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O'Neal v. Hoskins

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

October 2, 2019

JEFFREY J. O'NEAL, Plaintiff,
v.
BLAKE HOSKINS, Defendant,

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Jeffrey J. O'Neal for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. (Docket No. 4). Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court finds that it should be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Clerk of Court will be directed to issue process on defendant Hoskins in his individual capacity as to plaintiff's claim of First Amendment retaliation. However, plaintiff's other claims will be dismissed without prejudice.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context- specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must “accept as true the facts alleged, but not legal conclusions or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016). See also Brown v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 372-73 (8th Cir. 2016) (stating that court must accept factual allegations in complaint as true, but is not required to “accept as true any legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”).

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). A “liberal construction” means that if the essence of an allegation is discernible, the district court should construe the plaintiff's complaint in a way that permits his or her claim to be considered within the proper legal framework. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015). However, even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980). See also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (stating that federal courts are not required to “assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint”). In addition, affording a pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is a pro se litigant who brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Docket No. 1 at 2). At the time this was filed, he was incarcerated at the Southeast Correctional Center (SECC) in Charleston, Missouri. He names Correctional Officer Blake Hoskins as defendant.[1](Docket No. 1 at 3). Officer Hoskins is sued in his individual capacity only.

         While confined in SECC, plaintiff states that a Correctional Emergency Response Team entered his cell unannounced “on a search and destroy mission.” During this incident, plaintiff asserts that Officer Hoskins “made some out of the norm conversation” with him. The comments made by Officer Hoskins were loud enough for “all the inmates…[to] clearly hear him.” Apparently, though the allegations are not entirely clear, Officer Hoskins's comments referred to plaintiff as a child molester. According to plaintiff, this “placed a death warrant” on him, making it unsafe for him to be anywhere in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

         Plaintiff states that he had a “PREA placed on” Officer Hoskins. (Docket No. 1 at 4). Nevertheless, Officer Hoskins was “[allowed] close to [him] as [though] nothing has ever happened.” Plaintiff alleges that Officer Hoskins has threatened him and told him that he needs to watch his mouth.

         Plaintiff claims that Officer Hoskins's superiors have forced plaintiff to take a cellmate. He further claims that he has had four cellmates, all of whom have “hounded [him] for sexual favors.” In order to avoid this, plaintiff went to a suicide cell on May 30, 2019.

         On June 4, 2019, plaintiff got out of suicide cell, escorted by Officer Hoskins. Plaintiff alleges that Officer Hoskins removed his new glasses from his face and refused to return them. He states that he has asked for their return over 150 times. He further states that without his glasses, he has difficulty working on his legal cases; that his medical needs are not being met; and that his right to free exercise of religion has been violated. (Docket No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff alleges that Officer Hoskins took his eyeglasses in retaliation “for the PREA” that plaintiff placed on him.

         Plaintiff alleges that Officer Hoskins deprived him of various constitutional rights, including: the First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and free speech; the Fourth Amendment's protection against unlawful seizures; the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; and the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. (Docket No. 1 at 6-7).

         Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $50, 000. (Docket No. 1 at 8).

         Discussion

         Plaintiff brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Officer Hoskins violated his constitutional rights by taking away his eyeglasses, allegedly in retaliation for a complaint that plaintiff made against him. His complaint contains a number of legal claims asserting violations of various constitutional rights. Restated, plaintiff alleges that Officer Hoskins is liable for retaliation under the First Amendment; deliberate indifference to his medical needs; impeding his access to the courts; making verbal comments that put him in danger; impeding his ability to practice his religion; and deprivation of property. For the reasons discussed below, the Clerk of Court will be directed to ...


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