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Knox v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 2, 2017

TED KNOX, # N-92676, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN BUTLER, WARDEN HARRINGTON, KENNETH HAMILTON, WINTERS, SUPERVISOR JOHN DOE #1, JOHN TROST, ANGELA CRAIN, WALTERS, and WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court for a merits review of Counts 1 and 2, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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).

         Plaintiff Ted Knox is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), where he is serving a life sentence. He brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on May 10, 2017 and filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 7) on May 24, 2017. On May 31, 2017, the Court severed Plaintiff's claims in Counts 3, 4, and 5 into separate actions, leaving only Counts 1 and 2 remaining in the instant case.

         The pending claims in this case after the severance order are as follows:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Hamilton, Winters, Butler, Harrington, and Supervisor John Doe #1, for subjecting Knox to a humiliating strip search, excessive force, and for deliberate indifference to Knox's medical needs arising from the blows he sustained, on April 14, 2014;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to medical needs, against Trost, Crain, Walters, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc., for delaying and denying medical care to Knox after the April 14, 2014, incident of excessive force.

(Doc. 9, p. 6). The factual allegations in the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 7) which relate to these claims are summarized below.

         On April 14, 2014, the Orange Crush state-wide tactical unit conducted a shakedown of Plaintiff's cell block, awakening him with yelling and banging on cell bars as they entered the unit. (Doc. 7, p. 4-7). Two unidentified Orange Crush officers yelled at Plaintiff and his cellmate because they were not “standing in the cell naked.” (Doc. 7, p. 4). Hamilton (Tact Officer) yelled for Plaintiff to “get naked and lift up [his] nuts.” Id. Plaintiff complied, and Hamilton ordered him to “open up [his] mouth and wiggle [his] tongue around.” Id. Plaintiff objected to placing his hand in his mouth because he had just used that hand to lift his genitals, to which Hamilton replied, “[w]hy do you think I am giving you a direct order dumb ass.” Id. Hamilton then made Plaintiff turn around and open his buttocks as wide as he could and threatened to drag Plaintiff off to segregation naked. The other Orange Crush officer watched and laughed.

         After this strip search, Hamilton ordered Plaintiff to put on his pants, shirt and boots, but no underwear or socks. When Plaintiff was about to be handcuffed, he showed Hamilton his medically-authorized double-cuff permit (MCP), which was issued because Plaintiff is morbidly obese and has arthritis in his left shoulder. (Doc. 7, p. 4). Hamilton knocked the documents out of the cell bars and yelled that he didn't want to see any “damn medical papers” and that Plaintiff needed to lose weight really fast because he “wasn't in the mood for any bull-shit.” (Doc. 7, p. 5). When Plaintiff asked to speak with a nurse or Orange Crush supervisor, Hamilton again threatened Plaintiff with segregation if Plaintiff refused to be single-cuffed. Because of Hamilton's threat to drag him to segregation, Plaintiff submitted to the single-cuff restraints, which caused him great pain.

         As Plaintiff exited the cell, Hamilton struck him on the back multiple times with his oak stick, yelling for Plaintiff to “keep your fat head down before I knock it off.” Id. Plaintiff and his cellmate were ordered to move to the prison chapel walking in “nuts-to-butt fashion.” Id. Plaintiff describes this as being forced to bow his head downward so it would touch the butt of the prisoner in front of him. While Plaintiff marched to the prison chapel in this manner, Orange Crush Supervisor John Doe #1 struck him in the ribs and back multiple times while yelling at him to “keep the line tight, no gaps fat ass.” Id.

         Plaintiff was lined up with other inmates in the prison chapel where he was forced to remain standing with his hands single-cuffed in the back and his head lowered so his chin rested on his chest. He was made to remain in this “stress position” for 4 hours, despite the fact that the chapel contained more than enough chairs for the inmates to be seated. After the first hour, Plaintiff began to feel light-headed and dizzy, his heart started beating rapidly and he had severe neck and back pain. (Doc. 7, pp. 5-6) He began to lose his balance. Winters responded by striking Plaintiff on the back with his stick, yanking Plaintiff's cuffs upward and yelling for Plaintiff to stop moving or he would be dragged off to segregation. The yanking and beating caused Plaintiff severe pain. Plaintiff told Winters that he had a MCP, that the single-cuffing was causing severe pain to his neck, back and shoulders and that he was dizzy from being in the standing stress-position for over an hour. Plaintiff asked to see a nurse. Winters told him to shut up and stand still or he would go to segregation. (Doc. 7, p. 6).

         Plaintiff called out to Butler and Harrington, who were in the chapel overseeing the operation. Although Plaintiff got their attention, Butler and Harrington failed to intervene when Winters “viciously struck” Plaintiff again with his oak stick. Id.

         Following the April 14, 2014, incident, Plaintiff made several verbal and written requests for urgent medical care because he continued to feel dizzy and light-headed. Additionally, his neck was swollen and his shoulders, back and neck were in severe pain from the blows and 4 hours of standing in the stress position.

         On April 25, 2014, Walters (nurse) came to Plaintiff's cell in response to his medical requests. Plaintiff informed her of his symptoms. Walters said that she was “only there to do protocol, ” and that Plaintiff would not be examined until the prison came off level-1 lockdown status. (Doc. 7, p. 8). Walters checked Plaintiff's blood pressure which registered high at 150/98. Plaintiff complained that he was still dizzy, light-headed and experiencing pain in his back and shoulders, and asked to speak with a supervisor. Walters yelled that she did not have to contact Crain (nurse supervisor) or anyone else because Wexford “follows ‘administrative decisions'” regarding inmates not being removed from cells during a level-1 lockdown. Id.

         Plaintiff continued to submit requests for urgent medical care. On April 29, 2014, Walters came back and told Plaintiff to stop asking to see her because she had already told him he would not be examined until the level-1 lockdown ended. Plaintiff reiterated his complaints about the dizziness and pain. Walters yelled back, “if you ...


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