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Abiodun Sowewimo v. Ashton Blakewell

February 18, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy Mcdade United States District Judge

Friday, 18 February, 2011 02:14:34 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This cause is before the court for consideration of the Defendants' second motion for summary judgment. [d/e 53].


The pro se Plaintiff filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§1983 claiming that his constitutional rights were violated at Hill Correctional Center. On March 3, 2010, the court considered the Defendants' first motion for summary judgment alleging that the Plaintiff had not exhausted his administrative remedies for his claims as required. See March 3, 2010 Summary Judgment Order. The court granted the motion in part and denied the motion in part. Id. Consequently, the Plaintiff has one surviving claim that Correctional Officers Ashton Blakewell, Tammy Bennett and Christopher McLaughlin retaliated against the Plaintiff in violation of his First Amendment rights. See March 3, 2010 Summary Judgment and Case Management Order. Specifically, the Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants refused to return a Certificate of Deposit that was taken from his cell in May of 2007 in retaliation for his previous lawsuits and grievances.


On May 20, 2007, Defendant McLaughlin says he interviewed the Plaintiff after the Plaintiff filed a grievance claiming his life was in danger and he needed an emergency transfer.(Def. Memo, Ex. A, McLaug. Aff, p. 1). The Plaintiff admitted that he had made the story up because he was unable to get a job at Hill Correctional Center and he hoped to be transferred. (Comp., p. 21). Defendant McLaughlin reviewed the Plaintiff's master file and found other grievances the Plaintiff had filed at other facilities making the same claims that he was in danger. In these cases, the Plaintiff also failed to provide any information to support his allegations. Defendant McLaughlin informed the Plaintiff that he was going to be placed in segregation and receive a disciplinary report for providing false information. Defendant McLaughlin says the Plaintiff then began to argue with him about his placement and advised Defendants McLaughlin, Bennett and Blackwell that "you don't want to do down this road."

(Comp, p. 21).

McLaughlin says this was the end of his contact with the Plaintiff on May 20, 2007. (Def. Memo, Ex. A, McLaug. Aff, p. 1). McLaughlin says he did not order a search of the Plaintiff's property, nor did he personally search the Plaintiff's property. Id. In addition, McLaughlin says he has no knowledge of any of the claims that the Plaintiff had contraband property in his cell including the Certificate of Deposit the Plaintiff mentions in his complaint. Id.

Officers Tammy Bennet and Ashton Blakewell were present during the interview between McLaughlin and the Plaintiff, and then escorted the Plaintiff to segregation. (Def. Memo, Ex. A, McL. Aff, p. 1). Bennett says whenever an inmate is transferred to segregation, "a routine search of the inmate's property is done as a result of their placement." (Def. Memo, Ex. B, Ben. Aff, p. 1). Bennett says the officers conducting the search of the Plaintiff's property confiscated a Certificate of Deposit (herein C.D.) Id. Bennett says she did not order the search, nor did she order the officers to confiscate any specific items. Id.

On May 21, 2007, Ashton Blakewell was the Contraband Officer at Hill Correctional Center. (Def. Memo, Ex. C, Blake. Aff, p. 1). On this day, Blakewell says he received items taken from the Plaintiff's cell that were designated as contraband including a the C.D.and a cloth the Plaintiff claimed was a prayer rug. Id. The Defendants have provided a copy of an Evidence Disposal Report which indicates that on May 20, 2007, a C.D. was taken from the Plaintiff's cell. (Def. Memo, Group Ex. 1, p. 4). The Defendants have also included the Shakedown Record/Confiscated Contraband Record which states officers took a C.D.dated March 10, 1998 in the amount of $2,500 made payable to the Plaintiff. (Def. Memo, Group Ex. 1, p. 5). Blakewell says he did not personally search the plaintiff's cell, nor did he order the search. Id.

Blakewell says he placed the items on hold awaiting the results of the Plaintiff's grievance regarding his property. (Def. Memo, Ex. C, Blake. Aff, p. 1). In addition, the C.D. "was also placed on hold based on the Hill Correctional Center's Business Office Administrator verifying with the Illinois Department of Corrections main office as to whether (the Plaintiff) had available assets necessary to be financially responsible for his incarceration." (Def. Memo, Ex. C, Blake. Aff, p. 1).

On June 3, 2007, the Plaintiff filed a grievance asking that prison officials either return his C.D. or allow him to send it home. The Grievance Counselor responded that the contraband officer would discuss the items with the Plaintiff in the next week. On June 22, 2007, the Grievance Officer stated that he has spoken with Defendant Blakewell and the Defendant said "he is waiting for a response from Springfield regarding what the disposition of the certificate of deposit paperwork should be. " (Comp, Ex. B, Plain. Griev.). The ...

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