United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Phil Gilbert United States District Judge
currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center
(“Menard”), has brought this pro se
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His
claims arose from his arrest and criminal proceedings while
he was detained at the St. Clair County Jail (“the
Jail”). This case is now before the Court for a
preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 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).
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).
these standards, the Court finds that two of Plaintiff's
claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.
to Plaintiff, on September 29, 2015, Neff (St. Clair County
Sheriff's Officer) lied about Plaintiff engaging in
criminal activity in order to obtain a search warrant. (Doc.
1, pp. 10, 12). The warrant was issued, but Plaintiff asserts
it lacked probable cause as it was based on false information
from Neff. On September 30, 2015, Neff and other unnamed
officers entered Plaintiff's apartment and arrested him.
(Doc. 1, pp. 10-11, 13). During the arrest, they threw
Plaintiff against a wall. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff claims
the arrest was improper because there was no valid warrant.
(Doc. 1, pp. 11-12).
point after Plaintiff was taken to the St. Clair County Jail
on September 30, 2015, he was “illegally strip
search[ed]” by the St. Clair County Sheriff's
Department. (Doc. 1, p. 14). He lists Officers Brown,
Eversman, Kocurek, Costo, and Lindley as being responsible
for the strip search, and names the Sheriff's Department
and St. Clair County as Defendants in connection with that
event. (Doc. 1, p. 2).
October 16, 2015, Neff “creat[ed] even more false
information” in a report which stated he was the
testifying witness for the grand jury, and forged a signature
of a “non-existent person” who Neff claimed was
the grand jury foreman. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Also on October 16,
2015, the St. Clair County State's Attorney's Office
allegedly violated Plaintiff's civil rights by denying
him the preliminary hearing that had been scheduled for that
asserts that he was never actually indicted on the charges he
faced, and thus was held in custody in violation of his
constitutional rights for almost 2 years. (Doc. 1, pp. 8,
12). He claims that the St. Clair County State's
Attorney's Office had set 3 different indictment dates,
October 9, 2015; October 16, 2015; and August 11, 2016, but
he was not indicted on any of those dates. (Doc. 1, p. 12).
October 30, 2015, Plaintiff had been held for 30 days without
a preliminary hearing or an official indictment, on Case No.
CF-15-1181. (Doc. 1, p. 18). He seeks to hold the St. Clair
County State's Attorney's Office liable for that
violation, as well as for the alleged denials of his speedy
trial rights on July 14, 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 18).
August 11, 2016, Nester (Assistant State's Attorney)
violated Plaintiff's civil rights by “orchestrating
an illegal proceeding” resulting in “illegal
grand jury transcripts.” (Doc. 1 p. 7). Nester
attempted to cover up Neff's incompetent investigation,
and conspired with Lindley (St. Clair County Sheriff's
Dept.) in an “illegal examination” where no grand
jury was present. Id. Nester engaged in a malicious
prosecution of Plaintiff. (Doc. 1 pp. 7-9).
August 11, 2016, a hearing was held on a motion to quash
arrest and suppress illegally seized evidence. (Doc. 1, p.
12). Plaintiff represented himself at that hearing, and
questioned Neff about matters leading up to the issuance of
the search warrant on September 29, 2015. Neff admitted that
he never observed Plaintiff breaking any laws, which
Plaintiff contends should have resulted in the dismissal of
the case against him.
November 30, 2016, Plaintiff was again subjected to an
“illegal strip search” by the St. Clair County
Sheriff's Department. (Doc. 1, p. 14).
Plaintiff claims that on June 2 and June 16, 2017, the St.
Clair County State's Attorney's Office and the St.
Clair County Sheriff's Department violated his civil
rights by failing to comply with a FOIA request from
Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-19). Plaintiff had sought copies
of documents relating to the 21-day investigation of him that
led to his arrest, but received only 10 pages, which did not
include Neff's affidavit.
seeks money damages for the violations of his civil rights;
specifically for the “illegal arrest” on
September 30, 2015; for “malicious prosecution;”
for his “illegal incarceration;” and for the FOIA
violation. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 9, 15).
Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it
convenient to divide the pro se action into the
following 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 as
to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the
Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be
considered dismissed without prejudice.
Count 1: Neff obtained a search warrant
based on false information about Plaintiff's alleged
illegal activity, then searched Plaintiff's home and
arrested him using that warrant which lacked probable cause;
Count 2: Neff and/or other sheriff's
officer(s) used excessive force against Plaintiff during his
arrest, by throwing him against a wall;
Count 3: Brown, Eversman, Kocurek, Costo,
and Lindley subjected Plaintiff to an illegal strip search at
the St. Clair County Jail ...