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Stephens v. Zatecky

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

May 21, 2018

JAMES STEPHENS, Petitioner,
v.
DUSHAN ZATECKY, Respondent.

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

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         The petition of James Stephens for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenges the failure of the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) to restore good time credits that were lost through several disciplinary proceedings. For the reasons explained in this entry, Mr. Stephens' habeas petition must be denied.

         I. Disciplinary Background

         A. Mr. Stephens' loss of good-time credits

         In November 1999, Mr. Stephens was convicted of three counts of Class B felony burglary and sentenced to an aggregate term of 54 years' imprisonment. Dkt. 14-2. Mr. Stephens was sentenced to consecutive terms of 20 years, 20 years, and 14 years. Id.; dkt. 14-1 at p. 1. Due to jail-time credit he received for the time he spent in jail prior to sentencing, his effective date of sentencing (i.e., the date on which his first 20-year sentence began to run) was July 30, 1998. Dkt. 14-1 at pp. 1-2. Mr. Stephens was placed on parole status for his first 20-year sentence on March 5, 2010, and began serving his next 20-year term the following day, making his effective date of sentencing for the second 20-year sentence March 6, 2010. Dkt. 14-1 at pp. 1, 3, 5, 7. Assuming Mr. Stephens remains in his current credit class (credit class I) and neither loses nor earns additional credit time, he will be placed on parole for his current 20-year sentence on June 11, 2020, and start serving his consecutive 14-year term the following day, which would make his effective date of sentencing for the 14-year term June 12, 2020. Dkt. 14-1 at pp. 1, 5, 8. Assuming Mr. Stephens remains in credit class I and neither loses nor earns additional time (nor is convicted of another crime), he will be placed on parole for his 14-year term and released from prison on June 12, 2027. Dkt. 14-1 at pp. 1, 8.

         During his time in the IDOC, Mr. Stephens has been the subject of multiple disciplinary proceedings in which he has lost good-time credit. Dkt. 14-1 at pp. 10-18. At least five of those disciplinary proceedings are relevant to Mr. Stephens' claim in this action.

         On March 7, 2003, Mr. Stephens was charged in case ISR 03-03-0098 with violating prison rules. Dkt. 14-1 at p. 19; dkt. 14-3 at pp. 9-11. He was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing held on March 18, 2003, and sanctioned with a 45-day loss of earned credit time. Dkt. 14-1 at pp. 4, 20; dkt. 14-3 at p. 3.

         On October 12, 2007, Mr. Stephens was charged in case ISR 07-10-0220 with violating federal law. Dkt. 14-4 at p. 5. He was found guilty as charged at a disciplinary hearing held on October 30, 2007, and sanctioned with a 730-day loss of earned credit time, a demotion to credit class III, and an order to make restitution to the IRS. Dkt. 14-1 at pp. 21-22; dkt. 14-1 at p. 6.

         On November 2, 2007, Mr. Stephens was charged in case ISR 07-11-0039 with counterfeiting/forging documents based on phony documents he submitted to the hearing officer in case ISR 07-10-0220. Dkt. 14-1 at p. 23; dkt. 14-5 at p. 8. Mr. Stephens was found guilty as charged at a disciplinary hearing held on November 19, 2007, and sanctioned with a 180-day loss of earned credit time. Dkt. 14-1 at pp. 4, 24; dkt. 14-5 at p. 7.

         On November 20, 2007, Mr. Stephens was charged in case ISR 07-11-0216 with attempted trafficking. Dkt. 14-1 at p. 25; dkt. 14-6 at p. 6. Mr. Stephens was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing held on December 12, 2007, and sanctioned with one-year in disciplinary segregation and a 730-day loss of earned credit time. Dkt. 14-1 at p. 26; dkt. 14-6 at p. 7. Mr. Stephens' credit-calculation records show that he instead was demoted to credit class II and lost only 120 days' good-time credit. Dkt. 14-1 at p. 3.[1]

         On April 16, 2010, Mr. Stephens was charged in case ISR 10-04-0174 with attempted trafficking. Dkt. 14-1 at p. 27; dkt. 14-7 at pp. 5-6. Mr. Stephens was found guilty as charged at a disciplinary hearing held on April 20, 2010, and sanctioned with a 30-day loss of earned credit time and a demotion to credit class II. Dkt. 14-1 at pp. 6, 28; dkt. 14-7 at p. 3. This April 2010 discipline occurred after Mr. Stephens had started serving his second 20-year sentence, and so the 30-day deduction occurred on that sentence.

         Mr. Stephens lost a total of 1, 105 days' earned good-time credit from those five disciplinary proceedings (45 730 180 120 30 = 1, 105). Dkt. 14-1 at pp. at 3-4, 6.

         On July 8, 2015, Mr. Stephens was found guilty of offense A-121, possession of a cell phone, in case ISR 15-07-0008, based on an incident that occurred on July 1, 2015. Dkt. 14-1 at pp. 10, 31, 32. Mr. Stephens was sanctioned with a written reprimand and six months in disciplinary segregation. Id.

         II. IDOC Policies Regarding ...


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