Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rodriguezz v. Veath

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 31, 2017

SANTOS RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMOTHY VEATH, MIHN SCOTT, JASON HART, REBECCA COWAN, LANCE PHELPS, JOSHUA SCHOENBECK, BRANDON ANTHONY, and KIMBERLY BUTLER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Currently pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants on August 18, 2016 (Doc. 86). Plaintiff Santos Rodriguez filed a response to Defendants' statement of undisputed material facts (Doc. 97), as well as a response in opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 98). Defendants did not file a reply. The Court has considered the briefs and all of the evidence submitted by the parties and, for the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

         Introduction

         Plaintiff Santos Rodriguez, an inmate currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, filed an Amended Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging claims related to his placement in segregation for a period of 405 days (Doc. 67). Specifically, Rodriguez alleges that on February 6, 2013, he was issued a disciplinary ticket along with his cellmate for having Security Threat Group material (i.e., gang-related material) in his cell (“STG Ticket”). During the subsequent disciplinary proceedings he was found guilty and sentenced to six months segregation. He was, however, released from segregation after serving 71 days.

         On June 2, 2013, after his cell had been searched twice within a week, Rodriguez was issued another disciplinary ticket for having a weapon (“weapons ticket”). He was placed back in segregation; this time he was sentenced to a year. A few weeks into his term of segregation, on August 21, 2013, Rodriguez was transferred to the segregation unit at the Pontiac Correctional Center. While Rodriguez does not allege when he was released from segregation, he was likely released in May 2014. Rodriguez claims that he was released on both occasions early because his grievances were granted by the Administrative Review Board. In light of these events, Rodriguez alleges the following due process, equal protection, conspiracy, and retaliation claims related to the incidents that occurred in 2013:

Count 1: Equal protection claim against Defendants Lance Phelps, Timothy Veath, Mihn Scott, Rebecca Cowan, and Joshua Schoenbeck related to the February 2013 STG ticket;
Count 2: Conspiracy claim against Defendants Lance Phelps, Timothy Veath, Mihn Scott, Rebecca Cowan, and Joshua Schoenbeck related to the February 2013 STG ticket;
Count 3: Equal protection claim against Defendants Brandon Anthony, Lance Phelps, Jason Hart, Timothy Veath, and Rebecca Cowan related to the June 2013 weapons ticket;
Count 4: Due Process claim against Brandon Anthony, Lance Phelps, Jason Hart, Timothy Veath, and Rebecca Cowan related to the June 2013 weapons ticket;
Count 5: Conspiracy claim against Brandon Anthony, Lance Phelps, Jason Hart, Timothy Veath, and Rebecca Cowan related to the June 2013 weapons ticket; and
Count 6: Retaliation claim against Brandon Anthony, Lance Phelps, Jason Hart, Timothy Veath, and Rebecca Cowan related to the filing of a grievance as to the February 2013 STG ticket and subsequent term in segregation.

         (Doc. 67). Rodriguez seeks both damages and injunctive relief.

         Background

         The following facts are undisputed except where noted. In February 2013, members of the Latin Folks prison gang assaulted correctional officers in the chapel at Menard Correctional Center (Doc. 87-1). Rodriguez was not in the chapel at the time of the attack; he was in the law library (Id.). Nevertheless, he was “grabbed” from the library, strip-searched, and then questioned about the attack by Defendants Lance Phelps and Joshua Schoenbeck, members of Internal Affairs (Id.). They questioned Rodriguez about his gang affiliation-he identified himself as a Maniac Latin Disciple upon his arrival in the Illinois Department of Corrections in 2008-but Rodriguez stated that he no longer had any gang affiliation (Id. at pp. 13, 57-59).[1] They also questioned him about a previous disciplinary ticket that he had received from Correctional Officer Hudson, who was one of the officers assaulted in the chapel (Id.). Rodriguez denied any involvement in the assault (Id.). Officer Schoenbeck stated, however, that he did not think it was a coincidence that the attack on Hudson occurred shortly after Rodriguez's return to Menard (Id.). Officer Shoenbeck told Rodriguez that “they look after their own, ” and Rodriguez would not remain in general population (Id.). Rodriguez was then sent back to his cell (Id.).

