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Yates v. Hildebrand

December 8, 2009

WILEY G. YATES, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
THOMAS E. HILDEBRAND, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate at the Robinson Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A.*fn1

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 590 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Service, 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

THE COMPLAINT

Liberally construing the complaint, it appears that Plaintiff pleaded guilty to arson in state court in 2003. Petitioner claims that in February 2008, this conviction was vacated and in May 2008, the arson charge was dismissed.*fn2 Having successfully challenged his arson conviction, Plaintiff now seeks damages against the City of Granite City, Illinois; two Granite City police officers (Defendants Knight and Bremer); his privately retained trial attorney (Defendant Hildebrand); and the state judge who presided over his criminal case (Defendant Hackett).

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Knight and Bremer manufactured and falsified evidence used against him in the arson case. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Knight and Bremer coerced Gerald W. Rhodes into making a false statement that Plaintiff had told Rhodes that he (Plaintiff) had committed the crime. Defendants are further alleged to have coerced Rhodes to leave the Granite City area in order to cover-up their wrongdoing. Plaintiff asserts that the City of Granite City "had a policy of complete. indifference. to the misconduct of its police officers" and "knew that Craig Knight and/or Charles Bremer. were in fact engaging in the misconduct alleged in this case."

Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Hildebrand, his privately retained attorney, furthered the "unlawful agreement" by coercing Plaintiff into an involuntary guilty plea. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Hildebrand coerced him into pleading guilty in order to cover-up the criminal wrongdoing committed by another of Hildebrand's clients, Debra K. Nelson. According to the complaint, Nelson and Hildebrand "framed" Plaintiff for the arson. In return for framing Plaintiff, Nelson received "extremely light sentences" in two other criminal cases and immunity from prosecution for crimes she had allegedly committed against Plaintiff.

Plaintiff also contends that because he was coerced into pleading guilty to the arson charge, Defendant Johnson, a state prosecutor, obtained "leverage. to force Plaintiff to be a witness in an unrelated matter."

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that "in furtherance of [the] unlawful agreement," Defendant Hackett, the state court judge who apparently presided over Plaintiff's arson case: had ex parte conversations with other defendants, the Madison County prosecutors, and other judges in Madison County about covering-up and/or concealing the serious misconduct of defendant Thomas E. Hildebrand, Jr. This was done by causing severe, undue and unnecessary delays in issuing rulings on cases dealing with the misconduct of Mr. Hildebrand, not reporting clear instances of misconduct of ...


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