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Widmer v. Hodge

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

September 27, 2013

MICHAEL WIDMER, # B-30985, Plaintiff,
v.
MARC HODGE, MATT FREEMAN, BRIAN STAFFORD, CHAD JENNINGS, GREGG BROOKS, JEFF STRUBHART, and RICHARD HARRISON, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

G. PATRICK MURPHY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Widmer, an inmate currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is serving a 5-year sentence for intimidation and two 4-year sentences for obstructing justice and fleeing a police officer. Plaintiff claims that during his incarceration at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), Defendants retaliated against him and violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and money damages.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

The Complaint

Plaintiff complains of two separate acts of retaliation. The first involves a bad deal he struck with Defendants Hodge (Lawrence's warden) and Strubhart (Lawrence grievance officer). Plaintiff claims that they promised to transfer him to Jacksonville Correctional Center ("Jacksonville"), if he agreed to withdraw thirty-three grievances he filed against them and two other Lawrence officials (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff upheld his end of the deal and formally withdrew the grievances (Doc. 1, pp. 24-25). In exchange, Defendants Hodge and Strubhart requested Plaintiff's transfer to Jacksonville, but the request was denied due to a lack of bed space (Doc. 1, p. 26).

A second incident occurred soon thereafter. On May 15, 2013, Defendants Stafford (Lawrence correctional officer) and Freeman (Lawrence internal affairs officer) cited Plaintiff for using threats or intimidation in a letter he wrote to a friend (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff submitted a copy of this disciplinary report along with the complaint (Doc. 1, p. 9). It states, in pertinent part:

On the above date and approximate time while assigned to Internal Affairs, this R/O was in the Mail Room reviewing Inmate mail. This R/O observed an outgoing letter from I/M Widmer #B30985.... The letter contained the following threats verbatim. Dear Gene, Hello Sir, I hope all is well with you. I enclosed a copy of the letter my lawyer sent to that Cu[*]t who stole my money. She needs her f[**]king head cut off with a chainsaw. Prison is making me pi[**]ed off. I hate N[***]ERS and want to cut off their heads to[o]....

(Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff does not dispute the accuracy of the quote or deny making the statements in the complaint.

He instead takes issue with the statements that Defendants Stafford and Freeman made to him when issuing the ticket. They stated, among other things, that they "were tired of [him] writing grievances on staff" (Doc. 1, p. 5). They referred to an earlier grievance Plaintiff wrote challenging a disciplinary report Defendant Freeman issued against Plaintiff for disobeying an order not to communicate with the mother of Plaintiff's children.

On May 22, 2013, Plaintiff attended a hearing before Lawrence's adjustment committee (Doc. 1, p. 6). Five days before the hearing, Plaintiff sought permission to call several witnesses. He also requested help preparing his defense. Defendants Jennings and Brooks, two members of the adjustment committee, denied both requests. Plaintiff claims that they also refused to consider a written defense Plaintiff submitted on the day of the hearing, although the adjustment committee report that was filed with the complaint includes a summary and quotes from the written defense (Doc. 1, p. 10). In addition, Plaintiff alleges that they refused to contact his treating physician and mental health counselor to determine his mental health status, despite learning that Plaintiff was on his eighth day of a hunger strike and third day of crisis watch on the hearing date.

Defendant Jennings and Brooks found Plaintiff guilty of using intimidation and/or threats (Doc. 1, p. 6). Defendant Jennings told Plaintiff he heard Defendant Hodge wanted Plaintiff to receive the maximum punishment for the offense so he would be transferred from Lawrence. Accordingly, Defendants Jennings and Brooks recommended the maximum punishment of six months in segregation, six months of C-grade, and a six-month loss of good-time credits. Defendant Hodge approved the report and recommendation on May 30, 2013.

Plaintiff has been confined in segregation since May 15, 2013. There, he has been exposed to what he considers to be "horrible conditions." These conditions include, but are not limited to, a denial of hygiene products, food, cleaning supplies, and medical treatment, which he indicates are more fully described in another pending action, i.e., Widmer v. Page et al., No. 13-cv-663 (S.D. Ill. July 11, 2013).[1] Plaintiff suffers from daily headaches, among other things, as a result of these conditions. At the time he filed this lawsuit, he had also not been allowed to visit with his daughter. Plaintiff has submitted three emergency grievances to Defendant Hodge and two grievances to Defendant Strubhart. Both defendants have ignored Plaintiff's grievances.

Plaintiff was transferred from Lawrence to Menard on June 19, 2013 (Doc. 1, p. 7). In the complaint, he alleges that Defendant Harrison, Menard's warden, continues to enforce the punishment Plaintiff received at Lawrence, by refusing to release him from segregation or review his case.

DISCUSSION

The Court finds it convenient to divide the complaint into five counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless ...


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