         That night (February 6, 2013), [2] Rodriguez received a disciplinary ticket for possessing Security Threat Group (“STG”) material, including eight photographs of persons “flashing” gang signs (Doc. 87-4). The STG ticket was issued by Officer Daniel Schott who, along with Officer Cliff Bradley, had searched Rodriguez's cell while he was being interviewed about the chapel assault (Doc. 87-1).[3] Rodriguez's cellmate, an African-American named Denarrell Mabry, received the same ticket (Doc. 87-8). Defendant Rebecca Cowan was the “Reviewing Officer” and signed off on the STG ticket (Doc. 87-3; see Doc. 87-4).

         Two days later, Rodriguez appeared for an Adjustment Committee hearing on the STG ticket (see Doc. 87-6). The Adjustment Committee was composed of Defendant Timothy Veath, who was the Chairperson, and Defendant Mihn Scott (see Doc. 87-6). Defendant Rebecca Cowan also was present at the hearing (Doc. 87-1). Rodriguez asked to see the purported STG material that was confiscated from his cell, but his request was denied (Doc. 87-1). Rodriguez pleaded not guilty to the infraction (Doc. 87-6). During the brief hearing, Defendant Veath referenced the chapel assault and appeared to inquire whether Rodriguez's “guys, ” i.e. gang, committed the assault (Doc. 87-1). Rodriguez said he had no knowledge and was sent back to his cell (Id.). While in his cell, Rodriguez spoke to Mabry about his hearing (Id.). Mabry said that he attempted to plead guilty to possessing the STG material but was told by Veath to state that the material belonged to Rodriguez (Id.). Shortly thereafter, Rodriguez and Mabry were both found guilty and given six months in segregation (Doc. 87-6; Doc. 87-8).

         Rodriguez was in segregation for 71 days (Doc. 87-1). In his cell, there was no cold water, the faucet leaked, the toilet malfunctioned, the mattress was stained and “funky, ” the steel bunk was rusted, and the paint was peeling (Id.). Rodriguez filed grievances about the conditions of his cell (Id.). He also filed a grievance dated February 8, 2013, about the disciplinary proceedings, and he included with the grievance an affidavit signed by Mabry in which Mabry claimed ownership of the STG material found in their cell (Id.; Doc. 1-1, p. 15). On April 17, 2013, the grievance officer recommended that Rodriguez's disciplinary ticket be expunged and that Rodriguez be released from segregation (Doc. 1-1, p. 17). The warden agreed with the recommendation (Id.)

         After his release from segregation, Rodriguez was returned to general population (Doc. 87-1). His new cellmate was Doug Tate, an African American (Id.). As Rodriguez was walking to his new cell, two different officers commented that they would make sure Rodriguez did not “beat the next ticket, ” or something to that effect (Id.). A week or two later, Rodriguez's cell was searched (Doc. 87-1). Within a week, it was searched again by Officer Holcomb on June 2, 2013 (Id.).[4] Following that second search, Rodriguez was told by Officer Holcomb that his cell was free of contraband and he would get a shakedown slip the next day (Id.). While Rodriguez and Tate were cleaning up their cell, Correctional Officer Richard Ransom[5] stood outside their cell grinning before walking down the gallery (Id.). Shortly thereafter, he returned to Rodriguez's cell with another correctional officer and told Rodriguez and Tate to pack their belongings (Id.). When they asked why, Officer Ransom showed them a knife, which was purportedly found outside their cell in the “door railing rolled up in toilet paper” (Id.; Doc. 87-5).

