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Vargas v. Conrad

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 3, 2017

JUAN VARGAS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES CONRAD and HAROLD W. SCHULER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Harold W. Schuler's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 47). For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         Introduction

         Plaintiff Juan Vargas, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), brings this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging his constitutional rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Big Muddy River Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”). Specifically, Vargas asserts he was sexually assaulted by Defendant Charles Conrad, a prison official supervising the dietary department. After he reported the assault, Vargas alleges, Defendant Lt. Harold Schuler attempted to cover it up. Vargas's complaint was screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915A, and he was allowed to proceed on the following claims:

Count 1: Defendant Conrad sexually assaulted Plaintiff in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 2: Defendant Schuler was deliberately indifferent when he covered up Conrad's assault on Plaintiff in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and
Count 3: Defendant Schuler retaliated against Plaintiff for reporting Conrad's sexual assault in violation of the First Amendment.

         Defendant Schuler filed a motion seeking judgment as a matter of law on November 21, 2016 (Doc. 47). Along with his motion for summary judgment, Defendant Schuler filed a Notice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 informing Vargas of the contents of Rule 56 and notifying him of the perils of failing to respond within the proper thirty-day timeframe (Doc. 49). Defendant's Notice specifically advised Vargas that his failure to file a response by the deadline may, in the Court's discretion, be considered an admission of the merits of the motion pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(c) (Id.).

         Despite receiving adequate notice, Vargas failed to file a response. The Court deems Vargas's failure to respond to be an admission as to the merits of Defendant Schuler's motion. See SDIL-LR 7.1(c).

         Background

         In light of Vargas's failure to file a response to Defendant Schuler's motion, the following pertinent facts are not in dispute. The Court construes these facts and the inferences drawn from them in favor of the non-movant to determine whether summary judgment is appropriate in this case. Smith on Behalf of Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 426 (7th Cir. 1997); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

         Vargas's claims in this matter concern incidents that occurred while he was incarcerated at Big Muddy. Vargas worked in the dietary department at Big Muddy during a period of time in 2013 and then again from February 2014 to April 2014 (Juan Vargas Deposition, Doc. 48-1, pp. 4, 7). During this time, Vargas asserts he was sexually assaulted by his supervisor, Defendant Charles Conrad, who touched and caressed his genital area on a number of occasions (Id. at p. 8). Defendant Conrad resigned from his position at Big Muddy in May 2014 (Doc. 48-2).

         On July 24, 2014, Vargas called the Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) hotline and advised the operator of the issues he was having with Conrad (Doc. 48-1, p. 11). On July 25, 2014, Vargas was interviewed by Defendant Schuler, a lieutenant serving in the Investigations Unit at Big Muddy, regarding Vargas's PREA call (Id.; Affidavit of Harold Schuler, Doc. 48-2, ¶ 11; see Doc. 48-2, pp. 9-11). Vargas explained to Defendant Schuler that Conrad had sexually assaulted him, but indicated he could not provide specific dates or names of any witnesses to corroborate his allegations (Doc. 48-1, pp. 15-16). Vargas testified that he requested an interpreter, but no interpreter was provided (Id. at pp. 11, 17). Defendant Schuler indicates that although there was no interpreter at this interview, he could understand Vargas's claims against Conrad (Doc. 48-2, ¶ 13). Upon completion of the interview, Defendant Schuler escorted Vargas to Mental Health Services (Doc. 48-1, p. 18; Doc. 48-2, ¶ 16).

         Following his interview of Vargas, Defendant Schuler interviewed two correctional food supervisors whom Vargas said he told about the sexual assaults; however, these individuals did not recall Vargas making any such reports (Doc. 48-2, ¶ 17). Schuler was unable to interview Conrad since he had retired (following another sexual assault investigation conducted by Schuler that led to various charges, including Custodial Sexual Misconduct) (Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 6, 9-10). ...


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