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Pettingill v. Smith

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 21, 2014

MICHAEL PETTINGILL, Petitioner,
v.
BRIAN SMITH, Respondent.

ENTRY DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.

The petition of Michael Pettingill for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. STP XX-XX-XXXX. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Pettingill's habeas petition must be DENIED.

I. Overview

Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits, Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004), or of credit-earning class, Montgomery v. Anderson, 262 F.3d 641, 644-45 (7th Cir. 2001), without due process. The due process requirement is satisfied with the issuance of advance written notice of the charges, a limited opportunity to present evidence to an impartial decision maker, a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the evidence justifying it, and "some evidence in the record" to support the finding of guilt. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 570-71 (1974); Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2003); Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).

II. The Disciplinary Proceeding

On October 16, 2013, Sergeant Fox wrote a conduct report that charged Mr. Pettingill with class B offense 215, unauthorized possession of property. The conduct report stated:

On 10-16-2013 at approximately 6:00 a.m. I, Sergeant A. Fox[, ] was conducting an [a]rea [s]earch in Unit 3 on bunk L1-127. During my search I found an unauthorized possession of a tool on Offender Michael Pettingill's #158796 bed area.

A picture was taken of the "3 ½" l. silver 5/16 (sic) wrench" and then it was returned to the maintenance department. Sergeant Fox also completed an incident report:

On 10/16/2013 at approximately 6:00 a.m. I, Sgt. A[.] Fox[, ] was conducting a search in Unit 3 on L1-128. During my search on the bunk I found a small 5/16(th) Snap On wrench approximately 3 ½ inches long with PAT 3273430 ingraved (sic) on the on[e] side, attached to bunk 127 closest to the wall. I immediately secured the tool and reported my findings to the shift supervisor. I later discovered that the bunk 127 of Unit 3 belongs to Offender Michael Pettingill #158796[.]

On October 25, 2013, Mr. Pettingill was notified of the charge when he was served with the conduct report and the screening report. Mr. Pettingill was notified of his rights. He pled not guilty and he requested the appointment of a lay advocate. Mr. Pettingill stated he would bring witness "names later" and requested a picture of the "10 man room open dorm."

The hearing was held on November 9, 2013, and the hearing officer found Mr. Pettingill guilty of Class B offense 215, unauthorized possession of property. In making this determination, the hearing officer relied on the staff reports, the photograph, the evidence card, the incident report, and Mr. Pettingill's statement at the hearing, "I had no idea about the wrench, or that it was even there."

The sanctions imposed were an earned credit time loss of 30 days and a suspended credit class demotion from credit class I to II. The hearing officer imposed the sanctions because of the seriousness and nature of the offense, the offender's attitude and demeanor during the hearing, the degree to which the violation disrupted and endangered the facility, and the likelihood that the sanctions would have a corrective effect on Mr. Pettingill's future behavior.

Mr. Pettingill now seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, arguing that his due ...


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