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Torres v. Knight

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 21, 2017

RAFAEL TORRES, Petitioner,
v.
STANLEY KNIGHT, Respondent.

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

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on pro se Petitioner Rafael Torres's (“Mr. Torres”) Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus challenging a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. IYC 14-02-0223 (Filing No. 1). For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Torres' habeas petition must be denied.

         I. 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).

         II. THE DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

         On October 15, 2016, Investigator P. Prulhiere wrote a Report of Conduct charging Mr. Torres with conspiring to traffic. The Report of Conduct states:

On February 15, 2016 at approximately 8:00 am, I, Investigator P. Prulhiere, completed an investigation of Offender Rafael Torres 144059 for attempted/conspiring to traffic contraband into Plainfield Correctional Facility. Due to the evidence I have collected, I have found sufficient evidence to charge Offender Torres with this charge.

         Filing No. 9-1 at 1. The Report of Conduct also cited as evidence the Report of Investigation of Incident (“incident report”) for case number 16-IYC-0008, which set forth the basis for the charge in detail:

. . . As a result of my investigation as summarized in confidential Investigations Division Report number 16-IYC-0008, I have found several instances of physical evidence, recorded phone calls and collaborated interviews and tip information which show that Offender Torres has played an active role in trafficking scenarios at Plainfield Correctional Facility. During the investigation, I was able to substantiate that Offender Torres has in his use or possession not less than 4 cell phones since September of 2015. . . . The method of investigation for these cell phones is explained in detail in Investigation Division Case Number 16-IYC-0008 as well as how these phones connect to other offenders Offender Torres was conspiring with. On December 18, 2015, an assault was reported on an offender suspected of having trafficking connections with Offender Torres in Housing Unit South F Unit. (Summarized in Investigation Division Case Number 16-IYC-0007.) It was on the day of Offender Torres' placement in Administrative Restrictive Housing that his association with the assaulted offender was confirmed and Offender Torres admitted that he was in fear that the same result would occur to him as did the assaulted offender. On January 5, 2016, the Investigations Office received tip information that Offender Torres was keeping no less than 2 cell phones and drugs in cells L-6 and L-8. When this information was available, a request was submitted to move Offender Torres away from the cell phones. Offender Torres attempted to refuse the move, but when confronted with the option of placement in Restricted Housing, made the statement regarding his affiliation with the offender who was assaulted on December 18, 2015 in F Unit. Immediately after Offender Torres attempted to refuse his move, a search was conducted of the suspected cell of L6 and L8 where a total of 3 cell phones were retrieved. … On December 26, 2016, a trafficking event was attempting [sic] using the Plainfield Correctional Facility Visiting Room. (This incident was investigated in Investigation Division Case Number 15-IYC-0128.) As a result of that investigation, interview and tip information was substantiated regarding how the scenario was arranged and who the primary individuals were who conspired to commit the act. On this date, a large amount of methamphetamine and synthetic marijuana were intercepted by Investigation Officers. Additionally, this intercepted trafficking scenario collaborated information gathered in the case of the assault that was committed in F Unit on December 17, 2015 (Investigation Division Case Number 16-IYC-0007) which was found to have been related to a similar trafficking scenario where the offenders who had committed the assault in F Unit were in dispute about the amount of drug that was supplied upon delivery by offenders working for Offender Torres and the assaulted offender in F Unit. . . .

Filing No. 9-2 at 1-2.

         Mr. Torres was notified of the charge on February 26, 2016, when he received the Screening Report. He pled not guilty to the charge, requested Investigator Prulhiere as a witness to answer two specific questions, and requested as physical evidence the case files discussed in the incident report.

         A hearing was held on March 18, 2016. Mr. Torres stated that he was not guilty and that “the reports do not specifically connect [him] to th[e] incident.” (Filing No. 9-6 at 1.) Based on Mr. Torres' statement, the staff reports, witness statements, and the investigation report, the hearing officer found Mr. Torres guilty. The hearing officer recommended and approved sanctions including a one-hundred-eighty day earned-credit-time deprivation and a credit-class demotion.

         Mr. Torres appealed to the Facility Head and the Indiana Department of Correction 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.

         III. ...


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