United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.
Plaintiff, an inmate currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on events that occurred while he was confined at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"). In a nutshell, Plaintiff claims that three of the Defendants severely beat him while he was handcuffed. Following the beating, he was denied adequate medical care and given two years in segregation on allegedly false disciplinary charges. In addition to the civil rights claims, Plaintiff asserts state law tort claims.
According to the complaint, on or about October 17, 2013, Plaintiff left his cell to walk to dinner along with other inmates. Defendant Ealy ordered him out of the line and told him to place his hands on top of his head (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff complied, but then he noticed that when he left his cell, he had inadvertently left his hat facing backwards, which is prohibited. He turned the hat around to face the bill forward. Defendant Ealy ordered Plaintiff back to his cell. When he told Plaintiff he would not be allowed to get a food tray, Plaintiff said, "That['s] crazy." Id.
Plaintiff started back toward the cell, but Defendant Ealy suddenly grabbed his wrist, and Defendant Bebout grabbed his other hand. Both officers painfully twisted Plaintiff's arms and forced him to the floor. Defendant Holmes and several other unknown officers got on top of Plaintiff, pressing on his back and legs with their knees and feet to inflict more pain (Doc. 1, p. 10). They placed him in handcuffs and continued to violently twist and pull on Plaintiff's arms and hands. Plaintiff asserts he offered no resistance at any time. Defendant Holmes then kneed Plaintiff in the face, ribcage, and back more than ten times. Defendant Bebout punched Plaintiff in the face with his fist.
The officers rammed Plaintiff's head and shoulders into the stair rails and walls as they transported him through the prison, causing him to lose consciousness (Doc. 1, p. 11). They ended up at the infirmary, where they again slammed him against the wall and door frame, and where Defendant Holmes again kneed Plaintiff in the right side of his face.
At the direction of Defendant Nurse Stephanie, the officers placed Plaintiff on an examination table. They positioned him face-down on his knees, and the guards pulled his handcuffs up toward his head. Plaintiff complained that he could hardly breathe in that position. He flipped himself over on his back, and Defendants Holmes and Bebout immediately started kneeing him in his face and ribs. Plaintiff was already bleeding profusely from the earlier beating. Defendants Holmes and Bebout continued to inflict pain on Plaintiff by manipulating the handcuffs.
Plaintiff told Defendant Stephanie that he was having trouble breathing and that he thought the guards had broken his ribs. She yelled and became verbally abusive, telling Plaintiff to "stop being an a**hole" (Doc. 1, p. 12). She refused to examine his ribs for injuries and never checked his vital signs. She did apply alcohol to his bleeding and swollen face.
When Plaintiff left the infirmary, Defendants Holmes and Bebout took him to a shower holding cell. Defendant Holmes told Plaintiff that if he said anything about the beating and assault, he and Bebout would come back and finish the job, and it would make this beating seem like nothing (Doc. 1, p. 13). This threat put Plaintiff in fear for his life. He asserts that guards at Menard have "made it a practice and custom to systematically beat and assault inmates" on many occasions. Id. Plaintiff's clothing was taken and exchanged for a jumpsuit, and he was placed in isolation/segregation.
Later on the same evening of October 17, Internal Affairs Officer Anthony interviewed Plaintiff after learning of the assault. He took pictures of Plaintiff's injuries, but Plaintiff refused to tell him anything about the attack because of his fear of reprisal from Defendants Holmes and Bebout (Doc. 1, p. 14). Two days later, on October 19, 2013, Plaintiff was taken to the Health Care Unit after he complained of unbearable pain and difficulty breathing due to his injuries. Defendant Missy (Plaintiff refers to her both as a nurse and a med tech) examined and documented his injuries, and she gave him "low-grade" pain relief medication. Id. She scheduled him to see the physician's assistant and sent him back to his cell. The pain medication failed to give Plaintiff any relief. He saw the physician's assistant two days later and had x-rays taken. Plaintiff claims that he still suffers from severe depression, anxiety, and distress due to the attack by Defendants Bebout and Holmes (Doc. 1, p. 15).
Plaintiff was charged with two sets of disciplinary infractions as a result of the incidents on October 17, with the most serious charges being attempted assault. Defendant Bebout stated that when he and Defendant Ealy stopped Plaintiff on the way to the chow hall for having his hat turned backwards, Plaintiff cursed him and lunged at him with a closed fist (Doc. 1-2, p. 18). Plaintiff was also charged with kicking at an officer when he rolled over on the examination table at the Health Care Unit (Doc. 1-2, p. 17). On October 25, 2013, Plaintiff had a hearing before the Adjustment Committee and was found guilty of the charges (Doc. 1, pp. 15-16). He claims the charges were fabricated and filed only to cover up the beating inflicted on him by Defendants Bebout and Holmes. Plaintiff was punished with two years in segregation, as well as two years of C-grade, commissary and visitation restrictions, and other unspecified disciplinary action. Plaintiff does not say whether his punishment included any loss of good conduct credits. Defendant Harrington signed off on the disciplinary reports, even though he allegedly was aware that prison guards regularly beat and assault inmates at Menard (Doc. 1, p. 17).
Plaintiff was transferred to Pontiac on November 21, 2013. Before he left Menard, Plaintiff filed emergency grievances directed to Defendant Warden Harrington to complaint about the beating, but these were deemed not to be emergency matters (Doc. 1, p. 15). He tried to file other grievances through the regular process, but they were either ignored or destroyed. Later, while at Pontiac, he submitted copies of his grievances to prison officials, but they were rejected as being filed outside the proper time frame (Doc. 1, p. 16).
Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as damages.
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, which shall receive further review:
Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Ealy, Bebout, and Holmes for using excessive force against Plaintiff on or about October 17, 2013, and against Defendant Harrington for condoning the practice of using excessive force against Menard prisoners;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendant Nurse Stephanie, for refusing to examine Plaintiff for injuries immediately following the beating on October 17, 2013.
In addition, Plaintiff may proceed on the following state law claims:
Count 3: Assault/battery claim against Defendants Ealy, Bebout, and Holmes for physically assaulting Plaintiff ...