United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
matter is before the Court on a Petition under 28 U.S.C.
Paragraph 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a person in State
Custody Seeking Review of a Prison Disciplinary Sanction,
filed by Ezra Watkins, a pro se prisoner, on
February 8, 2016. Here, Watkins challenges a disciplinary
determination made by a hearing officer at the Indiana State
Prison (“ISP”) under case number ISP 15-05-0210.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court:
GRANTS the habeas corpus petition (DE #1);
DIRECTS the clerk to enter judgment; and
ORDERS the Respondent to file documentation by May 30, 2017,
showing that the guilty finding in ISP 15-05-0210 has been
vacated and Ezra Watkins' earned credit time restored.
27, 2015, Correctional Officer M.A. Cahill prepared a conduct
report charging Watkins with Security Threat Group Activity.
(DE #7-1.) The conduct report states:
On 5-27-15 I c/o Cahill was assigned to Tower 11. At 1350
hrs. I observed J3 Watkins DOC #110511 displaying a large
blue piece of cloth which was hanging from his right pocket.
I had observed him exhibit this behavior repeatedly over the
past few days I worked. When he noticed I was watching him,
he took the cloth in his right hand and defiantly twirled it
in a circle over his head repeatedly. As a result of his
behavior & exhibition I contacted Investigator Abram who
confirmed that J3 Watkins was affiliated with the Folks and
his display of colors was indeed STG activity.
27, 2015, Watkins was notified of the charge of Security
Threat Group (“STG”) Activity and served with a
copy of the conduct report and the screening report. (DE
#7-6.) The screening report reflects that he pled not guilty
and requested a lay advocate. He did not request to call any
witnesses, but asked for “all material from I.A.
showing gang affiliation.” (Id.)
1, 2015, a hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing.
At the hearing, Watkins's comment was, “Had towel
for 12 yrs. He asked about the towel in the morning. I knew
he was already profiling me - I threw it on the ground to
show I'm not affiliated. I got no problem if they would
confiscate it.” (DE #7-8.) In an email, Investigator
Abram noted that “Gangster Disciples are said to wear
blue and black as their color. In addition, ‘folks'
gangs all wear their identifiers to the right side indicating
gang affiliation to this allegiance.” (DE #7-4.) Sgt.
J. Schymanoske provided a written statement:
Prior to Ofc. Cahill's observation at approx. 1350 I had
asked J3 Watkins DOC# 110511 not to display his blue towel
hanging from his pocket. When I confronted him he denyed
[sic] any STG activity before I even mentioned the
possibility of any STG connection. He also confronted me
about it after throwing his towel down on the ground in
checkpoint #2 after Ofc. Cahill seen him @ 1350.
(DE #7-2.) Relying on staff reports and a picture of the
towel, the hearing officer found Watkins guilty of STG
activity. He imposed a penalty of 30 days lost earned time
credits. (Id.) Watkins appealed to the facility head
and the final reviewing authority. (DE #7-9; DE #7-10.) The
final reviewing authority ...