United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
JAMES M. WINEMILLER, II, Petitioner,
OPINION AND ORDER
DEGUILIO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
M. Winemiller, II, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a
habeas corpus petition challenging a disciplinary hearing
(ISR 17-02-66) where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO)
found him guilty of attempting to traffick in violation of
Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Policies A-111 and
A-113 on May 5, 2017. ECF 1 at 1, ECF 8-9 at 1. As a result,
he was sanctioned with the loss of 180 days earned credit
time. Id. The Warden has filed the administrative
record. Winemiller has not filed a traverse and the time to
do so has passed. Thus this case is fully briefed.
Fourteenth Amendment guarantees prisoners certain procedural
due process rights in prison disciplinary hearings: (1)
advance written notice of the charges; (2) an opportunity to
be heard before an impartial decision-maker; (3) an
opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary
evidence in defense, when consistent with institutional
safety and correctional goals; and (4) a written statement by
the fact-finder of evidence relied on and the reasons for the
disciplinary action. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S.
539 (1974). To satisfy due process, there must also be
“some evidence” in the record to support the
guilty finding. Superintendent, Mass. Corr Inst. v.
Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985). In his petition,
Winemiller argues there are three grounds which entitle him
to habeas corpus relief.
threshold matter, the DHO had sufficient evidence to find
Winemiller guilty of attempting to traffick. In the context
of a prison disciplinary hearing, “the relevant
question is whether there is any evidence in the record that
could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary
board.” Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445,
455-56 (1985). “In reviewing a decision for some
evidence, courts are not required to conduct an examination
of the entire record, independently assess witness
credibility, or weigh the evidence, but only determine
whether the prison disciplinary board's decision to
revoke good time credits has some factual basis.”
McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir.
1999) (quotation marks omitted).
[T]he findings of a prison disciplinary board [need only]
have the support of some evidence in the record. This is a
lenient standard, requiring no more than a modicum of
evidence. Even meager proof will suffice, so long as the
record is not so devoid of evidence that the findings of the
disciplinary board were without support or otherwise
arbitrary. Although some evidence is not much, it still must
point to the accused's guilt. It is not our province to
assess the comparative weight of the evidence underlying the
disciplinary board's decision.
Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000)
(quotation marks, citations, parenthesis, and ellipsis
case, Winemiller was found guilty of violating IDOC offenses
A-111 and A-113 for attempting to traffick. IDOC offense
A-111 prohibits inmates from “[a]ttempting or
conspiring or aiding and abetting with another to commit any
Class A offense.” Indiana Department of Correction,
Adult Disciplinary Process: Appendix I.
IDOC offense A-113 prohibits inmates from “[e]ngaging
in trafficking (as defined in IC 35-44.1-3-5) with anyone who
is not an offender residing in the same facility.”
Conduct Report charged Winemiller as follows:
On February 9, 2017 at approximately 2:00 P.M. I, Mr. W. C.
Peterson Investigator III/Correctional Police Officer opened
a large envelope stamped “Law Library Legal Mail
Only.” The envelope was prepared by Offender
Winemiller, James M. II 200037 who gave the envelope to
Caseworker B. Edwards along with a Remittance Slip to pay for
the postage to send the envelope to a person identified as
Drew Kopatich with a mailing address of 1728 High Street Fort
Wayne, Indiana 46808. The envelope was given to Mrs. A.
Potter Mail Room Supervisor who referred the envelope to the
Investigations and Intelligence Department for inspection
because she believed based on her training and experience the
envelope was being used as a concealment apparatus to smuggle
contraband into the Pendleton Correctional Facility through
the use of the United States Postal Service Mail Delivery
System. Upon opening the envelope in the presence of Offender
Winemiller the contents of the envelope were removed and upon
inspection of the envelope's contents two (2)
compartments were discovered along with a sheet of regular
size typing paper with a return address for Kirchoff &
Jewel Law Offices with a mailing address of 517 Broadway P.O.
Box 944 Vincennes, IN 47591. Also written on the paper was
the mailing address of Offender Winemiller which was written
as follows James Winemiller DOC#200037 location 9-4E-JCH
Indiana DOC Pendleton Correctional Facility 4490 West
Reformatory RD. Pendleton, Indiana 46064.
conduct report listed Mail Room Supervisor A. Potter and
as witnesses. On February 14, 2017, Supervisor Potter wrote
the following statement:
On 2-9-17 a suspicious legal was left on my desk by
caseworker Brooke Edwards. It was from offender James
Winemiller 200037 (9-4E) addressed to Attorney Drew Kopatich
1728 High St. Fort Wayne. Upon examining the package I
thought it might have a compartment hidden inside so I xrayed
[sic] it and found evidence of a possible compartment. Also,
I could find no attorney listed by ...