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Sangster v. Warden, Plainfield Correctional Facility

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

March 14, 2018

BRENT SANGSTER, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Plainfield Correctional Facility, [1]Respondent.

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

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         The petition of Brent Sangster for a writ of habeas corpus challenges prison disciplinary proceeding number IYC 17-02-0021. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Sangster's habeas petition is 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 by 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 1, 2017, Plainfield Correctional Facility Officer J. Smith wrote a conduct report charging Mr. Sangster with possession of a controlled substance, a violation of the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Adult Disciplinary Code section B-202. The conduct report provides:

On 2/1/2017 at approximately 1:45 am I officer J. Smith conducted a strip search on offender Sangster, Brent 930407 of HUS (F1-14U) in the classroom of south dorm lobby. While checking Sangster left shoe I noticed a clear small bag with paper inside of the small bag located inside of the left shoe. I secured the clear bag in my right cargo pocket and continued the strip search, no other contraband was found. I ordered offender Sangster back to the hallway lobby and checked the clear bag with paper in it. I noticed there was orange strips of what appeared to be suboxone and pieces of paper with numbers in written on it. I advised offender Sangster he would receive a confiscation slip along with a conduct report.

Dkts. 1-1 & 9-1.

         Mr. Sangster was notified of the charge on February 3, 2017, when he was served with the screening report and a copy of the conduct report. Dkt. 9-2. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, requested statements from other offenders and the photographic evidence, and asked for a lay advocate. Id.

         The disciplinary hearing was held on February 6, 2017. Based on Mr. Sangster's statement, the staff reports, and evidence from witnesses, the hearing officer found Mr. Sangster guilty of possession of a controlled substance. The sanctions imposed included the loss of sixty-two days' earned credit time. Dkt. 9-6.

         Mr. Sangster appealed to the Facility Head and the IDOC Final Reviewing Authority; both appeals were denied. Dkts. 9-7 & 9-8. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Sangster's defense was that he did not know that the controlled substance was in his shoes. He contended that someone else used his shoes and left the substance in them. He presented witness statements from two offenders, Morgan and McColloch, to support his defense at the disciplinary hearing. The hearing officer considered McColloch's statement that he had borrowed Mr. Sangster's shoes, found a small package, put the package in the shoes, and then forgot to remove it from the shoes. Morgan's statement was that while he was at recreation, he saw ...


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