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Dent v. Nally

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 17, 2019

CHARLES DENT, Plaintiff,



         Charles Dent is an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who resided at Big Muddy Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”) at the times relevant to this case (Doc. 126). Dent alleges that shortly after he arrived at Big Muddy in July 2012, he was approached by Defendant Nick Nally, a Correctional Officer in the Internal Affairs Department (“IAD”) (Id. at p. 4). Nally asked Dent whether he would be interested in working as a confidential informant for the Big Muddy IAD, and Dent agreed (Id.). Dent was also assigned to work in the law library as a clerk (Id. at p. 5). Dent alleges that on several occasions, Nally instructed him to discourage other inmates from filing grievances and lawsuits against Big Muddy personnel (Id.). Dent also learned that Nally and other IAD personnel were allowing drugs to come in to the facility through commissary, assaulting inmates, framing inmates, and punishing and retaliating against inmates for assisting other inmates with filing grievances (Id.).

         On March 2, 2016, Dent informed his supervisor at the law library that he was a confidential informant and wanted to report a pattern of corruption within Big Muddy’s IAD (Id.). The supervisor relayed the conversation to Defendant Jason Garnett, the Warden of Big Muddy, by filing an incident report (Id. at p. 6). The report reads:

I immediately observed that [Dent] was NOT kidding around. I have been surprised that, since Lt. Schuler retired (I.A. Supervisor), the facility has appeared to be run by thugs in I.A. who are unscrupulous. . . I.A. Staff are breaking the law and breaking the rules, covering for themselves, for other security staff, and for some inmates even. I’m the only one who knows it all, and if I tell, they will know that it’s me who told on them.


         Garnett forwarded the incident report to Nally, and the two entered into a conspiracy to retaliate against Dent for attempting to expose IAD’s corrupt practices (Id.). Later that month, Nally leaked confidential information Dent shared with IAD, which exposed Dent as an informant (Id. at p. 9).

         Dent filed a grievance on March 22, 2016, complaining that Nally revealed the confidential information to another inmate (Id.). Dent submitted the grievance to the grievance office at Big Muddy, but the counselor sent the grievance directly to Nally instead of properly processing Dent’s complaints (Id. at p. 11). Dent also sent a copy of the grievance directly to the Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) (Id.). On March 29, 2016, Dent filed an emergency grievance, expressing fear that Nally would retaliate against him for filing the March 22 grievance and for signing a declaration in support of another inmate’s lawsuit (Id.). The ARB returned Dent’s grievances for failing to attach the facility’s responses (Id.). Dent states that between March 22, 2016 and May 6, 2016, he submitted over fifteen grievances related to the conspiracy of retaliation, and did not receive a single response (Id. at p. 12).

         In April 2016, Nally questioned another inmate about whether Dent was improperly controlling which inmates used the law library (Id.). Defendant Denise Minor, a lieutenant at Big Muddy, requested all of the library files and request slips as part of the inquiry (Id.). Nally and Minor’s suspicions were ultimately unsubstantiated (Id.).

         Dent alleges that Nally and Minor directed Defendant Winnie Braddock, who was employed in Big Muddy’s mailroom, to forward them Dent’s outgoing legal mail instead of sending the mail to the proper parties (Id. at p. 13). This permitted Nally and Minor to inspect Dent’s privileged correspondences (Id.).

         Dent further alleges that Minor improperly placed him in segregation under the guise of an investigation pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (“PREA”), 42 U.S.C. § 15601, et seq. (Id. at p. 14). According to Dent, Minor just wanted an opportunity to question him about his grievances and his intentions in pursuing the complaints (Id.). Minor became upset and told Dent his grievances would not be processed or logged (Id.).

         Dent states that after he was released from segregation, Minor purposely placed him in a cell with a violent inmate (Id. at p. 15). Dent is openly gay and his new cellmate “hated homosexuals” (Id.). Dent’s cellmate threatened and humiliated him over the course of the following three weeks (Id.).

         On April 22, 2016, Dent filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Defendants violated his First Amendment rights and other federal laws by retaliating against him for pursuing complaints against personnel at Big Muddy (Doc. 1).

         On February 22, 2018, Dent filed an amended complaint, adding allegations against Defendants Ty Wallace and Barry Lasater (Doc. 126). According to the amended complaint, on April 27, 2016, Dent received mental health services from Wallace, a mental health professional at Big Muddy (Id. at p. 16). Dent told Wallace about this lawsuit, and Dent forwarded a summary of the communications to Minor in an incident report (Id.). At Minor’s direction, Wallace recommended Dent be removed from his position with the law library (Id.). Dent was eventually fired (Id.).

         Dent further alleges that on May 6, 2016, he was in the law library retrieving a folder of legal papers, when Lasater, a correctional officer at Big Muddy, stopped and questioned him about the papers (Id. at p. 17). Lasater, who was acting on orders from Minor, seized the folder and wrote Dent a disciplinary ticket (Id.). Lasater told Dent, ...

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