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Baird v. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 11, 2014

WILLIS BAIRD, # K-81582, Plaintiff,
SALVADORE GODINEZ, et al., Defendants.


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, seeking immediate injunctive relief as well as damages. His 79-page complaint (Doc. 1; Doc. 1-1, and Doc. 1-2, pp. 1-29) names 22 known Defendants as well as at least one unknown (John Doe) Defendant. It includes claims that on June 16, 2014, certain Defendant correctional officers handcuffed Plaintiff's wrists so tightly that he sustained cuts and bruises, and then wrenched and twisted the cuffs until the bones in his wrists were fractured. Prior to this incident, Plaintiff had asked other Defendants to protect him from the officer who initiated the excessive force, but they failed to take any protective measures even though he had advised them of the officer's escalating aggressive conduct toward him. Plaintiff contends that the handcuff incident was in retaliation for his having brought prior lawsuits against some of these Defendants and against their colleague officers.[1]

In addition to the complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order (TRO) (Doc. 4), and a motion for hearing on the emergency preliminary injunction/TRO request (Doc. 5). Neither motion requests specific relief, but in them, Plaintiff describes another beating he endured on July 10, 2014, at the hands of several officers. He could identify only one of them (Bryan Perdue); this individual is not a named Defendant herein (Doc. 4, p. 13). Plaintiff's complaint, however, requests injunctive relief in the form of general "protection from further retaliatory acts from staff, " particularly from several specific Defendants, and a transfer or placement in protective custody.

Factual Summary - Statement of Claim (Doc. 1-1, pp. 1-30; Doc. 1-2, pp. 1-39)

Plaintiff's statement of his claim spans 59 pages, plus a ten-page "Background" statement. He organizes his claims by listing each Defendant, starting with IDOC Director Godinez, and describing how each individual has allegedly violated his constitutional rights. The Court finds it most helpful to understand the events giving rise to Plaintiff's claims by reviewing them in chronological order, however. To that end, the factual summary below is drawn from Plaintiff's statement of claim and background description.

Plaintiff was transferred to Lawrence in July 2012, following a disciplinary matter in another prison which was later expunged (Doc. 1-2, p. 30). During 2013, he filed three lawsuits against various Lawrence officials, two of which are still pending in this Court. He claims to have suffered numerous retaliatory acts by several prison staff members since filing those suits, some of which are the subject of his claims herein (Doc. 1-2, pp. 32-33).

In January 2014, Defendant Livingston, who is a co-worker and friend of several of the Defendants named in Plaintiff's 2013 lawsuits, began a series of retaliatory actions against Plaintiff. These included verbal harassment, and escalated to "pat-downs" of Plaintiff which he characterizes as "excessive force" - where Defendant Livingston would "slap[] up and down [Plaintiff's] body multiple times, each time becoming more painful then the last [sic]" (Doc. 1-2, p. 35). An incident on January 25, 2014, was caught on video surveillance in the Dietary area. Plaintiff's grievances over these incidents were never returned by Defendant Horton (counselor), and his inquiries about the fate of the grievances were unsuccessful. Defendant Horton's failure to respond prevented Plaintiff from using the grievance process to seek further review of his complaints (Doc. 1-2, pp. 1-2).

On January 30, 2014, Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Godinez, enclosing 60 pages of documents, and asked for a transfer or protective custody because of Defendant Livingston's aggression (Doc. 1-1, pp. 1-2). Similarly, Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Warden Gaetz in January and February 2013, asking for a transfer because of the danger posed by Lawrence staff (Doc. 1-1, p. 5). Plaintiff also wrote to Defendants Duncan and Treadway (assistant wardens), and to Defendant Stafford (internal affairs) regarding Defendant Livingston's behavior (Doc. 1-1, pp. 9, 12, 15). On March 3, 2014, Defendant Gaetz wrote back and told Plaintiff he would be interviewed by other staff about his safety concerns.

As a result of Plaintiff's letter to Defendant Godinez, Defendant Gabor interviewed Plaintiff in early March 2014 to investigate his concerns. Defendant Gabor was to report back to Defendant Godinez, who would then make a decision as to any action to be taken (Doc. 1-1, pp. 7-8).

On March 25, 2014, Plaintiff wrote Defendant Gaetz again seeking protection, when he had not received any further response. He also wrote again to Defendants Duncan and Treadway, and filed an emergency grievance that Defendant Duncan deemed to be non-emergency (Doc. 1-1, pp. 10, 12). Nothing was done in response to these inquiries, and Plaintiff continued to encounter Defendant Livingston on a regular basis when going for meals. Plaintiff further claims that the failure of Defendants Treadway and Stafford to address his concerns was in retaliation for being sued by Plaintiff in another case in 2013 (Doc. 1-1, pp. 14, 16).

