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Harris v. Spiller

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 27, 2017

RAY HARRIS, # M-21142, Plaintiff,
v.
BETSY SPILLER, MAJOR D. MALCOLM, BART LIND, JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, and LT. FURLOW, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          David R. Herndon Judge.

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that he was intentionally placed in a cell with a known enemy who then attacked him, and that officers subjected him to excessive force.

         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).

         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 “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. 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 Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On August 30, 2016, Plaintiff and his cellmate (Jackson) got into an “extremely violent fight” in their cell, during which they punched, kicked, and bit each other. Plaintiff asserts that according to prison policy, he and the cellmate should have been immediately placed on the “KSF- keep separate from” list after such an incident, so that they would not be housed together again. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         On September 1, 2016, Plaintiff was called to the Internal Affairs Office, where Lind and Furlow “intimidated and threatened” him, saying that if Plaintiff did not admit that he and Jackson had a fight, Plaintiff would “get his ass kicked” and would get 6 months in segregation plus lose 6 months of good time. (Doc. 1, p. 7). An anonymous source had accused Plaintiff of fighting with Jackson. Plaintiff was then placed in segregation away from Jackson.

         At some point, Plaintiff filed a grievance, and then learned that he was “in danger of retaliation” from the grievance. (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         Furlow, Lind, Spiller, Love, [1] and Lashbrook ordered Plaintiff to be moved again, and he was placed into Cell 5-C-16 back with his “enemy” Jackson. Id. Plaintiff and Jackson “squared off” to continue their aggression. Plaintiff refused to enter the cell, telling the officers (an unnamed C/O and Lieutentant) that he was in segregation for fighting the same inmate they were forcing him to cell with. He showed these officers his disciplinary ticket for fighting with Jackson. Despite this information, the officers ordered Plaintiff to lock up, saying it was Furlow's and the Warden's call to place him there. Jackson refused to cuff up to be moved. Plaintiff told the officers that he was afraid he would be attacked, but they told him to “man the f**k up.” Id.

         Sometime later, Spiller and Malcolm came to the cell to speak with Plaintiff, after Plaintiff complained that Jackson had made multiple threats to kill him. (Doc. 1, p. 8). While Plaintiff stood at the cell door talking to Spiller and Malcolm, Jackson came up behind Plaintiff and began punching him. Malcolm unlocked the door, ordered them to stop fighting, and began spraying them with OC spray. Malcolm continued spraying Plaintiff even after he put his hands behind his back to be cuffed, and while Jackson was still beating him. Plaintiff was violently slammed to the floor, with an officer's knee pressed into his neck and lower back, when Spiller told Malcolm to “keep spraying.” Id. Malcolm then sprayed Plaintiff directly into his nostril and ear canal. An officer violently pressed Plaintiff's face into the floor, after Malcolm and Spiller issued orders to “turn his f***ing head” and “make him feel it.” Id.

         Following that incident, Plaintiff suffers from severe headaches, injury to his jaw, neck and back pain, hearing loss, and a burning, running nose. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, p.10).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 ...


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