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Cole v. Smith

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

May 12, 2015

MAURICE COLE, Petitioner,
BRIAN SMITH, Respondent.



The petition of Maurice Cole for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. IYC XX-XX-XXXX. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Cole'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 January 16, 2014, Correctional Officer D. Fish wrote a Report of Conduct that charged Mr. Cole with class A offense 117, assault on staff (Exhibits A1-A2). The Conduct Report states:

On 1-16-14 at approximately 5:55 pm I officer D. fish had told offender Cole, Maurice Doc # 113947 HUW MI-15U, to stop running on the walks or you will be sent back to the dorm which he refused. At this time I stopped this offender to verbally correct his mistake stating that he was "being held back because he was running on the walk". Then the offender clearly stated "I'm not going back to the dorm you might as well send me to the hole." I then told the offender you're staying here until I tell you that you may go. Offender Cole then started to walk away from me proceeding towards the chowhall. I then stepped in front of the offender and ordered him turn around to cuff up. At this time this offender landed a punch using his right hand (closed) and hit my left eye. Then he threw another punch with his left hand (closed) which I blocked with my right hand (open). At this time I lost footing and fell unto [sic] my back and the offender jumped on top of me in a mounted position, before he threw another punch I grabbed the offender using both hands (open) and wrapped them around his head and held the offender to my body to prevent any more injuries. At this time additional custody staff arrived to assist. Yard staff escorted the offender to seg.

Exhibits B1 and B2 are photographs of Officer Fish after the incident.

On January 18, 2014, Mr. Cole was notified of the charge of class A offense 117, assault on staff, when he was served with the Conduct Report and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report) (Exhibits A1-A2, C). Mr. Cole was notified of his rights and pled guilty (Exhibit C). He did not request a lay advocate, any witnesses, or any physical evidence. Mr. Cole refused to sign the Screening Report.

The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing in No. IYC XX-XX-XXXX on January 21, 2014 (Exhibit D). Mr. Cole's statement was "I did not say any of that. It don't mean nothing. I'll just try to appeal it." The hearing officer found Mr. Cole guilty of class A offense 117, assault on staff. As to the reason for his decision, the hearing officer wrote, "I LT. J. Geiger find Offender Cole, Maurice # 113947 guilty of a 117A, due to staff statements, offender's statement and lack of care over the incident. I site egregious sanctions for segregation time and earned credit time." The hearing officer listed staff reports, the statement of the offender, and the pictures of staff as the evidence he considered. The hearing officer imposed sanctions including 360 days of disciplinary segregation, an additional 90 days of disciplinary segregation that had been suspended, and an earned credit time deprivation of 360 days. The hearing officer imposed the sanctions due to the seriousness of the offense, the degree to which the violation disrupted and endangered the security of the facility, the likelihood of the sanction having a corrective effect on the offender's future behavior, and especially the offender's attitude and demeanor during the hearing.

Mr. Cole's appeals through the administrative process were denied. He now seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254, arguing that his due process rights were violated.

III. Analysis

Mr. Cole's claims for habeas relief are: 1) he was improperly screened and denied witnesses and evidence; 2) there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction; and 3) the sanctions were unconstitutional.

Mr. Cole first argues that contrary to what it says on the Screening Report, he did not want to plead guilty. He alleges that the screening officer screened him in a low tone while Mr. Cole was asleep and did not accurately write what Mr. Cole requested in relation to wanting 21 witnesses and video evidence. Although it was recorded that Mr. Cole pled guilty, he was still given the opportunity to defend himself at a disciplinary hearing. At the hearing, he disputed saying what was reported in the conduct report. The hearing officer considered Mr. Cole's comments at the ...

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