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Curbeaux v. Smith

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

November 29, 2017

BRIAN SMITH, Respondent.



         The petition of Aridith Garth Curbeaux for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. ISF 16-06-0044 in which he was found guilty of theft. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Curbeaux'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 May 26, 2016, Sergeant Hughett issued a Report of Conduct charging Mr. Curbeaux with Theft, a violation of Code B-215. The Report of Conduct states:

On 5-26-16 at approx. 1000, I Sgt. Hughett was reviewing video of [illegible] incidents that took place in 17SC on 5-17-16 at approx. [illegible]. I observed offender Curbeaux, Aridith 219891 walk into Cube 4-17SC and take what appeared to be commissary from another offender[']s property. Curbeaux can be seen exiting the cube with the property. He then walks to his bed 17S-50CC. I advised the offender of this report and identified him by ID.

         Mr. Curbeaux was notified of the charge on June 2, 2016, when he was served with the Report of Conduct and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing. The Screening Officer noted that Mr. Curbeaux requested Offender Christopher Rubeo as a witness. He also requested the commissary receipt in a case Sergeant Hughett dismissed. Rubeo provided a statement that “I owed Curbeaux a pop to him.” The originally scheduled hearing was postponed. Ultimately, the Hearing Officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on June 7, 2016. The Hearing Officer noted Mr. Curbeaux's statement that “[t]he items that I picked up was a pop and toothbrush. The Sgt came in and [illegible] the items and got back to Rubio [sic].” The Hearing Officer determined that Mr. Curbeaux had violated Code B-215. The sanctions imposed included a written reprimand, a loss of commissary privileges, and the loss of 60 days of earned credit time.

         Mr. Curbeaux filed an appeal to the Facility Head on June 14, 2016. The appeal was denied on June 29, 2016. Mr. Curbeaux then appealed to the Final Review Authority, who denied the appeal on July 14, 2016. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Curbeaux brings two claims in this action. He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and the severity of the sanctions imposed.

         1. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         Mr. Curbeaux alleges that he called the alleged victim as a witness and that the victim's statement clearly showed that he did not steal anything. This allegation is based on the theory that there was insufficient evidence to support the guilty finding. In his reply brief, Mr. Curbeaux further explains that the video recording of the incident would show Rubeo motioning with his finger to Mr. Curbeaux to come over to him. Mr. Curbeaux then walked from his housing assignment to Rubeo's housing assignment. Mr. Curbeaux denies that he took a toothbrush and states that he only took the Dr. Pepper which Rubeo owed to him.

         Challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence are governed by the “some evidence” standard. “[A] hearing officer's decision need only rest on ‘some evidence' logically supporting it and demonstrating that the result is not arbitrary.” Ellison v. Zatecky, 820 F.3d 271, 274 (7th Cir. 2016); see Eichwedel v. Chandler, 696 F.3d 660, 675 (7th Cir. 2012) (“The some evidence standard . . . is satisfied if there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.”) (citation and quotation marks omitted). The “some evidence” standard is much more lenient than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Moffat v. Broyles, 288 F.3d 978, 981 ...

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