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Kaelber v. Brown

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

February 15, 2017

RICHARD BROWN, Respondent.



         The petition of William Kaelber for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding, CIC 15-07-0173, in which he was found guilty of assault causing serious bodily injury. For the reasons explained in this entry, Mr. Kaelber'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 July 17, 2015, Officer M. Smith, Jr. issued a Report of Conduct charging Mr. Kaelber with assault causing serious bodily injury in violation of Code A-102. Dkt. 11-1. The Report of Conduct states:

At 8:53 P.M. on 7-16-15, I, Officer M. Smith Jr. witnessed Offender Lasley, Steven #247353 getting struck in the back of his head and dragged into his Cell, 2-4B. Once the Cell was secured, Offender Kaelber, William #161674 4B-4B was inside of Cell 2-4B. After the Cell was secured and searched, a sock tied around a padlock was found in Cell 2-4B, underneath the bottom mattress. The laceration on the back of Offender Lasley's head is consistent with being struck by a padlock.

Dkt. 11-1.

         Mr. Kaelber was notified of the charge on July 17, 2015, when he was served with the Report of Conduct and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report). Dkt. 11-4. The Screening Officer noted that Mr. Kaelber did not want to call any witnesses but that he requested “video evidence of B unit 4 Range cell 2 showing 8:50-9:00 pm. showing when responding ofc's arrived they made me go into the room.” Id. The video summary for the 2/4 B-Unit at 8:50 pm on the day in question states, “I Ofc Sidwell tried to review the video for Case CIC 15-07-0173. Due to the rotation of the camera I did not see the alleged assault.” Dkt. 11-7.

         The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on August 7, 2015. Dkt. 11-9. The hearing officer noted Mr. Kaelber's statement, “I was never in that room. I have never been in a fight at CIC. I do not know why this happened.” Id. The hearing officer relied on the staff reports, the physical evidence, and the Internal Affairs (“IA”) report in concluding that Mr. Kaelber had violated Code A-102. The hearing officer noted that the IA investigation established that Mr. Kaelber was in the cell. The sanctions imposed included a written reprimand, a 45-day restriction of phone privileges, 365 days of disciplinary segregation, the loss of 365 days of earned credit time, and a demotion from credit class I to II. Id. The hearing officer imposed the sanctions because of the frequency and nature of the offense, as well as the likelihood of the sanction having a corrective effect on the offender's future behavior. Id. Mr. Kaelber's appeals were denied. This habeas action followed.

         III. Analysis

         As noted above, this habeas petition relates to disciplinary proceeding CIC 15-07-0173. Although some of the documents attached to Mr. Kaelber's petition relate to another hearing also conducted on August 7, 2015, on a charge of “criminal gang activity, ” this petition does not relate to that charge. A habeas petition can only address a single disciplinary proceeding.

         Mr. Kaelber alleges that his due process rights were violated during the disciplinary proceeding. His claims are summarized as: 1) there was no physical evidence to support the guilty finding; 2) he was denied the opportunity to request witness statements; and 3) he was not given 24 hours between screening and the hearing.

         Mr. Kaelber first argues that there was no physical evidence showing that he committed an assault. He asserts that the video evidence does not place him at the scene. Regardless of what the video showed or did not show, the reporting officer stated that he witnessed the attack and saw the victim dragged into his cell. Once the cell was secured, Mr. Kaelber was inside the victim's cell along with three other offenders and the victim. Dkt. 11-1; dkt. ...

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