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Vargas v. Roeckeman

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 13, 2015

JUAN VARGAS, No. M17897, Plaintiff,
v.
ZACK ROECKEMAN, CHARLES CONRAD, and HAROLD W. SCHULER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Juan Vargas is an inmate currently housed in Big Muddy River Correctional Center. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights in connection with his alleged sexual assault at the hands of a prison official.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that "no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit." Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, in 2014, Plaintiff was working in the prison dietary department under the supervision of Charles Conrad. On six or seven occasions, Conrad sexually assaulted Plaintiff, fondling Plaintiff's penis and testicles, among other things. Although Plaintiff was emotionally upset about the assaults, he did not immediately report the assaults because he feared prison officials would retaliate against him.

Plaintiff eventually called the prison's rape hotline and lodged a complaint against Dietary Supervisor Conrad. A few weeks later, Plaintiff called the hotline again seeking mental health counseling relative to the trauma caused by the sexual assaults. Rather than receive help, Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary report by Internal Affairs officer Lt. Harold Schuler. According to Plaintiff, Lt. Schuler knew about sexual misconduct by Conrad, but he repeatedly covered for Conrad.

From Plaintiff's perspective, Warden Zach Roeckeman is liable for the actions of Supervisor Conrad and Lt. Schuler. Plaintiff notes that Warden Roeckeman gave his approval to Plaintiff's disciplinary conviction.

Based on the allegations in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. 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. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

Count 1: Defendant Conrad sexually assaulted Plaintiff, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 2: Defendant Schuler was deliberately indifferent when he covered up Conrad's assault upon Plaintiff, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 3: Defendant Schuler retaliated against Plaintiff for reporting Conrad's sexual assault, in violation of the First Amendment; and
Count 4: Defendant Roeckeman was deliberately indifferent and complicit in the constitutional violations perpetrated by Defendants Conrad and ...

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