Corrections Officer Sues MDOC For Retaliation After Whistleblower Report

An officer with the Department of Corrections on Tuesday sued the agency in federal court for retaliation after he filed a report against another officer that alleged the officer tampered with drug contraband found on an inmate and gave fake evidence to the state when it requested a sample.

The complaint filed in Leavitt v. MDOC (USWDM Docket No. 23-00577) seeks various damages for loss of reputation and earnings, emotional distress, suffering and lost fringe and retirement benefits due to his suspension from a Carson City Correctional Facility emergency response team.

The plaintiff started working at the facility around 2006. His complaint alleges that in 2021, he and two other officers escorted an inmate and discovered some form of narcotics in a pink and blue package in the inmate’s possession that were seized and brought to a supervising officer.

It is alleged that the lieutenant threw out the drugs in a trash can rather than preserving the evidence, stating that the department was “not going to do anything with it.” A critical incident report followed and officials in Lansing requested the drugs be taken into evidence.

The plaintiff claims that some form of substance was given to Lansing officials, but the substance and its container was described as being different from what the plaintiff and two others confiscated from the inmate. He claims that the lieutenant represented this substance as the one discarded earlier.

A complaint to Assistant Deputy Warden Kris Nevins was lodged and an internal investigation followed regarding the inmate’s possession of the drugs. However, it was ultimately closed and the plaintiff claims that he was not interviewed, nor were any of the escorting officers nor the lieutenant in question.

The plaintiff was told, the complaint states, that he was not listed on the critical incident report even though he was one of the escorting officers. He emailed MDOC Deputy Director Jeremy Bush noting his belief that the original drugs were disposed of, that fake drugs were submitted, and that fake substance would be used to prosecute the inmate, which he also believed was illegal and in violation of both state and federal laws.

An investigation into the lieutenant began in June 2022. An incident with another inmate occurred months later, and the plaintiff was implicated as using excessive force in the incident. He had to stop work while the investigation continued, but the other two officers in the incident were not being investigated or face disciplinary action.

The investigation, the plaintiff claims, was initiated by the lieutenant involved in the 2021 contraband incident. All charges against him were eventually dropped, the complaint states, but he was not able to rejoin the emergency response team after coming back from his suspension and his requests to do so were denied.

Aside from the stated damages sought in the complaint, the plaintiff asserts that MDOC also violated his right to First Amendment freedom of speech when he was retaliated against for filing a complaint against his superior, and for his talking about the events that transpired with others in private communications and outside work hours.

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