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Bentz v. Atchinson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 4, 2017

DAVID ROBERT BENTZ, S03210, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL ATCHINSON, RICHARD HARRINGTON, SALVADOR GODINEZ, SARA JOHNSON, RICHARD MOORE, DOUGLAS LYERLA, BRANDON DILDAY, WILLIAM REESE, JOHN TOUVILLE, ROBERT HUGHES, KENT BROOKMAN, RAY ALLEN, CHAD FORSTING, GREG KORANDO, DONALD LINDENBERG, CHRISTOPHER McCLURE, NICHOLAS BEBOUT, MICHAEL BAKER, RYAN DAVIS, DAVID JOHNSON, JESSE REID, JEFF MILLER, JUSTIN KEMPFER, RICHARD RANSOM, BRIAN KULICH, JUSTIN SNELL, JAMES MALLORY, SUSAN EASTON, REBECCA COWAN, DEBBIE KNAUER, LORI CRAFTON, JERRY WITTHOFT, VICKI WOOD PAYNE and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Partial Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 130). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         Background

         Plaintiff David Bentz, an inmate at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting that various Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) employees violated his constitutional rights. On October 1, 2015, the Court screened Bentz's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (Doc. 12), finding that Bentz articulated the following colorable claims:

Count 1: First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendants Christopher McClure, Douglas Lyerla, Richard Moore, “Cowan, ”[1] Michael Baker, Brian Kulich, and John Doe Badge #3835 for participating in and/or condoning the issuance of a false disciplinary report against Plaintiff on April 9, 2012; and against Defendant Nicholas Bebout for denying Plaintiff access to the law library that same day in response to Plaintiff filing lawsuits against correctional officers.
Count 2: Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Defendants Robert Hughes and David Johnson for refusing to hear evidence in Plaintiff's defense at his disciplinary hearing on April 12, 2012 and finding Plaintiff guilty in the absence of any evidence in support of that conclusion.
Count 3: Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim against Defendants Ryan Davis, Jesse Reid, Jeff Miller, Jerry Witthoft, James Mallory, and Donald Lindenberg for their deliberate indifference to the conditions of Plaintiff's confinement (namely excessive heat, unsanitary cell conditions, and lack of water) while he was in segregation from April 9, 2012 until July 9, 2012.
Count 4: Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim against Defendants Ryan Davis, Jesse Reid, Jeff Miller, Justin Kempfer, James Mallory, Jerry Witthoft, Donald Lindenberg, and Dilday[2] for their deliberate indifference to the conditions of Plaintiff's confinement while he was in segregation from September 24, 2012 until September 28, 2012.
Count 5: Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim against Defendants Ray Allen, Nicholas Bebout, Kent Brookman, Chad Forsting, “Dilday, ” Susan Easton, John Touville, Justin Snell, Greg Korando, Vicki Wood Payne, and Richard Ransom for the conditions he endured (namely unsanitary cell conditions) while housed within the weapons violator housing unit from July 2012 until May 7, 2013.
Count 6: Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Defendants Salvador Godinez, Michael Atchinson, Richard Harrington, Sara Johnson, Debbie Knauer, and Lori Crafton for designating Plaintiff a “weapons violator” and imposing additional disciplinary sanctions (beyond those recommended by the Adjustment Committee) on him without a hearing.
Count 7: Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim against Defendants Kent Brookman, Chad Forsting, William Reese, Mike Atchinson, Debbie Knauer, and Vicki Wood Payne for refusing to intervene to protect Plaintiff from his cellmate from October 2012 until January 2013.

         The defendants now seek summary judgment as to all of Bentz's claims except for the failure to protect claims against Defendants Brookman, Forsting, Reese and Wood (Payne) in Count 7.

         The following facts are taken from Bentz's deposition unless otherwise noted. Bentz has been in IDOC custody since 2009. He first arrived at Menard in late 2011 (Doc. 131-1, p. 23). The events that form the basis of this lawsuit began on April 9, 2012 (Id. at pp. 24-25). On that date, Bentz asked Correctional Officer Bebout if he could use the law library because he had an impending deadline in another lawsuit (Id. at p. 25). Bebout told Bentz that he did not care about his deadline, and that he would not be going to the law library due to the fact that he had filed lawsuits against corrections staff (Id. at p. 25). Bentz also asked Correctional Officer Brian Kulich if he could use the law library, but Kulich also denied Bentz permission (Id. at p. 27). According to Bentz, the correctional officers working in the housing unit were generally aware that he had filed previous lawsuits (Id. at p. 25).

