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Caston v. Bolivar County, Mississippi

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

May 30, 2018

VIVIAN CASTON PLAINTIFF
v.
BOLIVAR COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI; GERALD WESLEY, SR.; and GERALD WESLEY, JR. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are the motion for summary judgment of Gerald Wesley, Jr. and Gerald Wesley, Sr., Doc. #56; and the motion for summary judgment of Bolivar County, Mississippi, Doc. #58.

         I

         Standard of Review

         “Summary judgment is proper only when the record demonstrates that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Luv N' Care Ltd. v. Groupo Rimar, 844 F.3d 442, 447 (5th Cir. 2016). “A factual issue is genuine if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party and material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.” Burton v. Freescale Semiconductor, Inc., 798 F.3d 222, 226 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a court must “consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.” Edwards v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 841 F.3d 360, 363 (5th Cir. 2016).

         In seeking summary judgment, “[t]he moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Nola Spice Designs, L.L.C. v. Haydel Enters., Inc., 783 F.3d 527, 536 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). If the moving party satisfies this burden, “the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party satisfies this initial burden by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celtic Marine Corp. v. James C. Justice Cos., Inc., 760 F.3d 477, 481 (5th Cir. 2014).

         II

         Factual Background

         A. Vivian Caston's Hire

         Vivian Caston, a resident of Duncan, Mississippi, was hired as a receptionist and clerk at the Bolivar County Regional Correctional Facility in November 1999 by then Bolivar County Sheriff Mack Grimmett. Doc. #60-1 at 5, 7. As receptionist, she “serve[d] as a front line service representative for the Bolivar County Regional Correctional Facility and also the Bolivar County Sheriff's Department.”[1] Doc. #60-3 at 1. Vivian[2] was aware that she was hired as an at-will employee who “may be terminated for any reason without cause or notice” at any time. Doc. #60-1 at 29, 62.

         Kelvin Williams became Bolivar County Sheriff in 2012 and was re-elected to the position in 2016. Doc. #60-5 at 4. Before the start of each of Williams' terms, all Correctional Facility employees had to apply to retain their jobs. Doc. #60-1 at 29-31. Vivian reapplied for her job on January 9, 2012, and again on November 30, 2015. Id. at 31. Some employees were not rehired during these reapplication periods. Id. at 31-32. Though Williams fired “quite a few” of his employees in 2012 because they were at-will, Vivian was retained. Doc. #60-5 at 20, 22.

         B. The Wesleys

         Shortly after Williams assumed office in 2012, Gerald Wesley, Jr. was appointed Chief Deputy of the Bolivar County Sheriff's Department. Doc. #60-7 at 4. Wesley Jr.'s wife, Veronica, is an investigator with the Cleveland Police Department. Doc. #60-8 at 4. Wesley Jr.'s father, Gerald Wesley, Sr., retired from the Bolivar County Sheriff's Department in December 2015. Doc. #60-6 at 4-5. Before his retirement, Wesley Sr. served as the Bolivar County Sheriff Department's chief investigator for four years. Id. at 5.

         Wesley Jr. and Wesley Sr. did not supervise Vivian. Wesley Jr. and Wesley Sr. worked on the Sheriff's Department side of the Correctional Facility while Vivian worked on the Corrections Department side. Doc. #58-3 at 7; Doc. #60-7 at 20-21.

         C. Wesley Jr. and Kesha Caston

         Kesha Caston is Vivian's adult daughter. Doc. #60-1 at 7. In 2011 or 2012, Wesley Jr. began an extramarital affair with Kesha.[3] Doc. #60-7 at 5; Doc. #60-10 at 7. When Kesha became pregnant with Wesley Jr.'s child, Wesley Jr. asked her to have an abortion and gave her $500 for the procedure.[4] Doc. #60-7 at 5-7.

         Vivian learned of Kesha's pregnancy on Memorial Day weekend in 2013. Doc. #60-1 at 35. Vivian first discussed the pregnancy with Wesley Jr. after Kesha approached her upset and crying about his “want[ing] her to have an abortion.” Id. at 35-36. Vivian confronted Wesley Jr. about the abortion matter in his office during work hours and told him that Kesha was not going to have an abortion “because of … the risk [to] the baby.” Id. at 36. Vivian also told Wesley Jr. that she was “not going to approve” of Kesha having an abortion and asked him to stop asking Kesha to have one. Id. at 36-37.

         Williams, though aware Kesha was pregnant with Wesley Jr.'s child, [5] does not recall discussing the pregnancy with Vivian, Wesley Jr., or Wesley Sr., and was not aware that Wesley Jr. asked Kesha to have an abortion. Doc. #60-5 at 7, 10. Vivian testified she never discussed with Williams Kesha's relationship with Wesley Jr., Kesha's pregnancy, or the prospect of Kesha having an abortion. Doc. #60-1 at 37.

