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Fencel v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 30, 2019

MICHAEL FENCEL, B-86752, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the court for preliminary review of the complaint filed by plaintiff Michael Fencel, an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections who currently resides at Stateville Correctional Center. ([6]). Plaintiff brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional deprivations resulting from the failure to protect him from a dangerous cellmate at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). He seeks monetary damages. (Id. at 15).

         This case is now before the court for preliminary review of the 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 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 must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). At this juncture, the factual allegations are to be liberally construed. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 6');">577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). The complaint survives screening as describe herein.


         Plaintiff alleges that his trouble at Menard began on August 4, 2017, when he was placed in a cell with inmate Joshua W. Kruger. ([6], p. 11). Kruger immediately indicated that plaintiff would need to abide by his rules to co-habit successfully. A few weeks after they became cellmates, Kruger asked plaintiff to help him run a “store” business with purchases made from the commissary. Plaintiff agreed, in exchange for $20. Kruger sought the help because inmates are generally limited to shopping at the commissary twice a month, with a spending limit of $100 per shopping trip. Plaintiff began receiving money to his prison account from Kruger's family, and he made shopping trips to the commissary. After a trip on October 17, 2017, Kruger told plaintiff that plaintiff owed him an amount that would be disclosed at a later date. (Id.).

         From mid-October into early November, Kruger began asking plaintiff personal and sexual questions. (Id. at 11). On November 4, 2017, plaintiff passed a letter to C/O defendant Cross during chow expressing discomfort with Kruger's conversations. Cross ignored plaintiff's written request for a cell change, but Kruger somehow got wind of the incident; that night, he beat plaintiff's chest and ribs and told him he could not move cells. In the days that followed, Kruger recommenced uncomfortable conversations, but plaintiff was afraid to alert staff to the problem. (Id.).

         On November 12, 2017, plaintiff alleges that Kruger forced him to perform oral and anal sex. (Id. at 11). After the rape, Kruger threatened plaintiff and told him if he reported the incident he would be beaten or killed. (Id. at 12). On November 19, 2017, Kruger raped plaintiff a second time via forced oral and anal sex. Kruger forced anal sex a third time on November 24, 2017. Finally, on November 27, 2017, Plaintiff wrote a letter about his rape to defendant Lashbrook. (Id.).

         John Doe 1 (a lieutenant) and John Doe 2 (a correctional officer) came to plaintiff's cell on November 28, 2017 to remove him and Kruger. (Id. at 12). Plaintiff was taken to the health care unit where John Does 3 and 4 (internal affairs officers) were waiting to interview him. As he tried to explain his recent experiences with Kruger, John Does 3 and 4 repeatedly asked him if he was just lying to try to get a cell change, and they indicated that if that was the case, they could help him. Plaintiff insisted that on multiple occasions Kruger grabbed him, shoved him to the back of the cell, pulled down his shorts and underwear, applied some sort of lubricant to a glove and raped him anally. At one point, John Doe 3 left the room and John Doe 4 became argumentative with plaintiff about the situation. Plaintiff asked to proceed with the medical rape test, and John Doe 4 asked him if he really wanted to go through with the embarrassing test. (Id.).

         During the medical examination, Dr. Siddiqui, two nurses, and John Does 3 and 4 were present in the room. (Id. at 12). John Does 3 and 4 continued a course of mocking and harassing plaintiff that they began during the interview. After the test concluded, plaintiff was kept in the medical unit overnight. At some point, John Doe 4 and a nurse entered his room to give him pads because he apparently bled on the table during the exam and they wanted to monitor for continued bleeding. (Id. at 12-13).

         The next day, A. Masterson interviewed plaintiff about the rapes he reported. (Id. at 13). She told him that if he was lying he would face time in segregation, but he insisted he was not lying. He described the rape to Masterson the same way he described it to John Does 3 and 4. He also informed her that those two individuals mocked him during their interview the previous day. Masterson indicated that she did not John Does 3 and 4 and that she disagreed with their interview style. She concluded the interview by telling plaintiff that Kruger was going to take a lie detector test, and she urged plaintiff not to tell his mother about the ongoing issue. (Id.).