         Two or three hours after the discussion with Bebout, Correctional Officers Christopher McClure and Brian Kulich performed a shakedown of Bentz's cell (Id. at p. 25). While the cell was being inspected, Bentz and his cellmate were placed in the housing unit shower area (Id. at p. 25). During this period Correctional Officer Michael Baker and another unknown correctional officer commented on the fact that Bentz had filed lawsuits against IDOC employees, and proceeded to make threatening remarks towards Bentz (Id. at p. 25). Sometime shortly thereafter, Bentz and his cellmate were escorted to another holding area and were informed by Defendant Richard Moore that contraband had been found in their cell (Id.). McClure and Kulich found a makeshift weapon consisting of a five inch piece of metal inside a property box belonging to Bentz's cellmate (Id.).

         Bentz received a disciplinary ticket for having dangerous contraband in his cell. The disciplinary ticket was drafted by McClure and Kulich (Doc. 131-1, p. 25). It was then approved by Defendants Moore and Douglas Lyerla (Id.).

         On April 10, 2012, Bentz was interviewed by Menard Internal Affairs employee “Cowan.” Cowan asked Bentz about the makeshift weapon found in his cell (Id. at p. 27). Bentz denied ownership of the weapon and told Cowan that it belonged to his cellmate (Id. at p. 27). The two then discussed some of Bentz's other litigation and Bentz returned to his cell (Id. at p. 27).

         On April 12, 2012, the Menard Adjustment Committee held a hearing on Bentz's dangerous contraband disciplinary ticket (Id. at p. 33). The committee was comprised of Defendants Robert Hughes and David Johnson (Id.). During the hearing, Hughes and Johnson asked if Bentz would like to plead guilty or not guilty to the dangerous contraband disciplinary report (Id. at p. 33). Bentz pleaded not guilty (Id.). Hughes and Johnson then questioned Bentz as to whether he was affiliated with any gangs (Id.). Bentz told them “no.” (Id.). At that point, Hughes and Johnson concluded the hearing and told Bentz that he was free to leave. (Id.). Bentz was not permitted to make a statement at the hearing nor was he allowed to introduce documents in his defense (Id.).

         Following the hearing, the Adjustment Committee found Bentz guilty and issued a punishment consisting of six months of “C Grade, ” six months of segregation, a revocation of six months of good time credit, and a six month commissary restriction (Adjustment Committee Final Summary Report, Doc. 1-1, p. 13). Bentz appealed the disciplinary action to the IDOC Administrative Review Board (“ARB”), and on June 1, 2012, the ARB reduced the disciplinary period from six months to three months (ARB Ruling, Doc. 1-1, p. 23). Bentz again appealed the ruling. On January 15, 2013, the ARB completely expunged the disciplinary ticket (ARB Ruling, Doc. 1-2, p. 8). However, by that time, Bentz had already served the three months in segregation (from April 9, 2012 through July 9, 2012).

         Bentz claims that during his three months in segregation, the cell conditions were filthy and unfit for human habitation (Doc. 131-1, p. 48). When Bentz first arrived in segregation, he was placed in cell 754 in the North 2 cell house (Id. at p. 49). At some point during the three month period, he was transferred to cell 852 in the same cell house (Id.). While in cell 754, Bentz slept on a soiled cloth mattress, did not have a pillow, he was not provided cleaning supplies, the cell was generally filthy, and the toilet was broken and leaked out onto the floor. (Id.). The cell also smelled of urine and mildew (Id.). The conditions in cell 852 were essentially the same as those in cell 754 (Id. at p. 53). The only differences were that the toilet functioned properly in cell 852 and that cell 852 became unbearably warm on multiple occasions (reaching 110 degree) (Id. at p. 52). While in segregation, Bentz notified Defendants Ryan Davis, Jesse Reid, Jeff Miller, Jerry Witthoft, James Mallory and Donald Lindenberg of the issues with the cells (Id. at p. 53). However, the defendants failed to correct the problems (Id.).

         After Bentz was released from segregation in July 2012, he was placed on “black striper” status (Doc. 131-1, p. 43). An inmate may be designated as a black striper if a weapon is found in his possession or if he has assaulted a staff member.[3] Black striper inmates wear black and white striped uniforms, are kept in special housing units, are provided with unique identification cards, and are generally kept separate from the inmates in general population (Id.) Bentz received black striper designation due to his April 9, 2012 disciplinary ticket, but did not receive a separate hearing prior to receiving the designation (Id. at p. 41).

         After the ARB expunged the disciplinary ticket in January 2013, Bentz remained on black striper status for another three months (Id.). He filed grievances and sent letters to Defendant IDOC Director Salvador Godinez protesting his black striper status, but Godinez declined to intervene (Id. at p. 41). Bentz also discussed the issue with Warden Richard Harrington in early 2013, but Warden Harrington failed to provide any assistance with the issue (Id. at p. 42). Additionally, Bentz sent letters addressing the disciplinary issue to Sara Johnson and Debbie Knauer, both ...


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