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Gharrett v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 3, 2018

DAVID GHARRETT, #M38621, Plaintiff,
v.
KIMBERLY BUTLER, JEANNETTE COWAN, JOHN DOES 1-6, and JANE DOE 7, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff David H. Gharrett, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights that allegedly occurred at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). In his First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims the defendants failed to protect him from a serious risk of harm at the hands of other inmates in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 7). This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the First Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of a 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, must be dismissed. 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). 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). 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).

         Upon careful review of the First Amended Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds this case shall proceed.

         The First Amended Complaint

         In his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 7), Plaintiff makes the following allegations: on February 19, 2015, Plaintiff's cellmate, Lason Elliot, told Plaintiff that if he did not leave the cell, he would be “‘dealt' with by him and others from his gang.” Id. That night, Elliot told Plaintiff that when he left, “he better not come back or something would be waiting on him.” Id. Plaintiff immediately began to fear for his safety and life. Id. Officer John Doe 5 came to get Plaintiff for his psychiatrist appointment, and on the way, Plaintiff told him about the threats Elliot had made. Id. Plaintiff also requested protective custody. Id. The officer told Plaintiff that he would look into it during Plaintiff's appointment, but after the appointment, John Doe 4 and John Doe 5 told Plaintiff that he could go back to his cell or go to segregation. Id.

         Plaintiff chose to go to segregation, and on the way, they encountered John Doe 3 who gave Plaintiff the same ultimatum after being informed of the situation. (Doc. 7, pp. 7-8). Plaintiff chose segregation, and after serving his time there, he immediately requested protective custody. (Doc. 7, p. 8). Plaintiff was transferred to the Protective Custody Unit to await approval of his request. Id. While he was waiting, he wrote multiple letters to Warden Butler, advising her of his fears for his life and safety because of Elliot's threats. Id.

         After about a week, Plaintiff was interviewed by officer John Doe 1 and Jeannette Cowan. Id. They advised him that his request for protective custody would be denied, despite the threats made by Elliot. Id. They advised Plaintiff that, despite the denial, they would make sure that he was not placed in a cell with any gang members. Id. Plaintiff was taken to a cell near where Elliot was housed and noticed that the person in his new cell was a gang member. (Doc. 7, pp. 8-9). Plaintiff immediately advised Officer John Doe 6 that he had been told that he would not be placed in a cell with a gang member, but John Doe 6 sent him back onto the gallery. (Doc. 7, p. 9). On the way to his cell, another gang member stated to him: “You know you can't go in there with my king brother . . . if you go in there your [sic] not coming out.” Id.

         Plaintiff once again advised John Doe 6 of the threat he received. Id. John Doe 6 placed Plaintiff into a holding cell and told him that he would look into it. Id. He later told Plaintiff that he would have to place him in segregation if he refused to go to his cell. Id. Plaintiff requested protective custody but instead was transferred to segregation for disobeying a direct order. Id. Upon his release from segregation, Plaintiff again requested protective custody and was transferred to the Protective Custody Unit to await approval. Id. About a week later, Plaintiff was interviewed by officers John Doe 2 and Jeannette Cowan. Id. He told them about the threats he had received from Elliot and the other gang members, but they denied his request for protective custody nonetheless. (Doc. 7, pp. 9-10). While he was waiting for approval, Plaintiff once again sent multiple letters to Butler seeking approval for protective custody and explaining his fears. (Doc. 7, p. 10). Plaintiff received a protective custody denial that was signed by Butler. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a grievance about the denial and was seen by the Administrative Review Board a few weeks later. Id. Though he fully explained the situation to Jane Doe 7, he was denied protective custody once again and released back into the general prison population. Id. In October 2016, Plaintiff was placed in a cell with another gang member. Id. In November 2016, Plaintiff was violently attacked by his cellmate. Id.

         After the attack, Plaintiff was transferred to the Health Care Unit. (Doc. 7, p. 11). He was then transferred to an outside hospital. Id. He received treatment and spent approximately two weeks in Menard's Health Care Unit before he was sent back to the same cell house where he was attacked. Id. A few days after he returned to the cell house, a cell house worker informed Plaintiff that certain gang members were going to “[mess] him up” if Plaintiff came out of his cell. Id. A few hours later, a note was passed to Plaintiff from an inmate who identified himself as a gang member. Id. The note indicated that the inmate was ordered to “handle the business” with Plaintiff and that Plaintiff should go to protective custody to prevent it. Id. Plaintiff wrote letters to Butler and the internal affairs officers advising them of the constant threats and previous attack. Id. He also wrote to the cell house major and lieutenant explaining his situation. Id. Plaintiff was finally approved for protective custody. Id.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory, monetary, and permanent injunctive relief. (Doc. 7, p. 15).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to designate a single count in this pro se action. The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The ...


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