         On November 30, 2017, plaintiff spoke with mental health counselor Hill who told him that he would have six months in a single man cell, followed by placement with a safe cellmate. (Id.). Hill confirmed that he should not tell his mother about the situation. (Id.).

         Shortly after arriving in a single man cell in segregation, A. Masterson came to interview plaintiff a second time. (Id.). During the interview she told him that she received a letter from Kruger who claimed the sex was consensual. Plaintiff denied Kruger's claim. Masterson then informed plaintiff that Kruger had been misclassified as an individual guilty of sexual misconduct while at Pontiac Correctional Center, when in fact he should have been classified as an individual guilty of sexual assault for his conduct at Pontiac. In light of this information, Masterson told plaintiff she could get him placed in protective custody and transferred to Pontiac. (Id.).

         Around December 7, 2017, plaintiff told his mother about the sexual assaults by Kruger. (Id.). On December 9, 2017, plaintiff decided to call the Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) hotline to report the rape. On December 21, 2017, plaintiff was taken into protective custody. The next day, Masterson wrote him a disciplinary ticket for admitting to consensual sex with Kruger. Because of the ticket, plaintiff was taken to segregation. (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges that John Doe 3 and 4, Ms. Hill, and Masterson began trying to cover up the interactions with plaintiff to avoid any finding of deliberate indifference on their behalf for failing to protect him. (Id.). Plaintiff believes that Kruger received a lie detector test, but he did not. (Id. at 13-14). At a January 2, 2018, disciplinary committee meeting, the committee decided that the ticket was founded. (Id. at 14). Hill indicated at the meeting that plaintiff should be designated as seriously mentally ill and he should serve six months in segregation. Plaintiff subsequently served six months in segregation. (Id.).

         Plaintiff concludes that prison officials were aware of Kruger being dangerous prior to the two being housed together. (Id.). Despite this knowledge, officials refused before and after the three rapes to provide plaintiff with any help or protection. Instead, they reframed the incidents as consensual to avoid liability. Plaintiff alleges that Baldwin, Lashbrook, Spiller, Masterson, Cross, Hill, Kruger, and John Does 1-4 all acted with deliberate indifference to his safety and well-being. (Id.).

         Plaintiff appended grievances and disciplinary documents to his complaint. (Id. at 16-36). A December 9, 2017 grievance indicates that plaintiff asked one officer at chow, and then asked Cross to move him to another cell because his cellmate was scaring him with sexual questions. (Id. at 35-36). Plaintiff claims his requests fell on silent ears but Kruger somehow learned of his fear and raped him that night. Plaintiff alleges that he wrote to the Warden about the rape. The grievance alleges that the officers who did not respond to his requests for help were negligent, the grievance was deemed not an emergency. (Id.).

         A December 22, 2017 Offender Disciplinary Report indicates that plaintiff admitted to having consensual sex at an interview, in violation of the prison sexual misconduct policy. (Id. at 16). The report was rewritten on January 3, 2018, to include Kruger's name. The rewritten report indicated that plaintiff told the committee that “after the encounter on the 26th, he felt wrong for his willingness to perform sexual acts with Kruger and reported the sexual acts as PREA/Sexual assault to the Warden via letter. Kruger volunteered to a CVSA and was found truthful in his statements that he did not sexually assault [plaintiff] and that they planned to have sex that evening.” (Id.). The report indicates that because Kruger's truthful statements and plaintiff's admission corroborate each other the plaintiff properly received a disciplinary ticket. (Id.).

         Plaintiff filed a grievance on January 3, 2018, wherein he stated that he was 90% not guilty and 10% guilty. (Id. at 18-19). He went on to explain that he felt like a guilty “dumbass” for agreeing to open a store with Kruger and ultimately having sex with him. Plaintiff indicated that he decided to open the store to alleviate pressure on his family members who were trying to provide him with money from outside of prison. In the grievance he requested that the ticket be dismissed and he be transferred to a new facility on ...

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