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Billingsley v. Warden

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

May 29, 2018

CHRISTINA MARIE BILLINGSLEY, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

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

          SARAH EVANS BARKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         The petition of Christina Billingsley for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. MCU 17-07-0042. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Ms. Billingsley's habeas petition must be granted.

         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 July 6, 2017, a Conduct Report was issued charging Ms. Billingsley with attempt to engage in trafficking in violation of Code A-111. The Conduct Report states:

I Marshall Lawson received a verbal report of a possible “drop” (contraband/Prohibited Property) from OFC Bailey on 07/06/17. OFC Bailey reported that offender Christina Billingsley #124767 was allegedly supposed to be receiving a drop over the next few days while they were out on the Madison city road crew. After receiving this information I started reviewing JPAY mail and listening to offender Christina Billingsley's #124767 phone calls. After reviewing the JPAY sent and received letters and between offender Billingsley #124767 and Joshua Gray I found several letters and listened to several phone calls discussing “drops”. There are numerous JPAY letters and phone calls re[f]erring to dropping off “keys” to the “carlot.” The “keys” are believed to be tobacco and the “carlot” is a certain location where the offenders can pick up the “keys”. Offender Billingsley #124767 states in the letter exact locations on where Joshua Gray should drop the “keys”. In a JPAY from 07/10/17 offender Billingsley #124767 is requesting Joshua Gray to make it to the “car lot” by tomorrow (Sunday), that Tuesday is July 4th and all crews will be off work. The last few JPAY letters Billingsley #124767 wrote to Joshua Gray is explaining to him that they could not work anything out for Friday 07/06/17 but she could have 150 dollars for him on Sunday. The last phone call Billingsley #1424767 made to Joshua Gray she stated she was “trying to work out something for Sunday”. At the time of this report this is all the information on Christina Billingsley #124767 and Joshua Gray attempted trafficking. A preponderance of evidence suggests that Christina Billingsley #124767 is attempting to traffick with Joshua Gray.

         Dkt. 7-1 at 1.

         Ms. Billingsley was notified of the charge on July 10, 2017, when she received the Screening Report. She pled not guilty to the charge. She called Officer Bailey as a witness. Officer Bailey provided a written statement, which stated that she could not advise whether or not Ms. Billingsley had attempted to traffick. See dkt. 7-3 at 1. As physical evidence, Ms. Billingsley requested copies of the JPAY mails.

         A hearing was held on July 11, 2017. Ms. Billingsley stated that her fiancé buys and sells cars at a car lot and the $150 in question was a loan that had nothing to do with trafficking. Based on the staff reports and the JPAY letters, the hearing officer found Ms. Billingsley guilty of attempting to traffick. The sanctions imposed included a one-hundred-twenty-day earned-credit-time deprivation and a credit-class demotion.

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

         C. Analysis

         Ms. Billingsley raises three claims in her habeas petition. Because the Court finds that her claim regarding the denial of a witness warrants habeas relief, the Court does not reach her other claims.

         Mr. Billingsley argues that she was denied her requested witness, Officer Bailey, who among other things could have testified that Ms. Billingsley would have no way to know where the work crew would be working on a particular day, which would make it difficult to plan a “drop.” ...


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