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Jones v. Dean

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 6, 2014

COREY D. JONES, # B-20059, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O DEAN, C/O HUDLEY, WARDEN DUNCAN, C. COLE, C/O BRANT, SGT. KICHNELL, and C/O OCHS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims that several Defendants beat a fellow inmate in a neighboring cell, then proceeded to physically assault Plaintiff after he protested their misconduct. Following that incident, those guards retaliated against Plaintiff, and other officials failed to properly investigate the incident or take action to stop the continuing retaliation.

According to the complaint, on August 21, 2014, five inmates who had just been transferred to Lawrence from Vandalia Correctional Center were taken to the showers and beaten by several guards (Doc. 1, p. 5). One of those prisoners was then placed in a cell next door to Plaintiff's segregation cell, where Defendants Dean, Hudley, Cole, Brant, and Kichnell continued their attack on him. The prisoner's hands were cuffed behind his back the entire time. Plaintiff called out to the officers that "they were bogus for beating on that inmate like that." Id. Defendant Dean hollered back to Plaintiff that he was next. When they finished with his neighbor, the above Defendants ordered Plaintiff to cuff up. He complied, and they took him to the showers and beat him up while he remained cuffed with his hands behind his back. They told him that he got that treatment because he "opened [his] big mouth." Id.

After they finished beating him, Plaintiff asked Defendants Dean, Hudley, Cole, Brant, and Kichnell for medical attention. They refused to get him any help. Defendant Dean told him that if he said anything to the nurse about the incident when she brought his medication, the "beat down crew" would come back and "beat [his] ass" (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff was afraid, so he said nothing to the nurse. He had suffered blows to his head and body causing black eyes, a slit lip, and injuries to his lower back and abdomen (Doc. 1, p. 11). As of the time he filed the instant complaint, Plaintiff still had never received any medical attention for the injuries inflicted in the beating. He suffers from back pain so severe that it hurts to walk, has painful headaches, and intense stomach pain because the beating aggravated an old gunshot wound. Id.

On September 10, 2014, Plaintiff asked Defendant Ochs (the regular wing officer) to help him speak to a higher-ranking officer or to the Warden about the beating and lack of medical treatment (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff had tried to submit letters and grievances but his mail had been intercepted and destroyed by the officers who had beaten him or their cohorts. Defendant Dean and the other four officers who worked the 3:00-11:00 shift were threatening him with another beating, and Plaintiff feared for his life. Defendant Ochs said there was nothing he could do, and walked away.

On September 17, 2014, Plaintiff refused to let an officer close his food-tray slot until he was allowed to talk to somebody about "what was going on" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff was taken to see Lt. Dallas, and Lt. Freeman was called in. (Neither of these officers is a named Defendant.) Plaintiff told them both about the beating, refusal of medical treatment, threats, and withholding of his mail, and named other inmates who had experienced the same problems. Plaintiff was returned to his cell. Later in the day when Defendants Dean and Hudley came on the 3:00-11:00 shift, they removed Plaintiff and his cellmate from their cell in order to search it. Plaintiff saw them go through his legal mail and remove a letter to the Warden, four grievances, and a complaint Plaintiff filed with the Illinois State Police over the beating. Defendant Dean placed those documents inside his shirt and told Plaintiff he should fear for his life, adding he was going to "get [his] snitch ass" and Plaintiff would not get any mail when he works.

On September 18 and 21, 2014, Defendant Dean refused to give Plaintiff a food tray on the 3:00-11:00 shift. He also worked the breakfast shift on September 21, and gave Plaintiff's tray to his cellmate, telling Plaintiff, "snitches don't eat" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff claims that some officers on that shift still (as of the date of the complaint) refuse to feed him (Doc. 1, p. 10). Also on September 21, Defendant Dean informed three other inmates that Plaintiff was a snitch. He told these inmates that he would put Plaintiff in their cell(s) in handcuffs, and if they beat him up, he would get them extra trays, move them to a better cell, and help them get a television.

The next day (September 22), Plaintiff refused to give up his food trays to Defendant Ochs until he was allowed to talk to Defendant Warden Duncan about the retaliation he was going through at the hands of the "beat down crew" (Defendants Dean, Hudley, Cole, Brant, and Kichnell) (Doc. 1, p. 7). Sixteen other inmates in the segregation wing took the same action (Doc. 1-1, p. 30). Defendant Ochs wrote a disciplinary report charging Plaintiff with 105 Dangerous Disturbance and 403 Disobeying a Direct Order.

On September 22, 2014, the warden sent Major Sorensen (not a Defendant) to talk to the inmates in segregation about their complaints. He spoke to two of the inmates and after hearing their concerns, told them some changes would be made. The next day, Defendants Dean and Hudley were removed from the 3:00-11:00 rotation on the segregation wing. However, Defendant Duncan left the other members of the "beat down crew" on the same shift, and the retaliation continued against Plaintiff (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8).

On September 28, 2014, Plaintiff was found guilty of the less serious disciplinary charge (disobeying an order). The dangerous disturbance charge was dismissed (Doc. 1, p. 10). He was punished with three months in segregation and C-grade status, and lost three months of good conduct credits (Doc. 1, p. 7). As a result, his release date was moved from October 6, 2014, to December 6, 2014 (Doc. 1, p. 10).

On October 1, 2014, Defendant Duncan "finally" made a round in the segregation wing, and Plaintiff handed him a copy of a letter complaining about the beating and ensuing retaliation (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff had made several attempts to send a letter to Defendant Warden Duncan, and complains that he was unable to get the letter to him because of the mail interference and the failure of Defendant Duncan and assistant wardens to make regular rounds in segregation. Defendant Duncan dismissed Plaintiff's complaints, saying that an investigation had been made, and the claims of misconduct could not be proven (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff asserts that the investigation was inadequate and served only to cover up staff misconduct (Doc. 1, p. 9).

Plaintiff also claims that the correctional officers who beat him acted out of racial animus, because they are all white and the inmates they beat up were all African-American, with the exception of one (Doc. 1, p. 9).

Finally, Plaintiff asserts that the officers' refusal to feed him has denied him adequate calories to maintain his physical and mental health (Doc. 1, p. 10). He wants the Defendants who beat him and other inmates and threw away his mail to be criminally charged (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive 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.

Plaintiff organized his complaint into sixteen "claims." For the sake of brevity and clarity, the Court has reorganized the claims as described below. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. 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: First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendants Dean, Hudley, Cole, Brant, and Kichnell for beating Plaintiff after he protested their abuse of a fellow prisoner on August 21, 2014;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendants Dean, Hudley, Cole, Brant, and Kichnell for beating Plaintiff on August 21, 2014;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendants Dean, Hudley, Cole, Brant, and Kichnell for denying Plaintiff access to medical care for the injuries they inflicted on him in the beating of August 21, 2014;
Count 4: First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendants Dean and Hudley for shaking down Plaintiff's cell, taking his legal documents, and threatening his life ...

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