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Mason v. Orange Crush Officers

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 22, 2018

MICKEY DEANGELO MASON, #R-04326, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Mickey Mason, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case was severed from Mason v. Spiller, et al., No. 17-cv-00867-DRH-RJD (S.D. Ill. 2017) (“original case”), pursuant to a Memorandum and Severance Order (“Severance Order”) dated September 25, 2017. (Doc. 1). The severed case focuses on a single claim (Count 5, original case) against Menard's Orange Crush Officers for taking Plaintiff's personal property, including his legal materials, during a cell shakedown on August 3, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-15). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and the return of his property. (Doc. 13, p. 20).

         Soon after this severed case was opened, Plaintiff filed a series of motions seeking leave to amend the Complaint[1] (Docs. 8, 9, 11) in this case. His initial motions (Docs. 8 and 9) were denied because Plaintiff failed to file a proposed amended complaint along with the motions. (Doc. 10). However, this Court accepted the First Amended Complaint filed by Plaintiff on February 22, 2018, [2] and it is now before the Court for preliminary review.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Section 1915A provides, in pertinent part:

(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).

         First Amended Complaint

         This severed case arises from a single cell shakedown that occurred less than two weeks before Plaintiff filed the original case on August 15, 2018. (Doc. 13, p. 2). According to the allegations of the First Amended Complaint, C/O Meyers and three unknown officers (John Doe I, John Doe 2, John Doe 3, and John Doe 4) entered Plaintiff's cell and removed his personal property without his consent on August 3, 2017. (Doc. 13, p. 2-3). They took trial transcripts, legal documents, exhibits, and privileged correspondence, among other things. (Doc. 13, pp. 5, II, 14). A detailed list of the property is included in the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 13, pp. 11, 14, 20).

         At the time, Plaintiff was preparing a successive post-conviction petition to challenge his conviction and sentence. (Doc. 13, p. 4). Without his legal materials, Plaintiff was unable to properly present his claims. (Doc. 13, p. 5). He blames C/O Meyers and John Does ##1-4 for interfering with his ability to pursue post-conviction relief. (Doc. 13, pp. 4-5).

         Plaintiff reported the incident to Sandie Walker, who refused to file an incident report or report the incident to Sergeant Harrison. (Doc. 13, pp. 5, 12). Walker told Plaintiff that there was nothing she could do. (Doc. 13, p. 12). She also stated that John Doe 1 had no time to address his personal issues. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that Walker's conduct amounted to retaliation for an earlier incident. (Doc. 13, p. 15). Specifically, a couple days before the cell shakedown, Plaintiff told “Major/John Doe” of the North 1 Cell House that Counselor Price routinely ignored his requests for a transfer, trust fund statement, money vouchers, and grievances. (Doc. 13, p. 16). He also complained that Counselor Price and Walker failed to make rounds in the cell house. Id. Walker told Plaintiff that she was “pissed” he decided to complain directly to the major. Id. She also told Plaintiff that she runs the North Cell House, and Sergeant Harrison “will back her up” on her decisions. Id. She threatened to send Plaintiff to the North 2 Cell House “where the homosexuals are” so that he could complain all he wanted. (Doc. 13, pp. 16, 19). Sergeant Harrison was present during the conversation. (Doc. 13, p. 17).

         On August 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance to complain about the cell shakedown and confiscation of his personal property. (Doc. 13, p. 12). That same day, he prepared a staff misconduct grievance to complain about Sandie Walker's response to his request for assistance. Id. He submitted the grievances to Counselor Price and to the grievance office. Id. It is unclear whether he received a response to these grievances.

         Plaintiff also told his family about the incident. (Doc. 13, p. 12). They contacted Warden Jacqueline Lashbrook and another unknown individual twice in August 2017. (Doc. 13, pp. 12-13). Warden Lashbrook told Plaintiff's family that the situation would be addressed. (Doc. 13, p. 13).

         On August 7, 2017, Plaintiff was escorted to an interview with Lieutenant Spiller. (Doc. 13, p. 13). Instead of inquiring into the cell shakedown that occurred three days earlier, Lieutenant Spiller focused the interview on an earlier incident of alleged sexual assault by prison guards on April 1, 2016. Id. The lieutenant explained that he wanted to know the “end result” of that incident because Plaintiff's father had called to complain about harassment by staff. Id. Plaintiff explained that staff turned a blind eye to that incident and then targeted his cell for a shakedown when Plaintiff exercised his right to complain. Id. Lieutenant Spiller asked Plaintiff if the tactical team confiscated documents pertaining to his civil suit, and he said that they only took some of the documents. Id. Plaintiff gave the rest of the documents to his father for safekeeping. (Doc. 13, p. 14). When Plaintiff provided Lieutenant Spiller with an itemized list of legal materials that were confiscated, the lieutenant wrote down only some of the items. Id. The lieutenant then wrote “refused” on the inmate signature line. (Doc. 13, p. 15). Plaintiff questioned the lieutenant about this and was allowed to review and sign the investigation report. Id. However, Lieutenant Spiller refused to provide Plaintiff with a copy. Id.

         On August 7, 2017, Plaintiff also prepared a grievance to complain about Lieutenant Spiller's handling of the investigation. (Doc. 13, p. 15). He characterized the lieutenant's conduct during the interview as attempted bribery. Id. He filed one copy of the grievance with Counselor Price and another copy with the grievance office. Id. He received no response to either grievance. Id.

         Plaintiff was moved to the North 2 Cell House on August 10, 2017. (Doc. 13, p. 16). On August 15, 2017, he was escorted from his new cell to an office for questioning by C/O Gardner. (Doc. 13, p. 17). Plaintiff was handcuffed to the floor during the interview. Id. When Gardner entered the room, the officer asked Plaintiff about his gang affiliation before interviewing him about the cell shakedown. Id. Plaintiff objected to the line of questioning and denied any gang affiliation. Id. C/O Gardner was angered by Plaintiff's response and insisted Plaintiff was lying about his gang affiliation. Id. Plaintiff asked to return to his cell, and the interview ended. Id.

         On August 16, 2017, William H. Spiller and Lieutenant Spiller told Plaintiff that he was not going to “get away with trying to pursue [his] issues and that it's not over.” (Doc. 13, p. 18). Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance the same day to report the threat to Warden Lashbrook. (Doc. 13, p. 17). He received a response from Alex Jones instead of the warden, indicating that his situation presented no emergency. (Doc. 13, p. 18). He then submitted a grievance to Counselor Hill and the Grievance Office, but he received no response. Id.

         On September 28, 2017, Plaintiff was denied a meal when Sergeant J. Snell removed him from the lunch line without just cause. (Doc. 13, p. 18). He asked C/O John Doe (a gallery officer) to provide him with a meal, but his request was denied. Id. As a result, Plaintiff experienced pain, suffering, and loss of sleep for two days. Id. The following day, William H. Spiller informed staff ...

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