United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
RONALD L. STOECKER, #K67356, Plaintiff,
LT. HOPPENSTEDT, LT. FRANK, LT. BAKER, D. HESS, BENNITTE, URASKI, LOVE, and KAREN JAIMET, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Ronald Stoecker, an inmate of the Illinois Department of
Corrections currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional
Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
for deprivations of his constitutional rights that allegedly
occurred at Pinckneyville Correctional Center. In his
Complaint, Plaintiff claims the defendants violated his
First, Fourteenth, and Eighth Amendment rights by failing to
protect him from other inmates, retaliating against him for
filing grievances, and issuing him a false disciplinary
ticket. (Doc. 1).
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
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.
careful review of the Complaint and any supporting exhibits,
the Court finds it appropriate to allow this case to proceed
past the threshold stage.
Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff makes the following
allegations, which are divided below as Plaintiff divided
them in his Complaint:
1 - Failure to Protect, Intimidation, Cruel and Unusual
worked at Pinckneyville as “clean up” on both the
7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shifts.
(Doc. 1, p. 4). He had no issues working both shifts for
nearly a year. Id. After Defendant Hoppenstedt
became the 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift lieutenant, he
approached Plaintiff in a hostile and aggressive manner after
attempting to have him removed from his job without success.
Id. Hoppenstedt accused Plaintiff “of trying
to go over his head about a night job.” Id. He
threatened Plaintiff with a disciplinary ticket and
termination from his job if he spoke to anyone above him
about job assignments. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5).
did not speak to anyone about Hoppenstedt's behavior, and
he told Hoppenstedt as much. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Hoppenstedt did
not believe him, however, and continued to threaten Plaintiff
and attempt “to intimidate him by intentionally placing
his life and safety in jeopardy.” Id. He did
this by telling Plaintiff “in a loud voice so that the
whole wing could hear him say it: ‘The only reason I
don't let you come out at night is because you work for
I-A and you're a sex offender bitch.'” (Doc. 1,
p. 6). Hoppenstedt knows that prison life is more dangerous
than normal for an inmate labeled a snitch or sex offender.
Id. He yelled these things about Plaintiff
“because he wanted another inmate to hear this
statement and do something harmful to Plaintiff.”
Id. At least six inmates heard what Hoppenstedt
yelled about Plaintiff. Id.
result of Hoppenstedt's statements, Plaintiff was struck
in the face and head by another inmate. (Doc. 1, p. 7).
Plaintiff notified Internal Affairs of what Hoppenstedt told
his wing. Id. He also told them he did not feel safe
because of what was said, particularly because he was
attacked by an inmate because of it. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Internal
Affairs Officers Bennitte and Uraski were made aware of the
statements made by Hoppenstedt and that Plaintiff “had
been attacked by an inmate” because of them, and
“they did nothing to protect him from future threats
and harms.” Id.
wrote a grievance about Hoppenstedt's actions, notifying
Defendant Hess about the threat to Plaintiff's safety.
(Doc. 1, p. 9). Hess “turned a blind eye to this clear
threat to Plaintiff's safety and made the threat even
worse by informing Defendant Hoppenstedt that Plaintiff had
written a grievance on him for labeling him a snitch and sex
offender.” Id. The grievance angered
Hoppenstedt, so he lied and told Hess that Plaintiff was
disrespectful toward him and the 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
staff. Id. Had that actually happened, Hoppenstedt
would have written Plaintiff a ticket for insolence, and he
would have been removed from his job assignment. Id.
Hess did not investigate Plaintiff's claims about
Hoppenstedt's behavior and the threat it posed to him,
even though there were witnesses available. (Doc. 1, pp.
2 - Retaliation
Plaintiff wrote the grievance about Hoppenstedt loudly
calling him a sex offender and snitch, “he was stopped
from coming out on 3 to 11 shift.” (Doc. 1, p. 12).
This was in retaliation for his grievance, because before the
grievance, Plaintiff got to work on both shifts. Id.
After Plaintiff wrote the grievance, he “was constantly
harassed by Lt. Hoppenstedt.” (Doc. 1, p. 13). Bennitte
told Plaintiff that Hoppenstedt “would not let the fact
that Plaintiff had [written] a grievance on him go.”
Id. Plaintiff also was told that if he
“squashed” the grievance, he could be transferred
to Big Muddy Correctional Center, otherwise he would be
placed in segregation. Id.
January 16, 2018, Hoppenstedt approached Plaintiff and told
him that if he did not drop his grievance, Lieutenant Baker
had already told him that he could fire Plaintiff from his
remaining work shift. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff gave
Bennitte an emergency grievance about Hoppenstedt's
threats, and Bennitte assured Plaintiff that he would forward
his grievance to the proper person. (Doc. 1, p. 14-15). To
this day, Plaintiff has not heard back about the status of
that grievance. (Doc. 1, p. 14). He believes Baker and
Bennitte's actions were retaliatory and designed to help
Hoppenstedt. (Doc. 1, pp. 14-15). When Plaintiff refused to
drop the grievance, Bennitte placed him in segregation to
frustrate him, though he claimed that it was for
Plaintiff's protection. (Doc. 1, p. 15). This move did
not protect Plaintiff, however, because correctional officers
“can come and go anywhere” and “they have
friends, family members, and co-workers that work at the
facility and are willing to retaliate against the inmate for
them or on their behalf.” (Doc. 1, p. 16). Bennitte,
Baker, Uraski, and Frank “all approached Plaintiff with
a threat of some form of punishment if he didn't squash
the grievance.” Id.
Uraski and Frank told Plaintiff to sign a statement
indicating that he did not feel unsafe or fear for his life.
(Doc. 1, p. 17). They also told Plaintiff that if he did not
sign it, he would be moved to a different house or protective
custody, and this move would make other inmates believe that
he was a snitch. Id. Plaintiff signed the form
because of these threats and because he did not want to be
punished for writing the grievance. Id. Frank also
wrote a disciplinary ticket on Plaintiff for “304 -
Insolence” and “211 - Possession or solicitation
of unauthorized personal information” in retaliation
for Plaintiff writing the grievance against Hoppenstedt.
(Doc. 1, p. 18). Frank knew that writing a ticket with these
charges would result in Plaintiff being placed in segregation
and losing his job, which is what Hoppenstedt threatened him
with if he did not ...