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Croom v. Superintendent

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

March 26, 2018

CARL CROOM, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, [1] Respondent.

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

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE UNITED, STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA

         The petition of Carl Croom for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. IYC 17-01-0171. For the reasons explained in this Order, Mr. Croom'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 November 29, 2016, Investigator S. Puckett, wrote a conduct report charging Mr. Croom with a violation of A-111/113, conspiracy / attempting / aiding or abetting trafficking. The Conduct Report states:

On November 29, 2016 Mr. D Stein Maintenance For[e]man witnessed a black woman drop off a McDonald's bag containing contraband inside the maintenance building, at the recycling can. While investigating the incident I[, ] S. Puckett found in phone calls between Visitor Penny Gilbert and Coreman Orron 108577 that a package was being dropped off at the facility by a Penny Gilbert[, ] the mother of Coleman. Gilbert is friends with Croom Carl 871027. While listening to phone calls it was clear Coleman and Gilbert were using code to set this up. They kept referring to ‘old school' and ‘unk'. This was later found to be Croom. It was found based on Jpay messages that Croom and Gilbert were communicating on a cell phone based on the information [Gilbert] stated in Jpay letters. Croom had not attempted to make a phone call on the wall phone until placed in Restrictive housing. On several of the phone calls leading up to the drop it is talked about whats [sic] in it and about how old school is working outside the fence. Gilbert also talks about unk calling her on the other line. Gilbert stated that on a call dated 11/24/16 at 13:19 Gilbert stated ‘that she would deliver the Christmas presents next Tuesday' (the day of the drop). Both Croom and Coleman were interviewed for this investigation both would not cooperate and just stated they had nothing to do with it.

Dkt. 1-1 at 1, 3; dkt. 11-1. The Conduct Report also states, “see case report 16-IYC-0172 / Phone calls for Coleman # 108577 11/27-12/1.” Dkt. 1-1 at 1, 3; dkt. 11-1.

         Mr. Croom was first notified of the charge on December 8, 2016, when he received the Screening Report. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, did not request a lay advocate, requested that “Sam (Maintenance)” be called as a witness, and requested the phone calls and JPay letters as physical evidence. Dkt. 1-1 at 2. According to Mr. Croom, the first Conduct Report, which is marked as No. IYC 16-12-0041, was dismissed because it violated “D.O.C. policy on the time frame for the conduct report to be heard.” Dkt. 1 at 2. The “same conduct report was reprinted. The only change was the case number.” Id.

         Mr. Croom was re-notified of the charge on January 18, 2017, when he received the Screening Report for the second time. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and requested a lay advocate, who was later appointed. Dkt. 1-1 at 4; dkt. 11-2. He also wished to call two witnesses: (1) “Maintenance Sam” who would “state that the offender was working with her”, and (2) Officer Gagnon, who would “state that he threw the case out”. Dkt. 1-1 at 4; dkt. 11-2. He also requested the following physical evidence: “[p]hone call conversation between offender Croom and Gilbert Penny [and] JPay letters stating that offender Croom and Gilbert were communicating on a cell phone.” Dkt. 1-1 at 4; dkt. 11-2. Officer Gagnon's witness statement reads: “Did you tell the offender that you threw the case out? No, I never said I threw the case out at all.” Dkt. 11-3. The witness statement from “Sam” on the maintenance staff reads: “Was offender working with you on this date? Yes.” Dkt. 1-1 at 6, dkt. 11-4.

         After one postponement to retrieve the requested evidence (see dkt. 11-6), the prison disciplinary hearing was held on February 12, 2017. According to the notes from the hearing, Mr. Croom stated: “The Jpay letters will prove this is not trafficking. I did not get those.” Dkt. 11-7.

         Based on the staff reports, Mr. Croom's statement, evidence from the witnesses, and the IA case file, the hearing officer found Mr. Croom guilty of A-111/113 for conspiracy to/attempting to traffic. The sanctions imposed included one hundred eighty (180) days of earned credit time deprivation and a credit class demotion.

         Mr. Croom appealed to Facility Head and the IDOC Final Reviewing Authority, both of which were denied. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. ...


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