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Tavish Johnson v. Raviel B. Winters

June 21, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Rebecca R. Pallmeyer


(# M05491),

Plaintiff, a state prisoner, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that a correctional officer at the Stateville Correctional Center violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by sexually molesting him, and that fellow officers harassed and retaliated against him by writing numerous false disciplinary reports when he complained about the alleged misconduct. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons stated in this order, the motion is denied.

Complaints filed by pro se litigants are to be liberally construed; they need not meet the more exacting standards applied to pleadings prepared by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 681, 687 (7th Cir. 2006). FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to "'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). The court assumes the truth of Plaintiff's factual allegations and construes the facts, and any reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable to him. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 563 (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002)). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 556.


Plaintiff is an Illinois state prisoner, confined at the Stateville Correctional Center at all times relevant to this action. Defendants Raviel Winters, Christopher Ross, Robert Reighter, and Christopher Gore are all correctional officers at Stateville. Defendant Philip Michel is a lieutenant at the facility. (Complaint at 2.)*fn1

According to Plaintiff's allegations, presumed true for purposes of this motion, on September 7, 2009, at 7 a.m., Defendant Michel issued a disciplinary report charging Plaintiff with assault. (Id. at 11.)*fn2 Michel's report stated that Plaintiff had grabbed him during a cell search after the officer found a toothpaste tube filled with urine. Later that morning, at 10 a.m., Defendant Winters was supervising inmates showering when he made a "sexual joke" about Plaintiff's behind. The two exchanged words, and Winters issued Plaintiff a second disciplinary report, accusing Plaintiff of violating rules prohibiting intimidation or threats, dangerous communications, and insolence. Winters claimed that Plaintiff had called him a "punk ass bitch" and attempted to spit on him. (Id. at 14.)

That evening, after Plaintiff was confined to his cell, Winters allegedly reached through the chuckhole and grabbed Plaintiff's buttocks. Plaintiff demanded to speak to a lieutenant, but Winters urged him to say nothing and promised to "take care of" Plaintiff by giving him extra food while he was in segregation if Plaintiff agreed not to report Winters' misconduct. (Id. at 4.) Later that day, Winters delivered a Subway sandwich to Plaintiff as a reward for his silence. (Id.) Winters and Plaintiff evidently remained at odds, however, because at 5:12 p.m. that afternoon, Winters issued yet another disciplinary report, this time charging Plaintiff with damage or misuse of property, intimidation or threats, dangerous communications, insolence, and possession of contraband. (Id. at 15.)

Two hours later, Plaintiff received a fourth disciplinary report, this one from Defendant Ross. (Id. at 17.) The Ross report, which apparently accused Plaintiff of damage or misuse of state property, was later expunged, but a fifth disciplinary report, issued later that evening by Defendant Reighter, falsely charged Plaintiff with assault, damage or misuse of property, and insolence. (Id. at 18.) Defendant Gore wrote a sixth and final disciplinary report at 10 p.m. that night. (Id. at 20.) According to the report, Gore witnessed Plaintiff call a fellow inmate a "snitch bitch ass" and spit on him several times. (Id.)

The next day, Plaintiff advised Winters that he intended to file a grievance over the buttocks-grabbing incident. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff's cell was searched and he was given a false disciplinary report. (Id. at 4.) (The court notes that although a number of relevant documents are incorporated in Plaintiff's complaint, no disciplinary report dated September 8, 2009, is attached to the complaint or mentioned in the Administrative Review Board summary of disciplinary action during the relevant time period.) Plaintiff alleges that the officers responsible for the cell search were friends of Winters and even acknowledged that they were retaliating against Plaintiff for his grievance. (Id. at 4, 5.)

Correctional staff continued to write what Plaintiff claims are false disciplinary notices. On September 9, 2009, Defendant Gore wrote such a notice, charging Plaintiff with damaging or misusing state property by using a torn bed sheet to "pop" [presumably meaning to set off] the sprinkler in his cell. (Id. at 19.) On an unspecified date, Defendant Michel told Plaintiff that he "did not care" about the courts and that he planned to punish Plaintiff for having lied about one of his (i.e., Michel's) officers. When Plaintiff simply asked to speak to a mental health professional, he was disciplined for assaulting an officer, and for having unauthorized property in his cell.*fn3 Officers also intentionally pushed Plaintiff's food on the floor and threatened him. (Id. at 5.) On November 13, 2009, two non-Defendant officers (Hart and Zimmerli) issued Plaintiff separate disciplinary tickets, and on November 14, 2009, another non-Defendant officer wrote Plaintiff yet another disciplinary report. (See id. at 9, 10.)


Plaintiff's allegations present a confusing account of his disputes with prison officers. Accepting those allegations as true, however, the court is satisfied that his complaint ...

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