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Widmer v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 5, 2014

MICHAEL WIDMER, # B-30985, Plaintiff,
v.
KIMBERLY BUTLER, PHELPS, MICHAEL AHRENDS, SGT. PELKER, SGT. BLEDSOE, MAJOR WESTFALL, C. ROTH, REDNOUR, SUSAN HILL, CHANDLER, ALEX JONES, SGT. EVOLDI, and MEZO, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a frequent litigator in this Court who has accumulated three "strikes" under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §1915(g), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that he is in imminent danger from his current cellmate. He is incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), where he is serving a five-year sentence for intimidation, and four-year sentences for obstructing justice and fleeing a police officer.

Despite Plaintiff's repeated verbal and written requests to be moved, including filing several emergency grievances, Defendants have refused to move him away from his cellmate. The cellmate has made repeated threats to kill Plaintiff, and physically assaulted him twice. Plaintiff also alleges that he was housed with this cellmate in the first place in retaliation for having filed a recent lawsuit in state court against several Menard officers. Along with his complaint, Plaintiff has filed a motion for injunctive relief (Doc. 4), requesting an expedited hearing to address this life-threatening situation.

More specifically, Plaintiff explains that on May 6, 2014, he filed a case in the Circuit Court of Randolph County, No. 14-MR-48, against Menard Warden Butler, and Officers Bledsoe, Pelker, and Mezo, who are all named as Defendants herein (Doc. 1, p. 7). Those individuals have been served with summons. On May 23, 2014, Defendant Mezo told Plaintiff, "we have a place for your ass since you like to sue us, " and moved Plaintiff into Cell 813 on North 2 with inmate Tim Carlock. Id. Carlock occupied the low bunk in that cell, and Plaintiff has a low bunk permit due to his medical conditions. After a guard intervened, Carlock moved to the top bunk, but immediately began to verbally threaten Plaintiff (Doc. 1, p. 8). Carlock also told Plaintiff that the "police" had warned him they were putting a snitch into his cell and to "beat [his] ass." Id. Plaintiff has physical disabilities, stands 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighs 157 pounds, and is Caucasian. Carlock weighs over 250 pounds, is over 6 feet tall, is a gang member, is African-American, and told Plaintiff that he has killed before (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 10).

On May 23, 2014, Plaintiff wrote letters to Defendants Butler, Jones, Westfall, Bledsoe, and Pelker, stating that Carlock had threatened his life. He never received any response.

Starting on May 24, 2014, Carlock began taking Plaintiff's food trays and threatening to kill him if he said anything. On May 27, 2014, while out of his cell for a hearing before this Court, Plaintiff informed Defendants Roth and Rednour of these threats and asked to be moved. They took no action (Doc. 1, p. 9). The next day (May 28), Carlock grabbed Plaintiff tightly by the throat. Later that day, they were not allowed to go to yard, and Carlock again threatened to kill Plaintiff. Plaintiff filed two emergency grievances that day, to Defendants Jones and Warden Butler, but has received no reply.

On May 29, 2014, Defendant Pelker refused to move Plaintiff and he filed another emergency grievance, also getting no response. At around 7:00 p.m. that day, after Plaintiff refused to give Carlock his food, Carlock struck Plaintiff on the side of the head, nearly knocking him unconscious (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff suffered a brain injury in 2010, and fears this or future attacks will aggravate his condition. Carlock screamed at Plaintiff and told him "either you move or I'm going to kill you." Id.

On May 30, 2014, Plaintiff declared a hunger strike and requested Defendant Chandler to send a crisis team member to see him because he feared for his life and felt suicidal. This request was ignored. The same thing happened with Defendant Phelps. Defendant Counselor Hill came to Plaintiff's cell and he asked her for a crisis team visit; she promised to contact them. Defendant Ahrends (mental health staff) then visited Plaintiff, and accepted two letters from Plaintiff (one each for Ahrends and Defendant Jones) detailing the assault and threats (Doc. 1, p. 11). Carlock also told Defendant Ahrends to get Plaintiff out of there. Defendant Ahrends promised to take care of Plaintiff's situation. He returned to the cell at 1:30 p.m. that day and expressed concern as to why Plaintiff had not yet been moved (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff filed two more emergency grievances that day to Defendant Butler, but got no response. He verbally requested help from Defendant Evoldi, stating his life was in danger, but was ignored. Plaintiff observes that just after Plaintiff made this request, Defendant Evoldi removed a different Caucasian inmate from a cell on his gallery after the inmate was beaten severely by his gang-affiliated cellmate (Doc. 1, p. 13).

Also on May 30, Defendant Phelps came to Plaintiff's cell and asked him, in front of his cellmate, about a detailed letter or grievance Plaintiff had filed. Plaintiff asserts this was done to knowingly place him in danger. Defendant Phelps then left without taking any action (Doc. 1, p. 13).

On May 31, 2014, Plaintiff begged Defendant Roth (who regularly works the gallery) to move him. He responded that he had informed Defendant Pelker and it was out of his control. Id.

Plaintiff claims that Defendants Mezo, Butler, Jones, Bledsoe, Pelker, and Phelps have conspired together to retaliate against him to place him in danger and keep him in his current unsafe situation, after Plaintiff filed the previously-mentioned state court suit.

Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (IFP) (Doc. 2)

Based on the facts described in the complaint, the Court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that he is currently in imminent danger of serious physical injury, and he shall be allowed to proceed with this claim at this time, even though he has "struck out" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The motion for leave to proceed IFP (Doc. 2) is GRANTED. A separate order ...


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