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Sanchez-Figueroa v. Bergmann

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 15, 2015

ELGAR SANCHEZ-FIGUEROA, # S-13549, Plaintiff,
v.
HENRY FRANCIS BERGMANN, RAQUEL STRUBHART, ROD KLOECKNER, JOHN ARTHUR HUDSPETH, UNKNOWN PARTY (LDS, MP, AMS) and DERRIS E. MIDDENDORFF, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff was convicted in the Circuit Court of Clinton County. He brings suit against the attorney who was appointed to represent him in his post-conviction case (Bergmann), an interpreter (Strubhart), the clerk of court (Kloeckner), the Judge (Middendorff), and the state's attorney and/or assistant state's attorneys and investigators.[1] This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

Plaintiff includes claims concerning the post-conviction proceeding that he initiated on March 9, 2015, as well as claims relating to his guilty plea proceedings (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). He attaches a copy of his post-conviction petition, which states that Plaintiff entered a guilty plea and on September 26, 3012, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the criminal sexual assault of a child (Doc. 1-3, p. 18). In the petition, he claims that he was told he would get a five-year sentence if he pled guilty, and he agreed to that because he did not rape the victim. After he agreed to the five-year plea deal, however, the sentence was switched to 35 years "behind [his] back." Id. Plaintiff also includes a motion he filed in the criminal case to proceed in forma pauperis, and requesting free transcripts. In that motion, he states that he is a Guatemalan national who does not speak, read, or understand English (Doc. 1-3, pp. 33-34).

With reference to the post-conviction proceeding, the complaint alleges that Defendant Bergmann was appointed to represent Plaintiff in his post-conviction case, but he refused to contact Plaintiff (Doc. 1, p. 5). Defendant Bergmann is also lying to cover up corruption by the assistant state's attorney, and is concealing false documents and manipulating the court records in conspiracy with Defendants LDS, AMS, and MP. Defendants Kloeckner and Middendorff conspired to "put a hold on" the transcripts that Plaintiff requested, in order to alter them. From all indications, the post-conviction proceeding is still pending in the Circuit Court.

Going back to the original criminal prosecution, Plaintiff claims that he was illegally indicted by Defendants LDS and MP. He was never re-indicted on the superseding indictment, and Defendant Judge Middendorff failed to dismiss the original indictment (Doc. 1, p. 6). Defendants MP, LDS, and AMS joined the police in bringing a false complaint by information, and charged Plaintiff with rape when there was no evidence of penetration, possession of a firearm, or great bodily harm to the victim.[2]

Plaintiff filed an affidavit seeking a new trial or new plea, and he was brought to court on April 30, 2015. Defendants Bergmann and Strubhart threatened Plaintiff that he would get hurt if he did not stop accusing them of corruption, and told him to write a letter admitting that he raped the victim, or Defendant Bergmann would not amend his post-conviction petition (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). He accuses Defendant Bergmann of malpractice for covering up this corruption (Doc. 1, p. 8).

At some point, Plaintiff told Defendant Bergmann to call his Guatemalan Consulate for assistance, as guaranteed by the Vienna Convention, but Defendant Bergmann refused to do so (Doc. 1, p. 8). It is not clear from the complaint whether Plaintiff requested any other Defendant to contact his consulate. He asserts, however, that his due process rights were violated because he was denied access to consular assistance in violation of the Vienna Convention. Id.

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that the prosecutors, judge, clerks, court reporters, defense attorney, and racist translator "fix[ed] and fabricated a plea bargain that [Plaintiff] Sanchez did not understand" (Doc. 1, p. 9). He wanted Defendant Bergmann to set the matter for a new plea or for a jury trial. Id.

As relief, Plaintiff seeks money damages for having been subjected to psychological and emotional trauma and physical injury; for Defendant Bergmann's interference with Plaintiff's investigation of corruption by the other Defendants and refusal to represent him; and for the other Defendants' fraudulent grand jury indictment and fabricated charge by information (Doc. 1, p. 10).

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.

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. 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).

Based on the allegations of 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: Challenges to the Original Guilty Plea and Conviction;
Count 2: Claims Relating to the Post-Conviction ...

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