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French v. Butts

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

September 29, 2016

ROMAN FRENCH, Petitioner,
KEITH BUTTS, Superintendent, No

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Entry Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

         The petition of Roman French for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. ISP 15-04-0179. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Roman French's habeas petition must be denied.



         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits, Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004) (per curiam), 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).

         I. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On April 21, 2015, Internal Affairs Investigator C. Dustin wrote a conduct report that charged French with Class A offense #117, assault on staff. The conduct report states:

On 4/21/2015 at 11:25 after confiscating a Smart phone from Offender French #900271 cell location DCH East 320 Offender French pulled away from Officer Westman and myself when we attempted to put him in his cell. Offender French then started to walk away and sat down and pulled one leg from his cuffs. Officer Westman then tried to stop his actions from bringing his other leg out at which time I gave a 1 second burst of O.C. to Offender French on target. Offender French continued to attempt to pull his leg out to get both hands free when I placed my right hand around him and started to pull up on the chain on the cuffs so that he could not get his foot out. Offender French then bit my right hand and would not let go so I gave a knee strike to his head which did not work, I gave a 2nd knee strike to his head causing him to let go of my hand with his teeth. Offender French continued to attempt to get his hands free braking free from Officer Westman's grip[.] Offender French then head butt[ed] me 2 or three times[.] I then tried to get control of his head and attempted to place him on the ground causing us both to fall forward first responders then arrived and assisted in gaining control of Offender French

         Pictures were taken of Investigator Dustin's injuries and a report of incident was prepared. On April 22, 2015, French was notified of the charge and served with the conduct report and the notice of disciplinary hearing “screening report.” French was notified of his rights, pled not guilty, and did not request the appointment of a lay advocate. French requested witness statements from several offenders and video/camera footage of the incident. [dkt. 9-2, at p. 1]. French's request to view video recorded evidence was denied based on safety and security. A summary of the video recorded evidence was provided. [dkt. 9-2, at p. 2]. Four witness statements were also provided. [dkt. 9-2, at pp. 3-6].

         The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on April 28, 2015. French made the following statement:

We got into an argument because I confronted him about the trafficking. Ofc Westman walked away from us several times because we were talking about (Dustin and I) [her] trafficking. I walked away because Dustin made a threat to me. While I walked away, he told Dustin to take me down. Westman bear hugged me. That's when I attempted to bring the cuffs to the front. Dustin was hitting me. Dustin sprayed me several times. He was hitting me and I bit him in self-defense. He was kneeing me. He maced me a few times. I said I was done.

         The hearing officer found French guilty of the charge of assault on staff. [dkt. 9-3].

         In making the guilty determination, the hearing officer relied on the conduct report, the offender's statement, evidence from witnesses, vide evidence, and the incident report. Based on the hearing officer's recommendation the following sanctions were imposed: a thirty (30) day loss of phone and commissary privileges, two-hundred-seventy (270) days of disciplinary segregation, a one-hundred-twenty (120) day deprivation of earned credit time, and a demotion from credit class 1 to credit class 2 (dkt. 9-2). The hearing officer recommended the sanctions because of ...

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