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Smith v. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 18, 2014

TYRIN N. SMITH, #B-78535, Plaintiff,
v.
SALBADORE A. GODINEZ, RICHARD HARRINGTON, L. PHELPS, KEVIN E. REICHERT, BRANDON M. ANTHONY, TIMOTHY R. VEATH, JASON P. VASQUEZ, ANTHONY D. WILLS, and LINDA CARTER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He is serving a 50-year sentence for murder. Plaintiff claims that he was wrongfully found guilty of several disciplinary charges in violation of his due process rights, after which he was punished with one year in segregation and a loss of one year of good conduct credits.

According to the complaint, Plaintiff was in the chow hall on May 27, 2013, along with approximately 35 other inmates (Doc. 1, p. 9). He heard a commotion, then a gunshot fired by a tower officer, so he immediately dropped to the floor. Another inmate (Walker) had been stabbed. Three other prisoners were identified on the spot as the perpetrators. Plaintiff and the other inmates were sent back to their cells.

Several hours later, Plaintiff was called to an interview about the incident with Defendant Reichert of Internal Affairs; he answered all questions and denied any involvement in the attack. However, Plaintiff was placed on "investigative status" by Defendant Phelps (Internal Affairs).

On June 4, 2013, Defendant Reichert and/or Defendant Anthony wrote an Inmate Disciplinary Report ("IDR") on Plaintiff charging him with a violation of "205-Security Threat Group" (Doc. 1, pp. 10, 16; Doc. 1-1, p. 2). The factual description stated that Plaintiff was identified by four confidential sources as "violently assaulting Walker from behind with an 8 [inch] ice-pick style weapon" on May 27, 2013 (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff requested two witnesses (inmates James Melvin and McCall Cleveland) to be called to testify to his innocence at the Adjustment Committee hearing.

On June 6, 2013, the 205 charge against Plaintiff was heard by Defendants Veath and Vasquez (chair and co-chair of the Adjustment Committee). They found Plaintiff guilty and he was disciplined with one year in segregation, as well as one year of C-grade and commissary restriction, and six months' restriction on contact visits (Doc. 1, p. 11). The Committee's final summary report reflected that Plaintiff's witness James Melvin testified that Plaintiff had nothing to do with the incident; Officer Bryan Easton testified that he "believe[d] the IDR is correct as written;" Officer Amylee Jetton stated he picked out who he thought was involved and handed it over to "intel" to investigate; and Plaintiff had been identified by four confidential sources as "assisting in the violent assault." Id. Defendant Harrington (Menard warden) approved the disposition.

Plaintiff received a second IDR on June 9, 2013, based on the same assault incident (Doc. 1, p. 12; Doc. 1-1, pp. 4-7). This time, he was charged with three different infractions: 100-Violent Assault of any Person; 104-Dangerous Contraband; and 105-Dangerous Disturbance. The factual description of the incident was identical to that in the first IDR. Plaintiff again requested inmates Melvin and Cleveland to be called as his witnesses.

On June 11, 2013, the second IDR came before the Adjustment Committee, made up of Defendants Veath and Wills (Doc. 1, p. 12). Despite his declaration of innocence, Plaintiff was again found guilty. This time, his punishment consisted of the revocation of one year of good conduct credits, as well as one year segregation, C-grade, and commissary restriction, and three months of yard restriction. The report again summarized the identical testimony of witnesses Melvin, Easton, and Jetton (Doc. 1, p. 12-13). Neither final summary report mentioned Plaintiff's other requested witness (Cleveland) or explained why he had not been called.

Contrary to the IDR summaries, however, Plaintiff later learned that neither inmate James Melvin nor Officer Easton had ever been called to testify before the Adjustment Committee in reference to either of the two IDR hearings (Doc. 1, p. 13-15). Plaintiff obtained affidavits from Melvin and Cleveland; both of them had been interviewed by Internal Affairs and stated Plaintiff was not involved in the stabbing and was some distance away from the victim (Doc. 1-1, pp. 8-11). Officer Easton could not provide a sworn affidavit but told Plaintiff he had never been called to either hearing.

On June 29, 2013, Plaintiff filed a grievance requesting that all charges and disciplinary actions be expunged, because of alleged violations of his constitutional rights and of several prison administrative rules (Doc. 1-1, pp. 13-19). He filed a second grievance on July 1, 2013, focusing on the second IDR and arguing that he was improperly given duplicate punishment for the same incident (Doc. 1-1, pp. 23-30). Defendant Linda Carter (grievance officer) denied the grievances (Doc. 1, p. 16). After Plaintiff appealed, the duplicate discipline imposed on the first charge (205) was adjusted so that he would be required to serve only a single year in segregation, as well as one year of C-grade and commissary restriction (Doc. 1, p. 16; Doc. 1-1, p. 12). However, the "conviction" on the 205 charge would still stand, as well as the six-month contact visit restriction. Plaintiff pursued another grievance seeking to have all the charges expunged, but this was again denied by Defendant Carter as well as by Defendant Godinez (IDOC Director).

Plaintiff claims that his procedural due process rights were violated because the IDR failed to contain a statement of the conduct observed by the four confidential sources; the committee adopted the reporting officer's version of events and did not weigh the credibility of the confidential sources against Plaintiff's requested witnesses; the second IDR was filed beyond the allowable time frame provided in prison administrative rules; the committee failed to call either of his requested witnesses or explain why they were not called; and the committee falsified its report to reflect that inmate Melvin and Officer Easton were called to the hearings when they were not (Doc. 1, pp. 17-20). He also brings up several other violations of prison administrative rules in the handling of his investigative detention (Doc. 1, pp. 21-23), and asserts a claim against Defendant Carter for failing to expunge the disciplinary charges (Doc. 1, p. 23).

As relief, Plaintiff seeks an order expunging all the disciplinary charges and convictions, as well as awarding him damages for each day spent in segregation (Doc. 1, p. 25).

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 ...


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