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Reed v. Smith

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

February 13, 2017

JOSEPH REED, Petitioner,
v.
BRIAN SMITH, SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

          ENTRY DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT

          LARRY J. MCKINNEY, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT .

         The petition of Joseph Reed for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. ISF 15-11-0366. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Reed's habeas petition must be denied.

         A. Overview

         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).

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On November 11, 2015, Officer Benton wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. Reed with attempting to traffic. The Conduct Report states:

On 11-11-15 at approximately 1130 hours, I, C/O N. Benton, had offender Reed, Joseph #984710 and offender Williams, Desmond #203831 working at the horse barn. I was assisting with the horses inside the barn and stepped out to see what the offenders were doing. I asked offender Williams where offender Reed was. I clearly observed offender Reed attempt to bury something in the horse manure as offender Williams was saying “Reed, let's go, let's go, Reed.” Upon further investigation, the items offender Reed was attempting to bury was five items wrapped in black electrical tape inside plastic zipper bags. Inside the taped items were five eight ounce bags of a brown leafy substance. Offender was identified by his state issued ID and notified of this conduct report.

Dkt. 6-1 at 1. The five bags were identified as tobacco, photographed, and placed into evidence.

         Mr. Reed was notified of the charge on November 19, 2015, when he received the Screening Report. He plead not guilty to the charge. He requested and received a lay advocate, but did not request any physical evidence. Mr. Reed also called Mr. Williams as witness. Mr. Williams submitted a written witness statement, which stated the following: “As I was letting the horses in the gate I saw Reed messing with the manure[, ] he said something like I found something over here[.] I think it might be guns[.] My exact words to him w[ere] you better leave that . . . alone and come on.” Dkt. 6-4 at 1.

         A hearing was held on November 23, 2015. At the hearing, Mr. Reed stated that he saw “something in the manure[, ] was being nosy and saw something wrapped in tape. [I] thought it was guns [and] told Williams. He said leave it alone and come on. I started to put it back.” Dkt. 6-6 at 1. Based on Mr. Reed's statement, the staff reports, and the witness statement, the hearing officer found Mr. Reed guilty of attempted trafficking. The hearing officer explained that he “believe[d] [the] Conduct Report to be true and factual.” Dkt. 6-6 at 1. The hearing officer recommended and approved the following sanctions: a ninety-day earned-credit-time deprivation and a suspended credit class demotion.

         Mr. Reed appealed to Facility Head and the IDOC Final Reviewing Authority, but both of his appeals were denied. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Reed raises two arguments in his petition: (1) whether there was sufficient evidence to find him guilty of attempted trafficking; and (2) whether the hearing officer violated Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) policy when he failed ensure that inmates are not overcharged based on their conduct. The respondent maintains that Mr. Reed is not entitled to habeas relief on either basis. Mr. Reed did not file a reply brief responding to the respondent's arguments.

         1.Sufficiency ...


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