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Scott v. Superintendent

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

September 7, 2016

RANDALL SCOTT, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

          ENTRY DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, United States District Court Judge.

         The petition of Randall Scott (“Mr. Scott”) for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding, RDC 15-05-0039, in which he was found guilty of use or possession of a wireless device/cell phone. For the reasons explained in this entry, Mr. Scott's habeas petition must be denied.

         I. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of credit time, 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); Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 845 (7th Cir. 2011); 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 May 22, 2015, Sergeant A. Behmlander issued a Report of Conduct charging Mr. Scott with use or possession of a cellular device. The Report of Conduct states:

On 5/22/2015 I, Sgt. Behmlander was Shift Supervisor on the 4-12 shift. At 1730 I executed a search on the property box of Offender Scott, Randall #126158. Upon searching his box I discovered a Motorola tracfone hidden inside a bag of Refried Beans. The cellular phone was found in Offender Scott's #126158 locked property box which was in his possession. Offender Scott #126158 is being charged with A-121 Use/Possession of Wireless or cellular communication device.

Dkt. 9-1.

         Mr. Scott was notified of the charge on May 28, 2015, when he was served with the Report of Conduct and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report). Dkt. 9-2. The Screening Officer noted that Mr. Scott did not want to call any witnesses and did not request any evidence.

         The Hearing Officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on June 4, 2015. Dkt. 9-4. The Hearing Officer noted that Mr. Scott stated, “I hope the cell phone is investigated and they find out who's [sic] it was. Where is the note. They made the statement to me that they was told they had a cell phone.” Id. The Hearing Officer found Mr. Scott guilty and imposed sanctions of the loss of 180 days of earned credit time and the demotion from credit class I to II. Id. The Hearing Officer imposed the sanctions because of the seriousness of the offense and the degree to which the violation endangered the security of the facility. Id.

         Mr. Scott filed an appeal to the Facility Head, who modified the sanctions to the loss of 90 days of earned credit time and restored the credit class to class I. Dkt. 1-1, p. 6. Mr. Scott then appealed to the Final Reviewing Authority, who denied the appeal on August 12, 2015. Dkt. 9-6.

         III. Analysis

         Mr. Scott alleges that his due process rights were violated during the disciplinary proceeding. His claims are that: 1) the property box was accessible to anyone even though it was locked upon search; 2) he was not strip searched; 3) the case was not properly investigated; and 4) the sanctions were only partially restored on appeal.

         The first three claims are treated as challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. Mr. Scott argues that the cell phone was found in an open dorm area, that there was no charger found, and that combination locks can be opened by anyone who has minimal knowledge of them. He further argues ...


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