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Sanchez v. Beshears

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 25, 2018

JESUS SANCHEZ, # M-38900, Plaintiff,


          Herndon Judge

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was confined at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"). Plaintiff claims that Defendants failed to protect him from an attack by his cellmate, despite Plaintiffs reports of his safety concerns. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § l9l5A(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).

         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 “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).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that on October 27, 2016, while he was being held in protective custody at Menard without a cellmate, C/O Beshears told him that another inmate would be moved into Plaintiff's cell. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Inmate Brown, who had been in the location 2 cells away from Plaintiff, was placed in Plaintiff's cell. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff was familiar with Brown, having been warned by Brown's former cellmate (who had requested a change of cellmate due to concerns about his safety with Brown) that Brown displayed bizarre behavior. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff himself had heard Brown “violently arguing with himself” while in the nearby cell. Id. Plaintiff asserts that Brown has been classified by the Illinois Department of Corrections as “seriously mentally ill” due to his history of mental health problems, and that Brown has a history of attacking his cellmates. Id.

         When Brown was moved into Plaintiff's cell, Plaintiff told Beshears that Brown should not have a cellmate because of his mental health problems and erratic behavior, but Beshears left Brown in Plaintiff's cell. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Shortly after Brown was moved into Plaintiff's cell, Brown began talking to himself, with his “conversations” becoming more volatile and then escalating to Brown punching, kicking, and yelling at the wall. Id.

         The next day, Brown told Plaintiff that he needed to “cleanse the cell” of “demons” after Plaintiff questioned why Brown was stirring the toilet bowl with his finger after urinating in it. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Brown urinated into multiple cups that he kept next to his bed to “keep the bad spirits away.” Id. The stench of urine made Plaintiff nauseated. Plaintiff again notified Beshears that he did not feel safe with the mentally unstable Brown in his cell. Beshears said he would “see what [he] could do, ” but took no action. Id.

         Plaintiff sent multiple “kites” to Lt. Welborn, Sgt. Bradley, the cellhouse major, and Internal Affairs, but got no response. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff spoke with the John Doe Mental Health Worker about his safety concerns with Brown. This John Doe said he would see what he could do, but again, nothing was done. Id. Each day, Plaintiff continued asking officials to move Brown, but no action was taken.

         On the fourth day of Brown being in the cell, Plaintiff returned from yard and brought Beshears to the cell so he could smell the urine and observe Brown's behavior. (Doc. 1, pp. 11-12). Beshears saw Brown with his forehead against the wall, having a conversation with the wall. Beshears shook his head and walked away. (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         On the fifth day, Plaintiff stopped the John Doe Internal Affairs Officer as he walked by the cell, and told him that Plaintiff was in fear for his life “living in the cell with a crazy person.” Id. The John Doe Internal Affairs Officer told Plaintiff he would look into the situation, but he never returned. Brown overheard this conversation, and told Plaintiff to “stop telling on me.” (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         When Beshears made his rounds, Plaintiff repeated his safety concerns. Brown then told Beshears, “if you don't move this mother__ somebody is going to die in this mother__!” (Doc. 1, p. 13). Beshears left, and after he was gone, Brown got out of bed and punched Plaintiff several times in the face, injuring his eye and lip. Plaintiff wrestled Brown to the floor and started choking him. Staff arrived and ordered Plaintiff to stop, but he did not stop out of fear that Brown would attack him again if he let go. Officers sprayed Plaintiff with pepper spray, cuffed him, and took both Plaintiff and Brown to segregation. (Doc. 1, pp. 13, 19-20).

         When Plaintiff was released from segregation, he was at first ordered to move back into a cell with Brown, but was placed with a different cellmate after he protested that he was in segregation for fighting Brown. (Doc. 1, p. 14). A few days ...

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