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Watson v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 31, 2017

SVONDO WATSON, #B-67687, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN BALDWIN, KIMBERLY BUTLER, FRANK EOVALDI, KELLIE ELLIS, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Svando Watson, an inmate currently housed at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff brings claims relating to an alleged excessive force incident occurring on August 15, 2015. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff sues John Baldwin (IDOC director), Kimberly Butler (Menard's former warden), Frank Eovaldi (described as a major and a lieutenant at Menard), Kellie Ellis (described as a lieutenant at Menard), John Doe # 1 (first Menard correctional officer involved in the excessive force incident), and John Doe # 2 (second Menard correctional officer involved in the excessive force incident).[1] In his request for relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and any further relief that the Court deems just. (Doc. 1, p. 14). However, in the body of the Complaint, Plaintiff suggests that he needs surgery to repair injuries related to the excessive force incident. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint (Doc. 1) 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).

         Preliminary Matter - Motion to Supplement

         Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Leave to Amend/Supplement the Complaint. (Doc. 6). Plaintiff seeks to “have the record reflect that defendants John Baldwin and Kimberly Butler for the purpose of discovery are being sued only in their official capacity.” (Doc. 6, p. 1). Plaintiff further states that all other defendants are being sued in their individual and official capacities. Id.

         The motion shall be denied for two reasons. First, the Court does not accept piecemeal amendments to a complaint. Second, the request is unnecessary. The Court addresses the capacity in which each defendant may be sued in this screening order. Accordingly, Plaintiff's request is DENIED.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff's Prior Health History

         Plaintiff suffers from a degenerative disease called cervical spondylosis. (Doc. 1, p. 8). The vertebrae in Plaintiff's neck (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7) are not properly aligned. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Accordingly, any aggravation to the neck causes the vertebrae to pinch the nerves rendering a loss of strength in the arms. Id. Plaintiff contends that the alleged excessive force incident (described below) has accelerated and/or worsened the permanent nerve damage to Plaintiff's neck. Id. Plaintiff claims he needs surgery to repair the nerve damage and relieve the pain he is suffering in his neck and left arm. Id.

         Excessive Force Incident

         On August 15, 2015, at approximately 5:30 p.m., Sadi Horemann (a nurse working at Menard) lodged a complaint against Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Nurse Horemann alleged that Plaintiff groped her and made an inappropriate comment. Id.

         At approximately 6:00 p.m., Plaintiff was approached by Sergeant Demond (not a party to this action), who instructed Plaintiff to step outside. Id. Plaintiff fully complied with the order and stepped outside. Id. Plaintiff was immediately grabbed on the left arm by Eovaldi, a lieutenant or major, and Ellis, also a lieutenant. Id. Eovaldi and Ellis escorted Plaintiff to the elevator, without placing him in handcuffs. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Eovaldi ordered Plaintiff to get on his knees and Plaintiff complied. Id. Eovaldi then pushed Plaintiff; face first, onto the floor of the elevator. Id. Eovaldi kicked Plaintiff in the right side of his body, striking Plaintiff's ribs and knocking the wind out of Plaintiff. Id. Eovaldi continued kicking Plaintiff while he was on the floor. Id. John Doe # 1, a correctional officer, also kicked Plaintiff while he was lying on the floor. Id. John Doe # 1 repeatedly kicked Plaintiff in his buttocks and right thigh. Id. He also kicked Plaintiff between his legs, striking Plaintiff in the testicles. Id. At some point, Eovaldi placed Plaintiff in handcuffs. Id. While Plaintiff was handcuffed, John Doe # 1 kicked Plaintiff in the side of his head twice. Id. The first kick caused Plaintiff's neck to make a cracking sound and Plaintiff felt a numbing sensation in both arms. Id.

         Ellis was present and observed the use of excessive force while Plaintiff was in the elevator. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Although Plaintiff was crying out in pain and asking for help, Ellis took no action to intervene on Plaintiff's behalf. Id.

         Subsequently, Plaintiff was dragged to the north two segregation building and placed in the strip search cage. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff was still handcuffed. Id. Eovaldi ordered Plaintiff to get on his knees and Plaintiff complied. Id. Eovaldi and two correctional officers (John Doe # 1 and John Doe # 2) entered the strip search cage. Id. Eovaldi removed the handcuffs from Plaintiff. Id. Eovaldi and the John Doe officers began to beat Plaintiff again. Id. When the beating stopped, one of the John Doe officers ordered Plaintiff to stand up, yelling, “Fight back nigger. Come on tough guy. You're a bitch. You're a pussy. Fight back. Come on.” Id. Plaintiff refused to fight back. Id.

         Eovaldi then ordered Plaintiff to remove his clothes. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff complied. Id. Eovaldi handcuffed Plaintiff, with his hands behind his back. Id. Eovaldi grabbed the handcuffs, lifting Plaintiff's arms into the air. Id. Eovaldi lifted the handcuffs so high, Plaintiff felt that his shoulders were about to be dislocated. Id. Eovaldi then used a second pair of handcuffs to handcuff Plaintiff's arms to the bars in the strip search cage. Id. Plaintiff was left alone, naked, and cuffed to the cage for approximately one hour. Id. Plaintiff describes being on “the tips of his toes like a piece of meat in a slaughter house.” Id.

         Internal affairs interviewed Plaintiff on two separate occasions and on August 16, 2015, Plaintiff was transferred to Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”). (Doc. 1, pp. 12). While at Pontiac, Plaintiff was urinating blood. Id. Plaintiff was eventually examined by the medical director, Dr. Tilden. Plaintiff told Dr. Tilden that he was assaulted by a lieutenant and two correctional officers. Id. According to the Complaint, X-rays would later reveal that Plaintiff had a small hair line fracture at his ninth rib. Id.[2] Plaintiff was told that the only thing doctors could do was ...


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