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Jones v. Morris

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 19, 2016

DAVID G. MORRIS, et al., Defendants.


          STACI M. YANDLE, United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 179.) Plaintiff Deangelo M. Jones is an inmate with the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendants David Morris, Alex Jones and James Best are employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections. On October 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff now proceeds solely on Count 1 which alleges that Defendants retaliated against him for complaining about the conditions of his confinement. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.


         From February 9, 2011 to April 9, 2014, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center. (Doc. 51-1 at 10-11.) Defendant Alex Jones served as the assistant warden at Menard Correctional Center. (Id. at 41.) Defendant James Best served as a lieutenant and Defendant David Morris also served as correctional officer. (Doc. 1 at 2; Doc. 20 at 1.)

         On February 9, 2014, Plaintiff, who was housed in protective custody, sent a letter to Jeannette Cowan, a caseworker at Menard Correctional Center, to complain that Defendant Morris and an unspecified lieutenant prevented him from using the telephone. (Doc. 51-1 at 39; Doc. 68-1 at 47-48.) During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that, on February 19, 2014, Ms. Cowan approached him to discuss the letter and he told her about the denial of privileges, including telephone use, access to the commissary and shower time by Defendants Morris and Best. (Doc. 51-1 at 13-15.) Plaintiff also told Ms. Cowan that he had told Defendant Best about Defendant Morris, but that Defendant Best refused to address his complaint despite his status as a lieutenant. (Id. at 19-20.) During this conversation with Best, Morris passed through the room where the conversation took place, stood in the next room and overheard the conversation. (Id. at 15.)

         At Menard Correctional Center, officers generally announced shower time and unlocked the cell doors for a short period to allow inmates to open the doors and leave their cells. (Id. at 23-25.) On February 24, 2014, Morris did not provide notice of shower time before unlocking the cell doors and locked the cell doors before many inmates had the chance to open them. (Id. at 25-26.) Plaintiff, who was able to open his cell door, complained to several correctional officers, including Morris, and was told to shut up and to return to his cell. (Id.) An unidentified correctional officer said, “We done got away with murders; we can do it again, ” which Plaintiff construed as a threat. (Id. at 27.) Several correctional officers, including Morris and Best, escorted Plaintiff to his cell. Plaintiff refused to leave his cell again that day. (Id. at 27-29.)

         Later that day, Plaintiff spoke with Defendant Jones - with Defendants Best and Morris present - regarding the threat and other issues. (Id. at 29-30.) Plaintiff also sent Jones a letter with his complaints regarding shower time, cell doors and commissary access. (Id.; Doc. 68-1 at 49.) In the letter, he also advised Jones that he was told to sign out of protective custody (and presumably to go to general population housing) when he complained. (Id.) Plaintiff also requested a transfer.[1] (Doc. 51-1 at 31; Doc. 68-1 at 49.)

         Plaintiff also testified that on February 25, 2014, Morris and other officers made comments to him, such as, “We will get you.” (Doc. 51-1 at 32-33.) On one occasion, Morris told another officer that Plaintiff did not like him and the other officer replied, “Fuck him.” (Id.; Doc. 68-1 at 39.)

         On February 26, 2014, Morris told Plaintiff that his cell would be searched. (Doc. 51-1 at 33.) Plaintiff dressed, was cuffed and placed in a shower. (Id. at 33-34.) Morris performed the search and a few minutes later, told Plaintiff that he found a stinger inside Plaintiff's cell.[2] (Id. at 34-35.) Morris submitted a disciplinary report indicating that a stinger was found in Plaintiff's cell and that Plaintiff had threatened him yelling, “You fucking bitch, I'm going to kill you and rape your wife once I get you, you fucking bitch.” (Doc. 68-1 at 52.) Plaintiff testified that he did not have a stinger in his cell and further testified that Brandon James, a fellow inmate, informed him that the officers planted the stinger in Plaintiff's cell. (Doc. 55-1 at 37.) Plaintiff also denied that he threatened Morris. (Doc. 68-1 at 55-57.)

         On the same day, Plaintiff sent a letter to Jones recounting the search and accusing Morris and Best of retaliation for his previous letter to Jones. (Doc. 68-1 at 50-51.) Plaintiff also denied possession of a stinger and that he threatened Defendant Morris. (Id.) He accused Best and Morris of fabricating the disciplinary report and requested an investigation and a polygraph test. (Id.) Jones never acted or otherwise responded to Plaintiff's letters. (Doc. 55-1 at 38, 40-41.)

         According to the final summary report of the adjustment committee, a hearing was held on March 4, 2014 on the disciplinary report, which charged misuse of property, intimidation or threats and insolence. (Doc. 68-1 at 53-54.) In a personal statement submitted to the committee, Plaintiff denied the disciplinary report and charges and requested an investigation and polygraph test. (Id. at 55-57.) Inmates Brandon James and Corwyn Brown testified on Plaintiff's behalf that he did not threaten or curse Morris. (Id. at 53-54, 60, 65.) The hearing committee found Plaintiff guilty on all charges and imposed discipline, including six months of segregation. (Id.)

         Plaintiff testified that he complained to Best about the disciplinary ticket on March 3, 2014. (Doc. 51-1 at 43-44; Doc. 68-1 at 41.) Best responded by telling Plaintiff to continue complaining as he had been and by threatening him with segregation. (Id.) On March 4, 2014, Morris acknowledged to Plaintiff that he knew about his complaints as he walked him to segregation. (Doc. 51-1 at 47.)

         Inmate Brandon James attested to the following by affidavit (Doc. 68-1 at 63). On February 24, 2014, he overheard Plaintiff informing Jones that he feared for his safety due to his complaints of mistreatment. (Id.) Jones told Plaintiff to send him a letter. (Id.) Morris and Best told Plaintiff that if he continued to complain, he would regret it. (Id.) Morris also told Plaintiff, “We'll get ya.” (Id.) On February 25, 2014, Morris and other correctional officers harassed Plaintiff throughout the day and asked him if he was going to chow “so he can get what he has coming.” (Id.) When Plaintiff did not go to chow, the officers said, “We got you tomorrow.” (Id.) On ...

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