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Daniels v. Mezo

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 22, 2014

DARRIAN DANIELS, # K-91046, Plaintiff,


STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was confined at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"). Plaintiff is serving a life sentence for murder. He claims that Defendants failed to protect him from an attack by his cellmate. Following that assault, Defendant Mezo himself beat Plaintiff while he was restrained in handcuffs.

In the complaint, Plaintiff explains that after he was placed in segregation at Menard in August 2013, Defendant Mezo and other unknown officers threatened to harm Plaintiff (Doc. 7, p. 5). Plaintiff reported the threats to Defendant Harrington (who was the warden at that time) and to Intel/Internal Affairs. Defendant Bebout[1] (Intel Officer) interviewed Plaintiff in reference to those threats, but became verbally hostile and took no action to protect Plaintiff from the officers (Doc. 7, p. 6).

On March 21, 2014, Defendant Mezo and other officers placed an unstable new cellmate into Plaintiff's cell. This inmate had been housed in a one-man cell, but Defendant Mezo dragged him out of that cell and forced him into the cell with Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that this inmate's unstable condition was known to the Menard administration. Previously, Plaintiff had suffered an attack by a different unstable cellmate, who stabbed and seriously injured him.[2] Plaintiff requested Defendant Mezo to move him away from this new cellmate because he feared for his safety, but Defendant Mezo refused (Doc. 7, p. 7). Three days later, Plaintiff was attacked by the cellmate. Plaintiff later received a disciplinary ticket for assault in connection with that incident.[3]

Plaintiff and the cellmate were taken to the prison hospital for a checkup after this attack/altercation. While Plaintiff was in the holding cell waiting to be evaluated, Defendant Mezo threatened to "stump" (or possibly stomp) Plaintiff when they were away from the surveillance camera (Doc. 7, p. 8). Other unknown officers issued unspecified threats.

On the way back to Plaintiff's cell, Defendant Mezo tried to push Plaintiff down the stairs. When Plaintiff made it to the bottom of the stairs still upright, Defendant Mezo made him fall by pulling his handcuffed arms upward. Defendant Mezo then started kicking Plaintiff and kneeing him in the head. After a few minutes, Plaintiff was helped up, but Defendant Mezo began to choke him and banged his head on the wall until he almost passed out (Doc. 7, p. 9). While this attack proceeded, an Unknown Officer (Lieutenant) looked on and did nothing to intervene. Two inmates also witnessed the beating. Plaintiff's neck, back, and arms were injured. He asserts that he never physically resisted any officers, and remained in handcuffs during the entire episode (Doc. 7, p. 10).

He seeks compensatory and punitive damages against all Defendants (Doc. 7, p. 11).

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 Defendant Bebout, for failing to take any protective measures after Plaintiff told her about the threats made against him by Defendant Mezo and other officers;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Mezo for failing to protect Plaintiff from the cellmate who attacked him, and against Defendant Mezo and other Unknown Defendant(s) for purposely placing him at risk of harm by celling him with that unstable inmate;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendant Mezo for beating Plaintiff, and against other Unknown Defendant(s) for watching the beating and failing to intervene.

However, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted against former Warden Defendant Harrington, and he shall be dismissed from the action. Plaintiff mentions Defendant Harrington only in connection with the August 2013 threats by Defendant Mezo, stating that he wrote the warden a letter complaining about the threats. There is no indication that Defendant Harrington had any personal involvement in Defendant Bebout's interview of Plaintiff or her failure to take any action. Although Defendant Harrington would have had supervisory authority over Defendant Bebout, that is not enough for liability to attach to him. The doctrine of respondeat superior is not applicable to § 1983 actions. Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). Plaintiff's ...

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