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Bankston v. Simmons

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 18, 2017

RINALDO BANKSTON, #M-31614, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. SIMMONS, MAJOR COOPER, C/O CAGE, and VANDALIA CORRECTIONAL CENTER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Rinaldo Bankston, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights at Vandalia Correctional Center (“Vandalia”). (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to a racially motivated verbal and physical assault by C/O Cage, Sergeant Simmons, and Major Cooper on May 18, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-8). He seeks monetary damages against these officers and the prison. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Although he transferred from Vandalia before filing this action, Plaintiff also seeks injunctive relief, in the form of criminal charges against the defendants, an investigation into racially motivated assaults at Vandalia, and termination of all racist correctional officers.[1] Id.

         The Complaint is now subject to preliminary review under 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 survives screening under this standard.

         The Complaint

         All of the events giving rise to this action occurred at Vandalia on May 18, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-8). On that date, C/O Hall denied Plaintiff's request to shop at the prison commissary. (Doc. 1, p. 5). When Plaintiff asked him why, the officer allegedly became irate and began screaming. Id. Plaintiff told C/O Hall that he “didn't have to speak to [him] in such a manner” because Plaintiff had done nothing wrong. Id. Plaintiff explained that he was “badly in need of soap and asked the officer to let him purchase it. Id.

         In response, C/O Hall demanded Plaintiff's identification card and informed him that he would be going to the “yard office.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff gave C/O Hall his identification card. Id. As C/O Hall escorted Plaintiff to the yard office, C/O Cage and Sergeant Simmons met them and took Plaintiff the rest of the way. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         Approximately forty-five minutes after he arrived at the office, C/O Cage handed Sergeant Simmons a disciplinary write-up on Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Sergeant Simmons ordered Plaintiff to take a seat in a plastic chair in Major Cooper's office. Id. As he did so, Major Cooper stood up from behind his desk and said, “Who the fuck do you think you are, I never told you to sit the fuck down ‘bitch.'” Id. Plaintiff told Major Cooper that he was just following Sergeant Simmons's orders. Id. Major Cooper responded, “[S]hut the fuck up Bitch, speak when ask[ed] to speak.” Id. He then said, “[S]ee that's y'all problem you niggas think you can do as you want but not here at Vandalia!” Id. Major Cooper spoke loudly and, as he did so, spit in Plaintiff's face. Id.

         Sergeant Simmons then handed Major Cooper the disciplinary report. (Doc. 1, p. 6). After he read it, Major Cooper said, “C/O Hall has been working here many years an[d] you dare speak to him in that manner.” Id. Plaintiff assured Major Cooper that the report must be false, although he admittedly had no idea what it said. Id.

         Major Cooper then placed his right hand around Plaintiff's neck and attempted to choke him. (Doc. 1, p. 6). When Plaintiff tried to “snatch away, ” C/O Cage grabbed him and placed him in a headlock. Id. Major Cooper then said, “‘Nigga Boy, ' you're about to go to Jail bitch.” (Doc. 1, p. 7). At that, Sergeant Simmons grabbed Plaintiff by the right hand and reached for his cuffs. Id. After the sergeant secured the cuffs around Plaintiff's wrists, he began beating Plaintiff in the back of his head with a closed fist. Id. As he did so, C/O Cage continued to hold Plaintiff in a headlock. Id. Sergeant Simmons then grabbed the cuffs and hoisted Plaintiff upwards, almost breaking his wrists and arms, before he began twisting the cuffs. Id. Plaintiff yelled, “[W]hat ya'll going to do kill me?” Id.

         Sergeant Simmons then instructed C/O Cage to release Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 7). As Plaintiff stood up, the sergeant asked C/O Cage for a pair of cuffs. Id. Sergeant Simmons wrapped the cuffs around his knuckles and jammed them into the middle of Plaintiff's back, grinding and twisting them into his spine. Id. Sergeant Simmons and C/O Cage hit Plaintiff in the back of his head, back, arms, and legs repeatedly. Id. While doing this, they made comments about “how they don't like niggas and if it was up to them they would take [Plaintiff] an[d] other Blacks out by the pond in the back of the prison and beat and hang us all.” Id.

         Plaintiff alluded to another encounter he had with an officer the month before and to other racially motivated assaults on inmates at the prison. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). These incidents left Plaintiff feeling shocked, devastated, fearful, and mentally distraught. Id. ...


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