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Vaughn v. Superintendent

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

November 6, 2017

SCOTT M. VAUGHN, JR., Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

          AMENDED ENTRY GRANTING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          HON. JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE

         The petition of Scott Vaughn (“Mr. Vaughn”) for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. ICY 17-03-0217.[1] For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Vaughn's habeas petition must be granted.

         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 March 22, 2017, Program Coordinator B. Johnson wrote a conduct report in case ICY 17-03-0217 charging Mr. Vaughn with use or possession of a cellular phone. The Report of Conduct states:

On 3-22-2017, I B. Johnson was reviewing Jpay letters for offender VAUGHN, SCOTT M., JR. #179953. Offender Vaughn stated to Janelle Gunst that he had broken his phone and would not be able to call until he pays for it. Offender Vaughn goes on to say that he felt like everyone hates him and he used that as an excuse to “get high yesterday.” The Jpay letter is enclosed.
I feel offender Vaughn's statements are evidence of aggravated circumstances for a charge of 121 A.

Dkt. 1-1. Vaughn was notified of the charge on March 25, 2017, when he was served with the Report of Conduct and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing Id. On the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing, the screening officer noted that Vaughn changed his plea to guilty; did not request a lay advocate, witnesses, or evidence; acknowledged the hearing would be dispositional rather than a full hearing; and waived the 24-hour notice of the hearing. Id. Vaughn initialed the advisement of rights and signed the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing. Id.

         The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on April 3, 2017. Id. The hearing officer noted that Vaughn stated, “I didn't want to plead guilty, but felt that I was persuaded to plead guilty by the screening officer, because he said that Mr. English would talk to me, and he can't.” Id. After considering the guilty plea, the JPay letter, and the staff reports, the hearing officer determined that Vaughn had violated Code A-121. Id. The sanctions imposed included the deprivation of 180 days of earned credit time. Id.

         Mr. Vaughn's appeals to the facility head and the final review authority were denied. Id. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Vaughn raises three grounds for relief in his habeas petition. Because the Court is granting relief on the guilty plea issue discussed below, it need not address the other two issues.

         Mr. Vaughn alleges that he was persuaded to change his plea to guilty by the screening officer who told him that his disciplinary action would be handled by his therapeutic community, rather than by the disciplinary hearing board, if he pleaded guilty. Dkt. 1-1. This turned out not to be true and his conduct report was evaluated by a hearing officer. In the hearing report, ...


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