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Peterson v. Superintendent Wabash Valley Correctional Facility

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

June 12, 2018

DAN E PETERSON, Petitioner,
SUPERINTENDENT Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Respondent.



         Dan Peterson's petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. IYC-16-11-0178. For the reasons set forth below, Mr. Peterson's petition is granted.

         I. 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).

         II. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On November 22, 2016, Investigator P. Prulhiere completed a Report of Investigation of an incident occurring at PCF. That report reads as follows:

IC Code: 35-48-4-10.5(e)(1)(B) Dealing in a synthetic drug or lookalike substance. Amount exceeding 5 grams. On October 20, 2016 at approximately 10:05 am, I, Investigator P. Prulhiere was advised that green packages were observed thrown over the fence near the Health Services Unit from a car that was passing by. Having been notified of the circumstances involved in this incident, I used information that was already on file to narrow down a search parameter to find contraband that may have been introduced to the facility in this manner. I reviewed activity in Housing Unit South G Unit and observed activity consistent with offenders in the process of hiding contraband. A search team was assembled and sent to G Unit where an Officer did retrieve two green packages from the G Unit latrine. During the process of investigation (summarized in confidential case number 16-IYC-0171) I observed the arrival of the packages to the facility, the movement of the packages to Housing Unit South G Unit and the attempted hiding of the items in G Unit latrine. I observed the command and control by the use of a cell phone and the attempts made by offenders to conceal this activity. As a result of this investigation, Offender Dan Peterson 988303 was observed on video using a cell phone while in the Health Services Unit in conjunction with this trafficking activity. Offender Peterson remained in close proximity to other offenders identified in this activity and clearly reacts to the arrival of the package as it was thrown over the fence near the Health Services Unit. Offender Peterson's role in the activity and the contents of the packages is included in case number 16-IYC-0171. The items contained in the packages were inventoried and a complete inventory of the items is included in the official case packet. Among the items present was a quantity of synthetic marijuana exceeding a weight of 5 grams. The presence of the synthetic drug is the reason this charge was filed for dealing in a synthetic drug.

Dkt. 13-1 at 2. On the same date, Investigator Prulhiere issued a Report of Conduct flowing from the same incident:

On November 20, 2016, as a result of this investigation, I, Investigator P. Prulhiere, have found sufficient evidence to charge Offender Dan Peterson 988303 with the violation of State Law IC 35-48-4-10.5(e)(1)(B) Dealing in a synthetic drug or lookalike substance. Amount exceeding 5 grams.

Id. at 1.

         On November 30, 2016, Mr. Peterson was served with a Notice of Disciplinary Hearing. Dkt. 13-2. Upon receipt of that notice, Mr. Peterson stated he wished to call Lieutenant Kent, Officer Cross, and Officer Rogers to testify at his hearing. Id. Mr. Peterson projected that these officers would testify either that they did not see him involved in the trafficking incident, or that they searched him when leaving the medical unit and found no contraband. Id. Mr. Peterson also requested to review video showing his alleged participation in the trafficking activity and his return to his housing unit from the medical area. Id.

         A hearing was held on December 20, 2016, and Mr. Peterson was found guilty of violating a state law by dealing in a synthetic drug. Dkt. 13-8 at 8. Mr. Peterson's sanctions included 360 days in disciplinary segregation, loss of 360 days' earned credit time, demotion from credit class I to credit class III, and the imposition of a suspended sanction from a prior case. Id. The hearing officer's report indicates that he considered staff reports, Mr. Peterson's own statement, the security video, and records from a confidential investigation file in reaching his decision. Id.

         Mr. Peterson was not permitted to review the security video he requested. Instead, he was provided with a written summary of the video prepared by the hearing officer. See dkt. 13-8 at 8. The summary states:

On 12/19/2016 at 9:35 am I, DHO L. Glenn did review video for an incident that took place at HSU on 10/20/2016 at approximately 10:00 am as requested by offender Peterson, Dan #988303. On camera Med. Waiting Area/Lobby ip62 on 10/20/2016 at 10:02:10 am offender Peterson, Dan #988303 is observed entering the HSU Lobby area then as he walks in he walks out view of the Officer and is seen pulling a cord from the right sleeve of his jacket and extends it with his left hand and then places the end of the cord into his left ear and Peterson then walks out of the HIS entrance door. Offender Wilson, Michael #990969 enters the lobby of HSU and shortly after he enters the lobby offender Peterson enters and sits in a chair with the cord still coming from his right hand (which is concealed within his sleeve) to his left ear. Peterson and Wilson are seen talking to each other then Peterson picks his right hand up and is seen putting the opening his sleeve close to his mouth and talking into it. Peterson is seen looking toward the area of the perimeter fence several times while he is sitting in the chair then he stands up and goes back out of the entrance door. Peterson comes back in and talks to Wilson and continues to look toward the perimeter and Wilson moves closer to the entrance door and goes off camera. Wilson then goes out of the door of HSU and Peterson walks up to the doorway and then turns around and comes back in the building and sits in a chair and removes the ear piece from his left ear and Wilson stands outside the door and after a few moments he leaves the area walking away from HSU. Peterson remains in HSU and is observed hugging another offender ...

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