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Bentz v. Lindenberg

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 9, 2015

DAVID ROBERT BENTZ, #S03210, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD LINDENBERG, VIRGIL SMITH, KIMBERLY BUTLER, LASHBROOK, LINDA CARTER, MICHAEL MONJE, SHERRY BENTON, TERRI ANDERSON, TROST, SALVADORE GODINEZ, and UNKNOWN PARTIES, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff David Bentz, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] In the complaint, Plaintiff claims that two Menard officials, Donald Lindenberg and Virgil Smith, have harassed, threatened, and assaulted him repeatedly since November 2013. He now sues these two defendants, as well as numerous other officials at Menard and the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), for their involvement in this alleged misconduct. Plaintiff maintains that Defendants conspired to violate his rights under the First and Eighth Amendments, as well as Illinois law (Doc. 1, pp. 1, 4).

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).

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility." Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). The complaint survives preliminary review under this standard.

The Complaint

In the complaint, Plaintiff claims that he is the target of ongoing harassment, threats, and two assaults by Donald Lindenberg and Virgil Smith, two correctional officers at Menard. In November 2013, Defendant Lindenberg allegedly warned Plaintiff that "there would be repercussions if Plaintiff filed any more grievances" (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff immediately filed a grievance to complain about the incident. From November 2013 until February 2014, Defendant Lindenberg passed through the North-2 cell house daily, threatening and harassing Plaintiff each time.

Plaintiff relocated to the North-1 cell house from February 6 to May 30, 2014. During this time, Plaintiff was allegedly assaulted by several other prison officials on May 11, 2014 (Doc. 1, p. 5). He sustained neck and jaw injuries and filed a separate lawsuit to address the incident. See Bentz v. Qualls, et al., Case No. 14-cv-562-MJR-SCW (S.D. Ill. 2014). That action is currently pending.

Plaintiff transferred back to the North-2 cell house on May 30, 2014. There, Defendant Lindenberg's threats continued, and Defendant Smith joined in the harassment. Plaintiff reported these threats to an internal affairs officer, Defendant Monje, around June 27, 2014. At the conclusion of this meeting, Defendants Lindenberg and Smith approached Plaintiff and harassed him for nearly thirty minutes, threatening to "put a hit on Plaintiff" (Doc. 1, p. 5). Defendant Monje was not present during this incident.

Meanwhile, Plaintiff received no treatment for the jaw and neck injuries that he sustained in the assault on May 11, 2014, until the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Illinois (in connection with Plaintiff's related lawsuit) contacted Menard to ask that Plaintiff be seen (Doc. 1, p. 6). On August 23, 2014, Plaintiff met with a nurse, who referred him to a doctor. On August 29, 2014, Plaintiff was taken to the health care unit in the North-2 cell house for an appointment with Defendant Trost.

While waiting to see the doctor, Plaintiff observed Defendant Lindenberg assault a handcuffed inmate in the lab room. After exiting the lab room, Defendant Lindenberg asked Plaintiff, "What the f*ck are you looking at white boy?" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Defendant Lindenberg proceeded to attack Plaintiff in the waiting room (Doc. 1, p. 6). He punched him in the chest and grabbed him around the neck. Defendant Lindenberg dragged Plaintiff by the neck out of the health care unit, threatening to "f*ck [Plaintiff] up, " if he sued him (Doc. 1, p. 6). Defendant Smith was present during the attack and participated in it.

Both Defendants Lindenberg and Smith ignored Plaintiff's requests for medical attention. Defendant John Doe #1, an unknown officer on 3-Gallery, also ignored Plaintiff's requests for medical care (Doc. 1, p. 6). When Plaintiff finally secured a hall pass for the North-2 cell house on September 19, 2014, Defendant Trost refused to see him (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff instead spoke with Defendant Lashbrook about his need for medical care on September 25, 2014, and was told to submit an emergency grievance; in response to it, he was scheduled to meet with Defendant Trost, who only treated the injuries from Plaintiff's May 11, 2014, assault.

On December 10, 2014, Defendant Lindenberg allegedly assaulted Plaintiff again (Doc. 1, p. 8). He "palmed" Plaintiff's head and "tried to" slam it into nearby bars. Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance the following day but received no response.

Plaintiff now sues Defendants Lindenberg and Smith for retaliation under the First Amendment, excessive force and denial of medical care under the Eighth Amendment, and assault and battery under Illinois law (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 11). He sues Defendant Trost for exhibiting deliberate indifference to his medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Illinois law. He claims that Defendants Monje failed to protect him from the assaults, and Defendant John Doe #1 exhibited deliberate indifference toward his medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Finally, he sues Salvador Godinez (IDOC Director), Kimberly Butler (warden), Lashbrook (assistant warden), Linda Carter (grievance officer), Michael Monje (internal affairs shift supervisor), Terri Anderson (inmate issues officer), and Sherry Benton (inmate issues officer) for supervisory liability under the Eighth Amendment, based on their failure to stop Defendants Lindenberg and Smith (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9).

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief (Doc. 1, p. 13). He seeks a preliminary injunction terminating the employment of Defendants Lindenberg and Smith and criminally prosecuting them for their alleged misconduct (Doc. 1, p. 14). Finally, Plaintiff seeks a temporary restraining order, which has been denied without prejudice (Doc. 5).

Discussion

Claims Subject to Further Review

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that the complaint articulates the following colorable federal claims, as well as the state law claims listed below, which are subject to further consideration under this Court's supplemental jurisdiction ( see 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a)):[2]

Count 1: Defendants Lindenberg and Smith conspired to retaliate against Plaintiff for filing grievances and lawsuits by using threats, intimidation, and physical force ...

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