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Teen v. Smith

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 6, 2020

ANTRELL TEEN, Plaintiff,
R. SMITH and SGT. SHUBERG, Defendants.


          Hon. Reona J. Daly United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Antrell Teen, a former inmate at the St. Clair County Jail (“the Jail”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds in this case on the following claim:

Count 8: First Amendment retaliation claim against Smith for bringing a false disciplinary charge on January 26, 2018, and against Strubberg[1] for refusing to investigate the false charge and imposing excessive discipline after Plaintiff sued Smith.

         Defendants Smith and Strubberg filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 31) arguing the record is devoid of any circumstantial or direct evidence of a retaliatory motive, that the actions taken by Jail officials were for legitimate governmental objectives, and that the claimed deprivations were not of such magnitude as to deter a person of ordinary firmness from exercising their rights. Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. 34) arguing he was improperly disciplined by Defendants because he filed numerous Captain's complaints and lawsuits regarding his treatment at the Jail.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff was incarcerated at the St. Clair County Jail beginning on December 15, 2015 (Doc. 31-2). On January 26, 2018, Officer Michael Ripperda was dispatched to AB Block regarding a complaint by inmate Byron Hudson (Doc. 31-3, Officer Rippera's Incident Report). Hudson reported that another inmate, J.B., had walked into his cell and took his commissary and that the two were on Keep Separate status (Id.). Ripperda went to the cell of J.B. and was met there by CO Rick Smith (Id.). Ripperda and Smith found a small bag of commissary with a receipt belonging to Hudson in the cell (Id.). Smith took the bag of commissary to Hudson and Hudson pointed out what he was missing (Id.).

         Officer Smith's Incident Report states that during the theft investigation, Smith stepped into Hudson's cell and discovered Detainee Antrell Teen talking to Hudson (Doc. 31-4). Smith overheard Plaintiff say, “You don't have to do that” and believed Plaintiff was attempting to convince Hudson not to talk with responding officers (Id.). Plaintiff agreed that he was talking with Hudson when Officer Smith entered the cell and recalls that he had been telling Hudson that he should want to stay on the block (Doc. 31-1 at 5-7, Plaintiff's Deposition). According to Plaintiff, he told Hudson, “[w]e have a good system going on in AB Block, ” “that he shouldn't feel threatened by the guys who took his belongings, ” and “[d]on't worry about it, I'll get your stuff back for you” (Id. at 6). Plaintiff testified that his statement “You don't have to do that, ” meant Hudson did not have to leave the cell block (Id. at 7).

         Smith and Hudson engaged in conversation regarding the theft investigation (Doc. 31-1 at 8). Smith reported he observed an unidentified detainee hand Hudson's commissary receipt to Plaintiff, and Plaintiff placed it behind his back as if to conceal it (Doc. 31-4). Smith requested Plaintiff hand him the receipt (Id.). Rather than immediately turning over the paper, Plaintiff read the receipt (Id.). Smith questioned Plaintiff's involvement in the investigation that required him to read the receipt (Id.). After approximately 45 seconds, Plaintiff handed the paper to Officer Smith, stating he had his own investigation he needed to complete, and a job to do in his block (Id.). Smith informed Plaintiff that he was actually in charge of handling issues in the facility and Plaintiff called Smith a “bitch ass security guard” (Id.). Smith then left to assist Ripperda in escorting the theft suspect out of the block and advised Plaintiff he would return to finish their talk (Id.). Plaintiff responded, “You can find me in Cell Number 6” (Doc. 31-1 at 14).

         Plaintiff testified inmate Steve Tiller did hand him Hudson's commissary receipt, but he disputes that he attempted to hide it from anyone (Doc. 31-1 at 8). Plaintiff testified that Smith requested he hand him the receipt, but Plaintiff took the time to read the receipt so that he would know what items were missing in order to get them back for Hudson (Id. at 9). It took him “maybe 60 seconds” to read the receipt before he turned it over (Id. at 10). Plaintiff testified there was no further conversation between him and Smith after he handed him the receipt and that he did not use the “bitch-ass” language (Id. at 12). Plaintiff testified he could have called him a security guard at one point during the incident (Id.). Plaintiff testified he did hear someone call Smith a “bitch-ass security guard” when Smith was walking away, but he does not know who said it (Id. at 13). Shortly after Smith left the block, Plaintiff obtained and returned the commissary items to Hudson (Id. at 14).

         After removing the alleged suspect from the block, Smith returned to AB block, along with Lt. Pannier and Officer Ripperda, and requested Plaintiff exit the block for questioning (Doc. 31-4). Plaintiff stated he had no memory of the conversation and if he made any disrespectful comments, it was only in response to disrespect from Smith (Id.). Plaintiff was moved to Recovery 1 pending a housing review (Id.). Plaintiff was cited for disrespectful comments (B27) and interfering with the investigation (B24) and a privileges review was requested (Id., Doc. 31-6).

         On January 29, 2018, the Disciplinary and Adjustment Committee interview was held for the B24 and B27 citations issued on January 26, 2018 (Doc. 31-6 at 2). Sgt. Strubberg went to Plaintiff's cell, identified himself, stated the purpose of the interview, and explained to Plaintiff that it was his opportunity to explain his side of the story (Doc. 31-1 at 21). Plaintiff testified the interview took place through the door of his cell and he remained “stretched out on the mat” during the interview (Id. at 22). Chairman Strubberg and Member Walter signed the committee hearing report (Id.). Officer's Strubberg's narrative states:

Detainee Teen stated, “His (Officer Smith) actions were retaliatory in nature, I did not interfere with his duties. He's just mad because I wrote him up. If I would have called him a name, it would have been something more creative than that. I have a degree in verbal linguistics; I wouldn't resort to calling someone a bitch. I don't remember what I said to him, but it wasn't that.”

(Id. at 3). To the question of whether the detainee requested witnesses, the report indicated “No” (Id. at 2). Plaintiff disputes this and testifies that he requested Strubberg speak to the witnesses that heard the conversation between him and Smith (Doc. 31-1 at 21). Plaintiff testified he provided at least three names of inmates Strubberg could interview (Id.). Plaintiff also disputes he received advanced notice of the hearing (Id.). Plaintiff was found guilty of both violations and lost partial privileges of commissary and recreation for 20 days (Doc. 31-6).

         Plaintiff was reassigned to L Block, a non-segregation block (Doc. 31-1 at 23). Plaintiff testified that L Block is a smaller block and more confined (Id.). L block had only one kiosk, fewer tables, less desk space, and more violent inmates (Id.). Plaintiff was housed in L block from January 29, 2018 until March 15, 2018. Lt. Strubberg attested Plaintiff was moved from the AB block where the incident of January 26, ...

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