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Sprunger v. Smith

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

August 9, 2017

DOUGLAS SPRUNGER, Petitioner,
v.
BRIAN K. SMITH, Respondent.

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

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         The petition of Douglas Sprunger for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. ISF 16-02-0263. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Sprunger's habeas petition must be denied.

         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 February 6, 2016, Officer Thompson wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. Sprunger with possession of a cellular device in violation of Code A-121. The Conduct Report states:

On 02-06-16 at approximately 1015 in the C-side latrine of 18 south I, officer Thompson, was conducting a search of offender Douglas Sprunger #161040. During the search offender Sprunger #161040 reached into the waistline of his shorts and retrieved a black touch screen ZTE cellphone. I then ordered Sprunger to give me the cellphone and he complied with the order given. I identified the offender by his State-issued identification card and advised him of the conduct report.

Filing No. 8-1 at 1.

         Mr. Sprunger was notified of the charge on February 12, 2016, when he received the Screening Report. He plead not guilty to the charge. Mr. Sprunger requested fellow inmate Travis Scherber as a witness, but did not request any physical evidence. Mr. Scherber provided a witness statement, which stated, “I told them that the phone [and] shorts were mine. He grabbed the wrong shorts.” Filing No. 8-7 at 1.

         A hearing was held on February 15, 2016. Mr. Sprunger stated the following at the hearing: “Not my phone. I was in the shower when I got out I put some shorts on that weren't mine. I use[d] the restroom. [Three] officers came in . . . on me. Apparently there was a phone that I didn't know about.” Filing No. 8-9 at 1. Based on Mr. Sprunger's statement, the staff reports, witness statements, and a picture of the phone, the hearing officer found Mr. Sprunger guilty. The sanctions imposed included a one-hundred-twenty day earned-credit-time deprivation and the imposition of suspended sanctions from another disciplinary action.

         Mr. Sprunger appealed to Facility Head and then to the IDOC 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.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Sprunger raises four claims in his habeas petition. The respondent contends that all of the claims lack merit. The Court will address each claim in turn.

         1.Impartial ...


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