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Powell v. Smith

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

October 13, 2017

CORNELIUS POWELL, Petitioner,
v.
BRIAN 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 Cornelius Powell for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding, REF 15-10-0002, in which he was found guilty of aiding and abetting the violation of a class A offense and possession or use of cellular device, Code A-111 and Code A-121 violations. For the reasons explained in this entry, Mr. Powell's habeas petition must be denied.

         I. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of credit time, Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004), 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); Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 845 (7th Cir. 2011); 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 1, 2015, Officer George Edmonds issued a Report of Conduct charging Mr. Powell with aiding and abetting the violation of a class A offense and possession or use of a cellular device in violation of Code A-111 and Code A-121. The Report of Conduct states:

On 9/30/2015 approximately 7:41am, I officer George Edmonds witnessed resident Cornelius, Powell 910820 standing in a huddle with resident Ivory Hill 157982 who I Edmonds witnessed with a cell phone in his hand. Powell also was looking down at the cell phone as well as Ivory Hill, Myran, McKnight 894255, Eric McNeal 147483. I officer Edmonds order Powell to stand away from Hill as I search Hill, but Powell walked behind Hill and received a object [sic] from Hill's hand, then I Edmonds order[ed] Powell to stand to the other side and I Edmonds witnessed a black cell phone charger on the ground [where] both Hill and Powell were standing before I order[ed] Powell to move, then I Edmonds was distracted by Myran, McKnight by dropping a piece of paper, and witnessed Powell move quickly away again. And when I Edmonds searched the area [where] Powell had moved from I witnessed a black cell phone on a machine still on. I Edmonds confiscated cell phone and called Lt. Phearson.

Dkt. 11-1.

         Mr. Powell was notified of the charge on October 1, 2015, when he was served with the Report of Conduct and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report). Dkt. 11-2. The Screening Officer noted that Mr. Powell requested five witnesses, two of which were State Fair employees. Id. Mr. Powell's request for the State Fair employee witnesses was denied when they could not be identified and located. Id. Mr. Powell did not request any physical evidence or a lay advocate. Id. Mr. Powell's signature appears on the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing and Report of Conduct. Dkt. 11-1; dkt. 11-2.

         Offender Eric McNeal provided a statement that said:

I, Eric McNeal [sic] Mr. Powell on 9-30-15 with a cup of coffee standing talking to me, Mr. Hill, Mr. McKnight and some fair workers unsupervised waiting to work when Off. Edmonds ask [sic] if he could pat us down[.] Mr. Hill never passed Mr. Powell anything because Mr. Hills [sic] hands were in the air while being search[ed].

Dkt. 11-3.

         Offender McNight provided a statement that said:

Powell never was not [sic] handed anything from Hill. Officer Edmonds was very serious about us not moving around. His tone of voice was loud and ...

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