         D. Confrontation between Vivian and Wesley Sr.

         During Kesha's pregnancy, Wesley Sr. confronted Vivian in the parking lot of the Correctional Facility where they then both worked. Doc. #60-1 at 39. According to Vivian, Wesley Sr. told her that Williams told Wesley Jr. that “[Wesley Jr.] was going to cause [Williams] to lose the election” because of Kesha's pregnancy; and she replied, “That doesn't have anything to do with the election. That doesn't have nothing to do with me.” Id. at 40. Vivian claims Wesley Sr. also told her that if Kesha carried the pregnancy to term and Veronica found out, Kesha could be harmed. Doc. #30 at 3.[6] Wesley Sr. does not recall having this conversation, and denies threatening to harm Kesha or telling Vivian that Williams stated Kesha's pregnancy could lose him the election. Doc. #60-6 at 10.

         E. Wesley Sr.'s Phone Call to Vivian

         According to Vivian, while Kesha was pregnant, Wesley Sr. called Vivian's home and “threatened” her. Doc. #60-1 at 37-38. Wesley Sr. accused Kesha and her friend of text messaging Veronica, and threatened to “call the state” on them. Id. at 38. After Wesley Sr. threatened her, Vivian called Williams and said that she “was not going to do anything to embarrass him, because he's the sheriff of Bolivar County.” Id. at 38-39. Vivian testified that when she relayed to Williams that Wesley Sr. threatened her and that she wanted him to stop, Williams replied that he told Wesley Sr. “to leave that alone” and that “it would work itself out.” Id. at 39.

         Wesley Sr. denies ever calling Vivian or threatening to call the authorities on her. Doc. #60-6 at 13. Williams does not recall Vivian complaining that Wesley Sr. threatened her; however, Williams testified he “may have” told Wesley Sr. to “leave it alone … [t]o keep peace and keep it from the office … because I don't like the conflict, and I didn't want it at the office.” Doc. #60-5 at 10-12. Williams phoned Kesha about allegations that she or her friends were sending harassing text messages to Veronica, telling Kesha that she and Veronica “needed to try and work things out ….”[7] Doc. #60-10 at 25.

         F. Kesha's Son

         Kesha gave birth to a son in December 2013. Doc. #60-7 at 11. Williams testified that Kesha's pregnancy and birth did not interfere with the operation of the Correctional Facility, stating, “I don't recall it getting that serious.” Doc. #60-5 at 13.

         Kesha would bring her son to the Correctional Facility to visit Vivian at work. Doc. #60- 1 at 42. Vivian recounts that her grandson was four or five months old when Kesha brought him for his first visit, and that Kesha would bring him by the facility “[e]very now and then.” Id.

         Williams saw Kesha or Vivian bring Kesha's son to the Correctional Facility “maybe once, ” and never told Kesha or Vivian not to bring the child there. Doc. #60-5 at 7-8. Williams had no issue or problem with Vivian's grandson visiting the front of the Correctional Facility, testifying that “[b]abies come in all the time.” Id. at 8.

         G. Various Confrontations

         After the birth of their son, Kesha and Wesley Jr. argued about rumors that Wesley Jr. falsified his salary for child support purposes by submitting his father's lower salary. Doc. #60-10 at 19-20. They also argued about Wesley Jr.'s refusal to sign the birth certificate and provide Kesha with his insurance card for the child. Id. at 22-24, 36-37.

         While embroiled in a dispute with Wesley Jr. about his refusal to sign their son's birth certificate, Kesha confronted Veronica on October 1, 2014, outside the Cleveland Police Department where Veronica worked. Doc. #60-12 at 1, 3. Kesha and Veronica argued over Wesley Jr.'s refusal to sign the birth certificate after DNA tests proved that he was the child's father. Doc. #60-10 at 41-42. Melvin Sparks, then an investigator at the Cleveland Police Department, prepared an incident report stating that an “irate” Kesha had “started a disturbance” with Veronica.[8] Doc. #60-12 at 3.

         Sometime before January 2015, Kesha came to the Correctional Facility to confront Wesley Jr. over issues with his insurance card.[9] Doc. #60-1 at 42-45. Vivian testified that an upset Wesley Jr. called her into his office, where he and Kesha “had a little altercation about the [insurance] card.”[10] Id. at 44. Vivian stated that she “wish[ed] they could get along … better.” Id. Wesley Jr. then began objecting to the baby visiting the facility because it “can catch a disease.” Id. at 44-45. After Vivian defended her grandson's visits, [11] she stated that she “was a taxpayer citizen” and Kesha “has the right … [to] come out and visit me.” Id. at 45. Williams, overhearing the conversation, entered Wesley Jr.'s office while Vivian was talking and believed that she “had came over and started the conversation.” Id. After informing Williams that Wesley Jr. had summoned her into his office, Vivian returned to her post. Id. at 45-46.

         H. ...


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