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Tolefree v. Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 20, 2017

PIERRE TOLEFREE, #20161222078, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WARDEN, LIEUTENANT BECH, LIEUTENANT VAUGHN, C/O WILSON, C/O JECKMAN, and JANE DOE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Pierre Tolefree, an inmate with the Cook County Department of Corrections, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that allegedly occurred during his time at Lawrence Correctional Center. In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims the defendants violated his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 1). This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 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).

         Upon careful review of the Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to allow this case to proceed past the threshold stage.

         The Complaint

         In his Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff makes the following allegations: while Plaintiff was in a holding area preparing for a writ transfer from Lawrence to Stateville on April 5, 2017, Lt. Bech told him and the other inmates waiting there that they could not wear their sneakers on the transfer bus. (Doc. 1, p. 8). When inmates objected, Bech told them that their shoes would go to property, and that they would get state-issued shoes. Id. Plaintiff then told Bech that he would not be returning to Lawrence because his Mandatory Supervised Release date was April 11, 2017 and asked to keep his shoes. Id. Bech told Plaintiff that he could either hand over his shoes or go to segregation, to which Plaintiff replied by turning around and placing his hands behind his back. Id. Lieutenant Vaughn handcuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back and told Wilson to take Plaintiff to segregation. Id.

         Instead of taking Plaintiff to segregation, Wilson grabbed him by the back strap of his jumpsuit and “hockey checked [Plaintiff] to the concrete wall head and face first, using excessive force.” Id. Plaintiff had not acted disruptively in any way prior to this use of force. Id. Present in the hallway were lieutenants Bech and Vaughn, Wilson and another correctional officer, and other inmates, including an inmate Brown. Id. Wilson then tossed Plaintiff to another wall, and when the other officer opened the door to the segregation area, Wilson “body slammed [Plaintiff] face first to the floor.” (Doc. 1, p. 9). Other officers then came to assist Wilson and proceeded to beat Plaintiff and pin him down with their knees as his shoes were pulled from his feet. Id. Plaintiff's hands were still cuffed behind his back during this time. Id. Plaintiff sustained injuries to his head, back, legs, and wrist. Id.

         Wilson and other officers dragged Plaintiff to the shower because he was unable to walk. Id. The officers ripped his jumpsuit off, placed new handcuffs on Plaintiff very tightly, and forced the original handcuffs off of Plaintiff's wrists along with the rest of his clothes. Id. Plaintiff “screamed for mercy” while “other inmates laughed.” Id. Plaintiff “fell to [his] face butt naked.” Id. This fall injured Plaintiff's wrist, head, back, and legs. Id. Plaintiff cried for the nurse (Jane Doe), but when she came to see him and he told her that his whole body hurt and showed her his injuries, she claimed to see nothing wrong. Id. Jane Doe walked away, as Plaintiff pled with her to return and told her that he could not walk. Id. Plaintiff was then dragged to the bus and put into a cage, where he spent the entire three to four hour drive. Id.

         Upon arrival at Lincoln Correctional Center, Plaintiff was unable to move, and his head, wrist, and back were swollen because he had not received care at Lawrence. Id. Plaintiff told the bus driver, Jeckman, what happened at Lawrence, and also informed him that he could not walk on his own. Id.; see also (Doc. 1, p. 2). When Plaintiff did not get up when his name was called to leave the bus, Jeckman took two oval pills from his jacket and gave them to Plaintiff. Id. He told Plaintiff to take them and that they would make him feel better. Id. Bech was present for this and told Jeckman to make sure Plaintiff took the medicine before he got on Stateville's bus because Plaintiff would be searched at that point. Id.

         Plaintiff held the pills in his hand, and Jeckman and his partner dragged Plaintiff off of the Lawrence bus to the Stateville bus. (Doc. 1, p.10). Plaintiff was handed off to a Stateville officer Purley, and he immediately explained to him what happened and gave a female lieutenant from Stateville the pills, which she placed in a brown paper towel. Id. Plaintiff was then taken off of the Stateville bus into Lincoln Correctional Center, where photographs were taken of his wounds. Id. Plaintiff later used the prisoner grievance procedure available at Stateville in an attempt to resolve his issues. Id. Plaintiff did not receive any of his property. Id.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory, monetary, and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, p. 11).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 4 counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion regarding their merit.

Count 1 - Wilson used excessive force against Plaintiff on April 5, 2017 in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Count 2 - Bech and Vaughn failed to intervene when Wilson used excessive force against Plaintiff on April 5, 2017 in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition ...

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