         Rodriguez and Tate were taken to talk to Internal Affairs (Doc. 87-1). Rodriguez was interviewed by Defendant Brandon Anthony, where Anthony said to him, “you didn't think we were actually going to let you stay in population” (Id.). Anthony also mentioned the STG ticket that Rodriguez got expunged and stated that Rodriguez had “beat the ticket” (Id.). Following the interview, Rodriguez was taken to segregation and that night he received a copy of the disciplinary ticket issued to him and Tate for possessing dangerous contraband (hereinafter “weapons ticket”) (Doc. 87-5). Once again, Defendant Rebecca Cowan was the “Reviewing Officer” and signed off on the weapons ticket (Doc. 87-3).

         Rodriguez filled out the bottom section of the disciplinary ticket requesting that Officer Holcomb be called as a witness at his hearing in front of the Adjustment Committee, and he submitted it for delivery to the Committee (Doc. 87-1). Rodriguez intended for Officer Holcomb to testify to the fact that he was the officer who searched the cell and didn't find anything (Id.). Rodriguez appeared for the Adjustment Committee hearing on the weapons ticket on June 4, 2013 (Doc. 87-7). The Committee was composed of Defendant Timothy Veath, who was the Chairperson, and Defendant Jason Hart (Doc. 87-7). Defendant Rebecca Cowan also was present at the hearing (Doc. 87-1). Rodriguez pleaded not guilty to the infraction, at which point Defendant Veath made the comment: “I know how much you Latinos like playing with shanks” (Id.). Rodriguez then referred to the written statement that he brought with him and told Defendant Veath to talk to Officer Holcomb (Id.). Rodriguez was found guilty and given one year in segregation (Doc. 87-7, Doc. 87-1, p. 49). The final report does not indicate that Rodriguez requested Officer Holcomb to testify as a witness (see Doc. 87-7).

         Tate also was found guilty and received one year in segregation (Doc. 87-10). His sentence was reduced by 50 weeks, however, for “participation in an investigation” (Docs. 87-13 and 87-14); he was released from segregation after serving two weeks.

         This time around, Rodriguez was not in the same cell that he was in during his first stint in segregation, but this cell was in the same condition (Doc. 87-1). Rodriguez also had to deal with a lack of ventilation and extremely hot temperatures in his cell because it was the summertime-Rodriguez claims that a thermometer in the cellhouse registered the “heat index” at 120 degrees (Doc. 87-1, p. 51). Sometime in August 2013, after a couple of months in segregation at Menard, Rodriguez was transferred to segregation at Pontiac Correctional Center (Doc. 87-1). Rodriguez claims his cell at Pontiac was “disgusting, ” smelled of urine, had “urine and fecal matter all in the cell, ” and had wads of toilet paper all over the floor (Id.). Rodriguez asked for cleaning supplies but was told they would not be passed out for another four days (Id.). Rodriguez tried to clean his cell with some soap and a small towel that he had (Id.). Like his segregation cells at Menard, his cell at Pontiac also had a steel door (Id.). And it was in a cellhouse with mentally ill inmates who screamed, banged and kicked doors, and threw feces (Id.).

         Rodriguez filed a grievance dated June 28, 2013, about the weapons ticket and the related disciplinary proceedings (Doc. 1-2, p. 2). His grievance was denied by the warden (Doc. 1-2, pp. 4-5), and he appealed the denial to the ARB. On April 9, 2014, the ARB recommended that Rodriguez's weapons ticket be expunged “due to the charges not being substantiated in the report” (Doc. 1-2, p. 6). Rodriguez was released from segregation roughly two weeks after the ARB issued its decision (Doc. 87-1). By that time, Rodriguez had spent approximately 334 days in segregation (Id.). Rodriguez was eventually transferred back to Menard a couple of months after his release from segregation at Pontiac (Id.).

         Legal Standard

         The standard applied to summary judgment motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is well-settled and has been succinctly stated as follows:

Summary judgment is appropriate where the admissible evidence shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A “material fact” is one identified by the substantive law as affecting the outcome of the suit. A “genuine issue” exists with respect to any such material fact . . . when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” On the other hand, where the factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.