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Bentz v. Cowan

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 30, 2013

DAVID ROBERT BENTZ, # S-03210, Plaintiff,
v.
COWAN, MICHAEL ATCHINSON, T. HOWELL, and UNKNOWN PARTIES (Jane Doe #1, John Does #2-10), Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), where he is serving a life sentence for murder. He has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was subjected to excessive force by two of the Defendants, who then refused to help him obtain medical attention for his injuries. Other Defendants failed to intervene to stop the improper use of force.

The Complaint

On August 26, 2012, a number of correctional officers in the "Orange Crush" team conducted a shakedown of Plaintiff's housing unit (Doc. 1, p. 3). Plaintiff, his cellmate, and others were extracted from their cells, handcuffed, and taken to the prison chapel while their cells were searched. While Defendants Howell and John Doe #2 were taking Plaintiff out of his cell, Defendant Howell started punching Plaintiff in the back of the head. He continued this punching as they walked down four flights of stairs. Plaintiff was handcuffed behind his back this entire time.

Plaintiff was made to stand in line with other inmates. After Defendant Howell said something to Defendant John Doe #3, this unknown officer grabbed Plaintiff by his shirt, yanked him out of the line, threw him to the ground, and hit Plaintiff in the back of the neck. Plaintiff's head struck the pavement. John Doe Defendants #4 and #5 dragged Plaintiff to the chapel and made him kneel with his head down, where other John Does kicked him (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff asserts that these events took place "in the presence and/or under the supervising eyes of" Defendants Atchinson and John Does #2-#10, and these Defendants failed to intervene or stop the abuse. Id.

Plaintiff suffered swelling on the back of his head, a knot on his forehead, and was in severe pain. He feared he might have a concussion, and asked Defendants Howell and John Doe #3 to get him medical help, but they refused.

After Plaintiff was returned to his cell, he filed several grievances over these events, which were never answered. In response to a letter he wrote to Internal Affairs, he was called in to meet with Defendant Jane Doe #1. She told him she would investigate the matter, but failed to do so, and later told him she would not take any action (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). Almost one year later, Plaintiff met with Defendant Cowan (of Internal Affairs) about another matter. In response to Plaintiff's inquiry about the status of any investigation into his complaint over the events described above, Defendant Cowan said they "do not investigate staff on inmate assaults" (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Plaintiff asserts claims for cruel and unusual punishment, deliberate indifference to medical needs, civil conspiracy to cover up the excessive force incident and to deny him medical care, and state law claims for negligence and assault/battery. He seeks damages, and declaratory and injunctive relief (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8).

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated the following colorable federal causes of action that shall receive further review:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Howell, John Doe #3, and the John Doe Defendants who kicked Plaintiff, for subjecting Plaintiff to excessive force;

Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Atchinson and John Does #2 and #4 - #10 for being physically present but failing to intervene or protect Plaintiff from the use of excessive force by Defendants Howell, John Doe #3, and the other John Doe Defendants;

Count 3: Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical needs due to his injuries, against Defendants Howell and John Doe #3 for ...


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