On June 16, 2014, Defendant Livingston called Plaintiff out of the dinner line and ordered him to the end of the line. Although Plaintiff claims to have offered no resistance, Defendant Livingston placed Plaintiff in handcuffs with his arms behind his back, and fastened them so tightly that they painfully cut into his skin (Doc. 1-1, pp. 25-30). Plaintiff told Defendant Livingston that he was in pain, and asked him to loosen the cuffs. Instead, Defendant Livingston grabbed the handcuffs, twisted and lifted them up to the point that Plaintiff's arms could not go any higher. He was forced to bend forward at the waist in an attempt to alleviate the pain and pressure on his shoulders. Plaintiff was made to walk back to his housing unit in that position. During that movement, Defendant Livingston took out his pepper spray and warned nearby inmates to get back, placing Plaintiff in fear that the guard in the tower might shoot him if he flinched or jerked away in response to the pain. Plaintiff was left in these tight handcuffs for approximately 35 minutes under the watch of Defendant Livingston. He alleges that all these actions were taken in retaliation for his activity in filing lawsuits against Defendant Livingston's colleagues/friends, and for the grievances Plaintiff filed to complain about Defendant Livingston's harassment earlier in the year.

Also on June 16, 2014, after Plaintiff returned to his housing unit in the handcuffs, he encountered Defendant Whelan and asked him to loosen the cuffs (Doc. 1-1, pp. 17-25). Defendant Whelan instead went into his office with Defendant Livingston, leaving Plaintiff under the control of Defendants Huddlestone and Leaf (Doc. 1-2, p. 4-7).

Defendant Huddlestone took hold of the handcuffs and pinned Plaintiff face-first against a window, intensifying his pain. Defendant Leaf grabbed the back of Plaintiff's neck, forcing his face into the glass. They ignored Plaintiff's pleas to loosen the cuffs, claiming they had no handcuff key, and told him to shut up. Some minutes later, Defendant Whelan emerged from the office. Plaintiff again requested him to loosen the handcuffs because they "were killing him" (Doc. 1-1, p. 19). Defendant Whelan did nothing about the problem. He and Defendant Leaf put Plaintiff into a hot locked shower room for about 30 minutes, where he continued to suffer.

When Defendant Whelan took Plaintiff out, he responded to Plaintiff's entreaties by placing the handcuff key in the lock - but did not actually loosen the cuffs. Plaintiff believes this was all for show, since about 70 inmates were looking on and heard Plaintiff beg for relief from the tight cuffs. Defendant Whelan and an unknown (John Doe) guard then escorted Plaintiff to segregation as he continued to complain about the pain in his wrists. When they passed out of view of the video monitors, Defendant Whelan stopped Plaintiff by yanking on the handcuffs. He then squeezed one of the cuffs "with all his strength, " causing it to close even more tightly on Plaintiff's wrist, and breaking the bone (Doc. 1-1, p. 21). Plaintiff yelled in pain, and the John Doe Defendant was so shocked that he released Plaintiff's arm. Defendant Whelan began yelling at Plaintiff while twisting the middle of the cuffs into Plaintiff's wrists and telling him, "I'll earn this lawsuit." Id. Plaintiff maintains that he never resisted or became combative during the entire episode.

At some point during the time Plaintiff was under the control of Defendant Whelan, the Defendant John Doe Officer slammed his forearm into the back of Plaintiff's neck (Doc. 1-2, pp. 26-27). He forced Plaintiff's head down to his knees, then lifted Plaintiff's handcuffed wrists up to the point that his right shoulder "popped/separated out of place." Id. He failed to intervene when Defendant Whelan injured Plaintiff, and failed to summon medical attention.

When Defendant Whelan let up, Plaintiff asked to be taken to Healthcare because of the severe pain in his wrists. Defendant Whelan refused and again locked Plaintiff in a shower. Defendant Willis finally removed the handcuffs, and Plaintiff saw his "mangled" wrists (Doc. 1-1, p. 22). He showed Defendant Willis his injuries, but Defendant Willis refused to get a nurse (Doc. 1-2, p. 20-21). Plaintiff, who was then in segregation, begged officers for medical attention for the next two hours, to no avail.

About an hour after Plaintiff began complaining about his injured wrists, Defendants Whelan and Livingston filed a false disciplinary report against Plaintiff in connection with the handcuff incident (Doc. 1-1, p. 23). Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Whelan filed the report in retaliation for Plaintiff's complaints about his injuries, and that Defendant Livingston brought charges to cover up his "corporal punishment" of Plaintiff. All but one charge was later expunged, and Plaintiff was released from segregation after 18 days (Doc. 1-1, p. 23; Doc. 1-2, p. 1).

Later in the evening of June 16, while Plaintiff was still in segregation, Defendant Nurse Cusick came to the wing to pass out medications. When she finished, Plaintiff showed her the cuts and knots on his wrists and asked her for medical attention. She claimed not to see any injuries, and acknowledged that Defendant Whelan had told her he had loosened Plaintiff's ...

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