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Hoffman v. Knoebel

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

March 17, 2017

DESTINY HOFFMAN, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
SUSAN KNOEBEL, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO PLAINTIFF JAMES BENNETT

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         This cause is before the Court on Defendants' “Motion for Summary Judgment as to James Bennett's Claims Only” [Docket No. 159], filed on April 26, 2016. For the reasons detailed below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff James Bennett is GRANTED.

         Factual Background

         In March of 2011, Plaintiff James Bennett was convicted of felony drug offenses in the Clark Circuit Court in Clark County, Indiana. On December 21, 2011, he received a twenty-year fixed term of imprisonment to be served within the Indiana Department of Corrections, with eight years suspended to strict probation. Immediately following his sentencing hearing, Bennett entered the Clark County Jail to begin serving his time.

         Fourteen months later, on March 5, 2013, Judge Jerome Jacobi of Clark Circuit Court No. 2 approved an “Agreed Sentence Modification” ordering that “Defendant's sentence shall be modified so that he may serve the remaining portion of his executed sentence in the Clark County Work Release Center.” See Defs.' Ex. D. Three days thereafter, Bennett was transferred from the Clark County Jail to the Clark County Work Release Center and began participating in the Clark County Work Release Program. In connection with that program, he signed the “Conditions of the Clark County Work Release Program” (“the Conditions Contract”) and an Acknowledgment Letter signifying that he had received and was responsible for reading a copy the Work Release Participant Handbook (“the Handbook”). Defs.' Exs. E, G.

         Read together, the Conditions Contract and the Handbook set out the rules, regulations, policies, and procedures for participants of the Work Release Program. Included therein were directives that all participants were required to adhere to a strict schedule regarding their whereabouts and movements and a notice that participants would be charged certain fees as part of the Work Release Program, which financial obligations were to be paid by the participants in a timely fashion. Id. The documents also identified the possible sanctions and punishments for violations of these rules. Id. [1]

         Five months after Bennett entered the Work Release Program, on August 8, 2013, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michaelia Gilbert filed with the Clark Circuit Court a Petition to Revoke his continued participation. The Petition alleged that on August 7, 2013, Bennett “[f]ailed to follow the rules of the Work Release Program as instructed by staff.” Defs.' Ex. C. Specifically, the Supervision Report attached to the Petition to Revoke explained the basis for Bennett's revocation:

One or more unaccounted for hours of release time[:] On August 7, 2013, Bennett was scheduled to leave the Clark County Work Release facility at 5:30 a.m. to attend classes at Truck America Training school. Mr. Bennett did not show up to the Truck America Training Facility for classes and did not have permission to alter his schedule. Mr. Bennett has been informed before that he is to inform Clark County Work release of any changes to his schedule and all changes and/or modifications to his schedule need prior approval.
Failure to pay fees[:] Mr. Bennett is currently $776.00 in arrears.

Defs.' Ex. H at ¶¶ 3-4.

         On the same day the Petition was filed, Clark Circuit Senior Judge Steven Fleece issued a warrant for Bennett's arrest, charging him with “Violation of Placement in Clark County Community Corrections Work Release Program I.C. 35-38-2.6-5” and ordering his detention without bond in the Clark County Jail until such time as he could be brought “without unnecessary delay” before the court for a hearing concerning his alleged violation of Work Release Program rules. Defs.' Exs. I, J. The warrant was served promptly by a Work Release Program Security Officer on Bennett, who was escorted to the Clark County Jail, where he remained detained pending a hearing on the Petition to Revoke.

         Bennett remained incarcerated at the Clark County Jail for a total of seventy-four days while he awaited his hearing on the Petition to Revoke. While detained he sent numerous letters to Attorneys Stephen Beardsely and Niles Driskill, Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden, Clark County Corrections Officer Lindon Dodd, Judges Steven Fleece and Jerome Jacobi, and Prosecuting Attorneys Jake Elder and Matthew Lemme, each asserting that he was being held unlawfully in jail and should have been arraigned within seventy-two hours after his arrest.

         Not until October 21, 2013, did one of Bennett's many letters makes its way to the Clark Circuit Court, where it was docketed on the Court's Chronological Case Summary as: “Administrative Event: Court receives letter from Defendant in CCJ.” Pl.'s Ex. 7 at 5. A hearing before Judge Jerome Jacobi of the Clark Circuit Court No. 2 was scheduled and conducted that same day, at the conclusion of which hearing, Judge Jacobi remanded Bennett to the custody of the Clark County Sheriff to be held without bond until his Revocation Hearing, which Judge Jacobi scheduled for December 2, 2013. Defs.' Ex. K. Bennett remained incarcerated another six weeks until December 9, 2013, when Judge Jacobi ordered him “released back to the Clark Co. Work Release Center.” Defs.' Ex. L.

         On February 18, 2014, Bennett commenced the present litigation, alleging that his seventy-four-day incarceration in the Clark County Jail violated his rights to due process as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, or, in the alternative, his Eighth Amendment protections against excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment. See Dkt. 171 at ¶¶ 183, 184. Plaintiff has named as Defendants the Executive Director of Clark County Community Corrections Stephen Mason, the Deputy Director of the Work Release Program Danielle Grissett, and the Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden, all in their individual and official capacities. He also named the Clark County Board of Commissioners. Id. at ¶¶ 185-89.

         On April 26, 2016, Defendants moved for summary judgment on each of Bennett's claims. See Dkt. 159. The motion became fully briefed on June 29, 2016, and is now ripe for decision.

         Legal ...


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