutional work, use of personal DVD player, game system, and television. You cannot earn these rewards by claiming that you 're participating and progressing but then clearly showing otherwise.

(Id.)

         A subsequent Memorandum from Defendant Van Pelt, issued on December 23, 2015, reads as follows:

Resident Tinsley was placed on Program MAP on 9/22/15. Program MAP was necessitated due to his publication of a "book" which identifies full names of his victims and because he continues to promote his website pimpinentertainment,
Mr. Tinsley Program MAP was extended on 10/23/15 and 11/23/15, as he did not adequately process his actions which led to Program MAP placement he still has not. Mr. Tinsley will be allotted an additional 30 days to address his MAP placement in process group with the assistance of his Treatment Team and peers. Should Mr. Tinsley require more time to process his MAP-related behaviors and how they affect his progress in treatment, his Program MAP placement may be extended further.
While on Program MAP, Mr. Tinsley will lose his privilege to work. He will also be expected to process future correspondence and publications - written music, and otherwise, with his therapists, particularly those to official entities, but excluding legal correspondence. Mr. Tinsley is again strongly recommended to pull his 'book' from publication (or at least redact the names of his victims) to prevent further harm to his victims. The Treatment Team will ask Mr. Tinsley to open the business books of pimpinentertainment.com. They will hold that information, as all other information, in confidence but will ...

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