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Edwards v. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 9, 2015

FRANK EDWARDS, #B-72496, Plaintiff,
v.
SALVADOR GODINEZ, Z. ROECKEMAN, C/O NALLEY, DR. LIPCHITZ, SHANE ORANGE, J. C. JOHNSON, C/O KALAHER, C/O MASSEY, C/O MOHR, and C/O STONER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Frank Edwards, [1]who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff is a transgender inmate, who claims that she was sexually assaulted at Big Muddy River Correctional Center ("Big Muddy") on September 9, 2014. In retaliation for reporting the incident, Plaintiff received a disciplinary ticket that led to her placement in segregation and transfer to Lawrence. She now sues the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections' ("IDOC"), Salvador Godinez, and nine Big Muddy officials[2]for violating her rights under the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief.

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). After carefully reviewing the allegations, the Court finds that the complaint survives preliminary review under Section 1915A.

The Complaint

In the early morning hours of September 19, 2014, Plaintiff was awakened from a deep sleep by Officers Johnson and Kalaher, two correctional officers at Big Muddy River Correctional Center ("Big Muddy") (Doc. 1, p. 5). They ordered her to go into the dayroom. At the time, Plaintiff was wearing only a small t-shirt and oversized underwear. She informed the correctional officers of her transgender status and asked if she could get dressed before entering the dayroom. The officers denied her request. While in the dayroom, Plaintiff was forced to endure stares from male inmates, an experience the complaint characterizes as "torture."

At the same time, Officers Johnson and Kalaher searched her cell. They threw her undergarments and other personal property into the gallery. Plaintiff claims that this conduct violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unlawful searches and seizures.

Lieutenant Nully[3]then handcuffed Plaintiff (Doc. 1, p. 6). Officers Massey and Stoner dragged her across the gallery. As they did so, Plaintiff's underwear slipped down and exposed her anus. She asked the officers to pull up her underwear, but they refused. Instead, Officers Massey and Stoner slammed Plaintiff into a door and held her against it. As they held her, "an unknown assa[i]lant began to penetra[te] Ms. Edwards.... In excruciating pain, feeling as if her insides were being ripped out, Plaintiff... Edwards pleaded with the defendants and the unknown assailant to stop because they were hurting her" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Rather than stopping the assault, however, Officers Massey and Stoner "found amusement in Plaintiff's agony." Id. They stated, "Since you wanna be a woman[, ] now you['re] treated as such!" Id. The assault continued for at least 2½ minutes. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Godinez and Roeckeman were aware of the assault, although she never spoke to either of them about it.

After the assault, Plaintiff was escorted to segregation. Plaintiff attempted to have a bowel movement and discovered "a lot" of blood. She notified a nurse in the segregation unit. In response, Defendant Johnson and Mohr took Plaintiff to an outside hospital. On the way, they called her a "sickly fag*ot son of b*tch" (Doc. 1, p. 7). They also questioned her allegations by asking, "If you were raped[, ] how in the hell did you feel it considering how many times you've been f*cked in the *ss?" Id. Officers Johnson and Mohr then told Plaintiff that she would be written up on disciplinary charges because she "didn't keep a close[d] mouth about what happen[ed] to her." Id. Plaintiff claims that these acts constituted retaliation, in violation of her First Amendment rights.

After returning to Big Muddy from the hospital, Plaintiff was placed under investigation. When Plaintiff complained that she was sexually assaulted, one of the investigators, Defendant Nalley, stated, "That was not sexual assault. It's just assault, and you don't need to worry about it" (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff also claimed that her grievances addressing the assault were never answered by Defendants Orange and Nalley, both of whom "passed the buck."

At the conclusion of the investigation, Plaintiff was ultimately issued a disciplinary ticket for intimidation, threats, insolence, and disobeying a direct order (Doc. 1, p. 7). The disciplinary hearing committee found her guilty of the violation(s) and punished her with three months in segregation and a transfer to Lawrence.

Plaintiff met with her psychiatrist, Defendant Lipchitz, to discuss the sexual assault. After recounting the events and discussing her response, Defendant Lipchitz agreed to give Plaintiff "a higher dose of everything, " including her female hormones and her psychotropic medications.

Plaintiff now raises claims against Defendants under the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as discussed in more detail below. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and injunctive relief. She specifically requests a preliminary and permanent injunction, in the form of an order prohibiting prison officials from transferring her back to Big Muddy and terminating the employment of the officers who participated in the assault (Doc. 1, p. 11).

Discussion

A. Claims Subject to Further Review

After carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds that the complaint articulates the following colorable federal claims, which shall receive further review:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendants Massey and Stoner for dragging Plaintiff from the dayroom and pinning her down while she was allegedly sexually assaulted on September 19, 2014;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Massey and Stoner for failing to protect Plaintiff from the sexual assault;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim against Defendants Massey and Stoner for failing to secure medical treatment for Plaintiff following the alleged sexual assault;
Count 4: First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendants Johnson and Mohr for issuing Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket because Plaintiff did not "keep her mouth shut" about the sexual assault; and
Count 5: Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim against Defendants Massey, Stoner, Johnson, and Mohr for targeting Plaintiff for mistreatment based on her transgender status.

Because the complaint sets forth sufficient allegations to support claims against those individuals identified above in connection with Counts 1-5, Plaintiff shall be ...


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