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Richard Wilder v. Jesus Barajas

July 23, 2012

RICHARD WILDER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JESUS BARAJAS, EDWARD KERN,
CALVIN SEATON, AND ANTONIO FERGUSON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Finnegan

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Richard Wilder, an inmate at the Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDC"), has sued correctional officers Jesus Barajas ("Barajas"), Edward Kern ("Kern"), Calvin Seaton ("Seaton"), and Antonio Ferguson ("Ferguson") (collectively "Defendants") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiff claims that Defendants: (1) used excess force against him, (2) conspired to use excessive force, and (3) conspired to cover up their actions. See First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). The parties consented to have Magistrate Judge Martin Ashman conduct any and all proceedings in this case, including entry of final judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 636(e); N.D. Ill. R. 73.1(c). On June 12, 2012, the case was reassigned to this Court under Local Rule 73.1(b) for further proceedings. Now before the court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment concerning Plaintiff's conspiracy claims, and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file his Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted, and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file to file an SAC is denied.

BACKGROUND*fn1

During the relevant period Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee at the Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDC") in Chicago, Illinois, where he was housed in the Adult Behavior Observation Unit of Division 9. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 1). Defendants worked as correctional officers at the CCDC. (Id. ¶ 2). On May 19, 2008, Defendant Barajas secured Plaintiff with handcuffs and removed him from his cell in order to escort him to a dental appointment. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 6). Defendant Ferguson accompanied Defendant Barajas in escorting Plaintiff from the tier (where Plaintiff was housed) to the Core, but then went to the nearby interlock to procure Plaintiff's ID card. (Id. ¶ 8). According to Plaintiff, once Defendant Barajas took him into a nearby hallway off the tier, Plaintiff was unshackled and Barajas instigated a fight within feet of Defendant Kern. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8). Plaintiff alleges that Barajas struck him, causing Plaintiff to take a defensive stance. (Id. ¶ 7). He further claims that Defendant Barajas then called a "10-10" (all available alert) over the radio for deputies to assist him. Each of the other Defendants then arrived on the scene and joined in beating Plaintiff. (Id.).

Defendant Barajas' fellow officers tell a different story. Defendant Ferguson testified that he had left the immediate area before the fight began, but he quickly returned after the alert was sounded. (Ex. C; Ferguson Dep., at 9-10).*fn2 By the time he returned, one of Plaintiff's hands was no longer cuffed, and Plaintiff was striking out at Defendant Barajas. Defendant Ferguson claims that his fellow officer was covering himself and trying to push Plaintiff away. (Id. at 10-11). Defendant Ferguson never spoke to Defendant Barajas during the altercation. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 8).

Defendant Kern was stationed on Tier 1F when Barajas' alert call was sounded, and he arrived at the scene within thirty seconds. (Ex. E; Kern Dep., at 7-8, 11). Kern testified that Plaintiff was "swinging wildly" at Defendant Barajas when he came upon the scene. (Id. at 11-15). Kern then grabbed one of Plaintiff's arms and brought him to the ground so that he and Ferguson could secure Plaintiff. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 10). For his part, Defendant Seaton claims that he merely unlocked the access door for the other officers to respond to the alert call, and that he did not directly witness the incident. (Ex. D; Seaton Dep., at 11).

After the incident, Defendant Ferguson escorted Defendant Barajas to get medical attention. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 8). The nature of Defendant Barajas' injuries are unknown. Plaintiff claims that he suffered a fractured nose, bruised ribs, and unspecified head injuries. (Id. ¶ 11). At his deposition, Plaintiff said he lost consciousness and woke up in Mt. Sinai Hospital, where he was treated. (Ex. A, Plaintiff Dep., at 49). Plaintiff subsequently filed a grievance concerning the incident,*fn3 and then filed this lawsuit on March 16, 2010.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is warranted if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting former FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). Such an issue exists only where a rational trier of fact could find for the nonmoving party. Id. at 324; see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). As the moving parties, Defendants have the initial burden of demonstrating that they are entitled to summary judgment. Kramer v. Village of North Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004). The evidence, together with all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from it, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Miller v. Am. Family Mut. Ins., 203 F.3d 997, 1003 (7th Cir. 2000). The nonmoving party, however, cannot overcome a summary judgment motion by relying on unsubstantiated facts or by resting on its pleadings. See Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007). Instead, the party that bears the burden of proof on an issue must demonstrate by means of admissible evidence that no genuine issue of material fact exists that requires a trial. Id. A court neither weighs conflicting evidence nor resolves factual disputes in deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate. Miranda v. Wisconsin Power & Light Co., 91 F.3d 1011, 1014 (7th Cir. 1996). A court considers the record as a whole and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Franzoni v. Hartmarx Corp., 300 F.3d 767, 771 (7th Cir. 2002).

DISCUSSION

I. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to the Conspiracy Claim

Count II of Plaintiff's FAC alleges that Defendants "schemed and worked together in a common plan to use excessive force" against Plaintiff and "conspired and agreed together to cover-up their use of excessive force, including filing false reports [and] giving false statements and testimony under oath...." (Doc. 47 ¶¶ 6-7). This Court discusses each of these claims in turn.

A. Conspiracy to Use Excessive Force: To demonstrate a conspiracy to use excessive force, Plaintiff must show that there was "(1) an express or implied agreement among defendants to deprive plaintiff of his or her constitutional rights and (2) actual deprivations of those rights in the form of overt acts in furtherance of the agreement." Scherer v. Balkema, 840 F.2d 437, 442 (7th Cir. 1988). Defendants argue that Plaintiff is unable to provide any factual evidence in support of the conspiracy claims. (Doc. 61, at 4).

In his response Plaintiff contends that Defendant Ferguson "admitted" that Defendants conspired to punish Plaintiff for supposedly acting out of line "when he told another inmate, Derrick Lowery, that Plaintiff had been beaten by the Defendants because he was acting 'out of body.'" (Doc. 68, at 1). Plaintiff argues that, as a statement by a coconspirator, Ferguson's admission is admissible against all ...


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