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Rodriguez v. Brown

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

February 27, 2017

JOSE G. RODRIGUEZ, Petitioner,
v.
RICHARD BROWN, Respondent.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          LARRY J. McKINNEY, JUDGE

         The petition of Jose Rodriguez on for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. WVE 16-01-0037. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Rodriguez's habeas petition must be granted.

         Discussion

         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 January 13, 2016, Officer Miller wrote a conduct report charging Rodriguez with B-207 possession of an electronic device. Ex. A. The conduct report states:

On 1-13-15 at approx. 10:00 a.m. I c/o D. Miller was assisting in a secondary search of clothes belonging to offender Rodriguez, Jose # 197741 who was assigned to FHU RW cell # 420. During the search, I did find various pieces of electronic equipment that have been fashioned into what is consistent with chargers for cellular phones.

         The pieces of electronic equipment were confiscated and photographed. The conduct report also noted that Officer N. McKinney was a witness. Officer McKinney stated: “On 1-13-16 at approx. 10:00 a.m. I c/o N. McKinney did witness c/o D. Miller pull multiple electronic parts out of the waistband and pockets of the shorts being searched that belong to offender Rodriguez, Jose # 197741.”

         On January 14, 2016, Rodriguez was notified of the charge of possession of an electronic device and served with a copy of the conduct report and the screening report. Rodriguez was notified of his rights and pleaded not guilty. He also waived 24 hours advance notice of the disciplinary hearing. Rodriguez requested a lay advocate, and an advocate was later appointed. He did not request a witness, but he did ask that the DHO examine the confiscated electronic devices.

         On January 19, 2016, a disciplinary hearing was held regarding the charge of possession of an electronic device in case WVE 16-01-0037. Rodriguez pleaded not guilty and provided the following statement: “These was extention [sic] for head phone or special order for stuff sold by NHU (plus program) can it be dropped to a C - it was personal property but broken.” The DHO found Rodriguez guilty of possession of an electronic device. In making this determination, the Report of Disciplinary Hearing states that the DHO relied on staff reports, the offender's statement, the witness's statement, the photo, and the confiscation form. Due to the seriousness and frequency of the offense, as well as the likelihood that the sanction would have a corrective effect, the hearing officer imposed the following sanctions: a written reprimand, one month of lost phone privileges, an earned credit time deprivation of 45 days, and a demotion from credit class one to credit class two, which was suspended.

         Rodriguez's appeals were denied and he filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

         C. Analysis

         Rodriguez argues that the hearing officer did not review the electronic equipment itself as he had requested and that the evidence ...


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