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Pilgrim v. Superintendent

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, LaFayette Division

November 3, 2016

ERWIN PILGRIM, Petitioner,



         Erwin Pilgrim, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging a prison disciplinary proceeding held at the Miami Correctional Facility (MCF-15-08-0246) on September 1, 2015. (DE # 1.) There, he was found guilty of battery with a weapon in violation of Code A-102 and sanctioned with the loss of 90 days earned credit time and a demotion in credit class by a hearing officer. (Id.) The charge was initiated on August 18, 2015, when Custody Officer Jones wrote a conduct report:

On August 18, 2015 I, Officer R. Jones and Sgt. C. Shaffer was assigned as kitchen custody. We called for the DA1 food service count letter to the production hallway to be searched and released back to their assigned housing units. We observed offender Sosbe Brian 109346 had a swollen eye. Upon furth[e]r observation we noticed that he was wearing two t-shirts. The bottom t-shirt had blood on the collar. We then observed offender Pilgrim Erwin 229251 approaching the hallway without a t-shirt on. We then questioned Offender Pilgrim where his t-shirt was. Pilgrim advised us that he did not wear a shirt to work. We then ordered Offender Sosbe to remove his shirts, at that time we noticed that the outter [sic] shirt had the letters “NY[.]” Offender Pilgrim[‘]s nickname is “New York[.]” Pilgrim then admitted to us that the white shirt with the letters “NY” was his and that Offender Sosbe asked to borrow it. We then escorted offender Sosbe to the production hallway janitor closet and stripped him out. We observed that offender Sosbe had several punctures to his body, back, neck, and head. Offender Sosbe also had two swollen eyes. We questioned Sosbe about what had happened. Offender Sosbe advised us that he had slip[p]ed in water and fell in the walk in cooler. Upon further questioning Offender Sosbe stated that he could not tell us anything because he had to live here. We then escorted offender Sosbe to the production bathroom. We then placed Offender Pilgrim in the production janitor closet and stripped him out. During the strip search we observed that Offender Pilgrim had what is to be believed to be blood on his jumpsuit, and several blood stains on his white t-shirt. We questioned Offender Pilgrim about the blood stains. Pilgrim advised us that the stains were from the bloody t-shirt that Offender Sosbe was wearing. Offender Pilgrim's story seemed unfeasable [sic]. Sgt. Shaffer then placed mechanical restraints on Offender Pilgrim and called for phase 1 yard staff to escort him to RHU. We then talked to Offender Sosbe in the production bathroom, but he continued to advise us that he could not say anything due to him having to live here. Offender Sosbe was then escorted to Phase 1 medical with a report of offender [i]njury to be seen by medical. Myself and Sgt. Shaffer searched the production walk in cooler where the incident occurred. We were able to locate 2 black metal rods stuffed inside a brown lunch sack.[] We also searched the trash can located outside the offender bathroom in production and located several white paper towels that had blood on them.

(DE # 5-1.)

         On August 24, 2015, Pilgrim was formally notified of the charge and given a copy of the conduct report. (DE # 5-2.) He pled not guilty and did not request the assistance of a lay advocate. (Id.) He did request to call Offender Brian Sosbe as a witness and also asked to review the video and pictures of the two black rods. (Id.)

         Offender Sosbe submitted a written statement:

I had blood all over my white t-shirt and wasn't gonna make it through the shake down. I knew they would try to say I got in a fight and didn't want to get in trouble so I went around asking for a different shirt. Offender Pilgrim said I could use his to get out just to wash it and bring it back the next day.

(DE # 5-4.)

         Sandra Gunter also submitted a written statement:

I, Sandra Gunter, was enroute to the Production office when offender Sosbe #109397 was entering the Food Bank. Offender Sosbe was to be enroute down the production hallway to go back to his housing unit. I then opened the food bank door to see offender Pilgram #229251 bare chested with his greens around his waist. I asked him what he was doing and he said that he borrowed a T-shirt from Sosbe and that he was giving it back. I informed him to get out of the food bank and down the hallway. Sgt Shaffer and Officer Jones were at the entrance of production hallway when I got them out of the food bank. Said officers then took control of the situation. (DE # 5-3.)

         The video was reviewed:

On 09/01/2015 I (J. Prater) reviewed the DVR[.] [T]he DVR of the Food Service Area dated 08/18/2015 and the approx. time of 12:00pm to 1:00pm. This review was requested by offender Pilgrim, Erwin 229251 at his screening on 08/24/2015 for case MCF 15-08-0246. Due to the position of the cameras the incident that takes place can[]not be seen.

(DE # 5-5.)

         A disciplinary hearing was conducted on September 1, 2015, where Pilgrim stated, “The write up does not say I assaulted anyone with a weapon. I just gave him a t-shirt” and “This incident ...

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