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Montanez v. Wolters

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 15, 2017

CARLOS A. MONTANEZ, B46636, Plaintiff,


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Carlos A. Montanez, an inmate currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 pertaining to events at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). Plaintiff contends Defendants failed to protect him from an assault by another inmate and/or instigated the assault, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff sues Sean M. Wolters (Correctional Officer, Intelligence Office, Menard), Sergeant Anthony (Internal Affairs, Menard), and Kimberly Butler (Former Warden, Menard) in their individual capacities. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment and monetary damages.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         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 any reasonable person would find meritless. 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

         In August 2010, a Menard corrections officer was assaulted by an inmate named Jose Garcia. (Doc. 1, p. 2). The intelligence unit identified Garcia as being a member of the Insane Unknowns, a Security Threat Group (“STG”) affiliated with the Latin Kings, a larger STG. Id. In connection with the investigation into Garcia, another inmate, Rene Amigon, was identified as a known leader of the Latin Kings. (Doc. 1, p. 3). At the close of the investigation, Amigon was the subject of a disciplinary report authored by Wolters. Id. That report identified Plaintiff (and several other inmates) as having been participants in the STG renunciation program at Tamms Correctional Center (“Tamms”). Id. The STG renunciation program is a confidential program which allows gang members to officially renounce their gang membership. Id. Participation in the program involved answering questions about the inner workings of the subject STG during a recorded interview. Id. Wolters's report indicated that Plaintiff participated in the STG renunciation program while incarcerated at Tamms and successfully renounced his affiliation with the Latin Kings. Id.

         Illinois Department of Corrections officials, particularly officials such as Wolters who work in the intelligence unit, know the Latin Kings are a violent STG with their own code of conduct. Id. This code of conduct includes a strict prohibition on cooperating with law enforcement. Id. Additionally, it is well known that anyone who renounces his membership with the Latin Kings is considered a “snitch.” Despite having this knowledge, Wolters's report was provided to Amigon, a known member of the Latin Kings, without protecting Plaintiff's identity. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). Amigon shared the report with other inmates. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Accordingly, Amigon and other inmates knew that Plaintiff had cooperated with law enforcement and renounced his membership in the Latin Kings. Id.

         Plaintiff spoke with Anthony on several occasions regarding his safety in relation to Wolters's report. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). Plaintiff indicated he was particularly concerned because Menard had recently seen a large influx of Latin King members previously incarcerated at Tamms. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Anthony ignored Plaintiff's concerns and told Plaintiff that no one was going to do anything to him. Id. Plaintiff also conveyed his concerns, in person, to Butler. Id. Plaintiff indicated he was concerned one of the inmates recently transferred from Tamms would find out about his participation in the STG renunciation program and assault him. Id. Butler indicated she would look into the matter but did not follow through on her promise. Id.

         On October 7, 2015, while walking down a flight of stairs, Plaintiff was assaulted by a member of the Latin Kings. Id. Plaintiff was kicked in the back of the head and called a “stool pigeon.” (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff fell down the stairs and hit his head on the floor. He was then repeatedly punched in the face until he lost consciousness. Id. Plaintiff suffered a broken skull and multiple lacerations on the face, requiring stitches. Id. The assault also resulted in permanent injuries, including balance issues, severe headaches, and recurrent nightmares and anxiety. I ...

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