United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge.
Kenneth Hawthorne, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at
Pinckneyville Correctional Center
(“Pinckneyville”), brings this civil rights
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against five
officials at Centralia Correctional Center
(“Centralia”). (Doc. 1). In the Complaint,
Plaintiff alleges that an unknown prison official
(“John/Jane Doe”) at Centralia added a charge for
sexual misconduct (Rule 107) to a disciplinary ticket that he
received for insolence (Rule 304) on October 19, 2014. (Doc.
1, pp. 3-15). Plaintiff was found guilty of both rule
violations and punished with a disciplinary transfer and 3
months of segregation, among other things. Id.
Although the sexual misconduct violation was ultimately
dismissed, Plaintiff claims that he endured 2 additional
months of segregation as a result. Id.
brings claims against the following defendants for due
process violations under the Fourteenth Amendment,
retaliation under the First Amendment, and cruel and unusual
punishment under the Eighth Amendment: Julius Flagg (warden),
Aaron Middleton (adjustment committee chairperson), Jennifer
Wallace (grievance officer), Cara Brassel (correctional
officer), and John/Jane Doe (unknown officer). Id.
He seeks declaratory judgment and monetary damages against
the defendants. (Doc. 1, pp. 16-17).
Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the
Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under
§ 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).
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). After carefully considering the allegations,
the Court finds that the Complaint does not survive review
under § 1915A and shall therefore be dismissed.
incarcerated at Centralia on October 19, 2014, Plaintiff
alleges that he asked to speak with a female correctional
officer named C/O Brassel. (Doc. 1, p. 3). When Brassel came
to his room, Plaintiff asked her for “permission to
speak freely.” Id. Brassel granted him
permission to do so, and Plaintiff informed the correctional
officer that “he likes her and thinks she is a cool
officer, because [she] never shakes[s] down cells, write[s]
tickets, or give[s] anyone a hard time.” Id.
Plaintiff also told Brassel that he would let her know if
anyone ever spoke negatively about her in his presence.
Id. Brassel said, “[S]ounds good.”
Id. At that, she walked away. Id.
Plaintiff failed to tell Brassel is that he heard a negative
report about her two or three days earlier. (Doc. 1, p. 4).
Another inmate, Christopher Davis, told him that Brassel
“backed her ass up into him and told him that she has
to be cool because I.A. is watching her.” Id.
Inmate Davis intimated that he had more information about
Brassel and would share it with Plaintiff later. Plaintiff
claims that he intended to share this information with
he could do so, however, Plaintiff was cuffed and taken to
segregation by Lieutenant Shreve. (Doc. 1, p. 4). When
Plaintiff asked the lieutenant to explain why he was being
placed in segregation, Shreve stated that he used to work
with Brassel's father in the same prison. Id.
Shreve assured Plaintiff that he would tell Brassel anything
she needed to know. Id. Plaintiff did not need to
“look out for her.” Id.
October 21, 2014, Plaintiff received a disciplinary ticket
for violating Rule 304 - insolence and Rule 107 - sexual
misconduct. (Doc. 1, p. 4). When he looked closely at the
ticket, Plaintiff realized that the word “ALONE”
and “107 - Sexual Misconduct” were written in
different handwriting than the rest of the ticket.
Id. Plaintiff immediately concluded that someone
other than Brassel doctored the ticket by adding the sexual
misconduct charge. Id.
attended a disciplinary hearing two days later. At the
hearing, he submitted a 4-page letter to the committee. (Doc.
1, p. 5). In the letter, Plaintiff admitted that he
approached Brassel and spoke with her on October 19, 2014.
Id. He also described his conversation with Inmate
Davis. The adjustment committee found Plaintiff
guilty of both rule violations. (Doc. 1, p. 20). He was
punished with a 1-month loss of good conduct credit and a
disciplinary transfer to Pinckneyville. Id.
Plaintiff also received 3 months of segregation, C-grade
status, and a gym/yard restriction. Id.
October 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed a grievance to complain
that his disciplinary ticket was altered by an undisclosed
officer (“John/Jane Doe”). (Doc. 1, p. 6). He
requested the name of the officer who added
“ALONE” and “107 - Sexual Misconduct”
to his disciplinary ticket. Id. He complained that
he was deprived of the opportunity to confront John/Jane Doe
at his disciplinary hearing. Id.
Wallace denied Plaintiff's grievance. (Doc. 1, p. 6).
Wallace believed Brassel when she said that she was
responsible for the changes to the ticket. (Doc. 1, pp. 6,
27). Plaintiff claims that this was “clearly a
lie.” (Doc. 1, p. 6). He insists that another officer,
who Plaintiff thinks was also under investigation, added this
rule violation to the ticket in order to subject Plaintiff to
harsher punishment. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-8).
alleges that Wallace was biased. Two or three years before
the incident at issue in this case, Wallace was investigated
for sexual misconduct. (Doc. 1, p. 6). At the time, she was
working as a law clerk or librarian at the prison.
Id. The matter was ultimately resolved in her favor.
Id. However, Plaintiff contends that Wallace
willingly disregarded the truth surrounding his disciplinary
ticket because Wallace “almost lost her job” over
a similar incident. (Doc. 1, p. 7). This personal bias
prevented Wallace from carrying out her administrative duties
addition, Plaintiff maintains that Centralia's warden,
Julius Flagg, failed to investigate Plaintiff's
allegations in the 4-page letter because he was also biased.
(Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff alleges that, “upon
information and belief, ” the warden overlooked
Plaintiff's claims because Brassel was the daughter of a
former employee. Id. In signing off on the grievance
officer's report, Plaintiff claims that the warden
conspired to retaliate against Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 9).
Plaintiff maintains that Lieutenant Middleton, the
disciplinary committee chairperson, failed to investigate
Plaintiff's allegations or acknowledge the “obvious
difference” in Brassel's handwriting and the
additions to the ticket. Id. Middleton “should
have known” that the comment Plaintiff made to Brassel
(i.e., “I really like you”) did not meet
the requirements for 107 - sexual misconduct. Id.
4, 2015, the Administrative Review Board (“ARB”)
overturned the decision of the disciplinary committee with
respect to the sexual misconduct violation. (Doc. 1, pp. 7,
28). The ARB held that the offense should be dismissed.
Id. This was despite the fact that the ARB found no
due process violation associated with the issuance of the
ticket on October 19, 2014. Id. In so finding, the
ARB determined that the ticket listed both rule violations on
the date it was served, it was served within the required 8
days, it was heard within the required 14 days, and it was