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Tolley v. Brown

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

May 21, 2018

DANIEL TOLLEY, Petitioner,
v.
R. BROWN Superintendent, Respondent.

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

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         The petition of Daniel Tolley for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. WVE 16-10-0097. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Tolley'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 October 25, 2016, a Conduct Report was issued charging Mr. Tolley with possession of unauthorized property in violation of Code B-215. The Conduct Report states:

On 10/25/2016 at approximately 12:45 PM, a cell search was conducted within EHU #206. During the performance of this search a large amount of Unauthorized/Altered Property was discovered. 1.) Three sets of Koss headphones with Altered name & DOC #s[;] 2.) Various colored cards created in Print Shop and laminated[;] 3.) “Window cover” utilized for impairment of surveillance[;] 4.) WVCF Labor Line Gloves[;] 5.) Casio fx-260 SOLAR calculator with original name & DOC # scratched off then replaced with “Tolley 174395”[;] 6.) “Fossil” watch with all mechanical insides removed.

Dkt. No. 7 at 1.

         Mr. Tolley was notified of the charge that same day when he received the Screening Report. He plead not guilty to the charge. The Screening Report reflects that Mr. Tolley did not request witnesses or physical evidence. But in his habeas petition, Mr. Tolley asserts that the screening officer told him he could not call staff members as witnesses, so his requested staff witnesses were not documented on the Screening Report and did not provide statements for the hearing.

         A hearing was held on October 27, 2016. The Hearing Report reflects that Mr. Tolley stated that the items were his, but Mr. Tolley maintains that statement was taken out of context and is incomplete. The hearing officer found Mr. Tolley guilty based on the staff reports, Mr. Tolley's statement, the confiscation of property form, and a photograph of the confiscated items. The sanctions imposed included a thirty-day earned-credit-time deprivation, which was suspended but ultimately imposed.

         Mr. Tolley 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. Analysis

         Mr. Tolley raises three claims in his habeas petition: (1) he was denied documentary evidence; (2) the hearing officer was not impartial; and (3) he was denied witnesses. The respondent maintains that Mr. Tolley's claims lack merit and, to the extent he was denied due process, any errors were harmless. Mr. Tolley did not file a reply brief responding to the respondent's arguments. The Court will address Mr. Tolley's impartial-decisionmaker claim before addressing his other two claims together.

         1. ...


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