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Chestnut v. Daniels

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

August 10, 2018



          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         On December 12, 2016, petitioner Raymond Chestnut filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging 18 separate disciplinary proceedings as No. 2:16-cv-0459-WTL-DKL. The Court determined that each disciplinary proceeding had the status of a separate court proceeding and ordered that 17 new habeas actions be filed. This action relates to Chestnut's challenge to the disciplinary proceeding that commenced with Incident Report No. 2547206 at a time he was incarcerated at USP Lewisburg.

         Chestnut filed a supplemental petition on February 17, 2017. Dkt. 6. The respondent filed a return to order to show cause on November 27, 2017. Dkt. 31. Thereafter, Chestnut filed an amended petition. Dkt. 34. The Court will discuss Chestnut's claims asserted in his supplemental and amended petitions. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Chestnut's habeas action must be denied.

         A. Legal Standards

         “Federal inmates must be afforded due process before any of their good time credits-in which they have a liberty interest-can be revoked.” Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 845 (7th Cir. 2011). “In the context of a prison disciplinary hearing, due process requires that the prisoner receive (1) written notice of the claimed violation at least 24 hours before hearing; (2) an opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence (when consistent with institutional safety) to an impartial decision-maker; and (3) a written statement by the fact-finder of the evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action.” Id.; see also Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 570-71 (1974). In addition, “some evidence” must support the guilty finding. Ellison v. Zatecky, 820 F.3d 271, 274 (7th Cir. 2016).

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding Regarding Incident Report 2547206

         On February 10, 2014, attorney Jennifer Knepper wrote an Incident Report which stated the following:

While reviewing a sur-reply inmate Chestnut filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle Dist. of Pennsylvania, I noticed two exhibits attached by inmate Chestnut which were allegedly signed by the DHO who heard the case the inmate is challenging (IR 2355603). I contacted DHO Brian Chambers who confirmed the writing and signature on the documents was [sic] not his and provided a memo to that effect. Inmate Chestnut filed these documents in a habeas case where he alleges he was denied due process and is attempting to have 27 days of good conduct time restored to his sentence.

Dkt. 32-1 at 6.

         A copy of the Incident Report was issued to Chestnut on February 10, 2014. Dkt. 32-1 at 6. The disciplinary process was suspended pending referral of the incident for possible prosecution. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) released the Incident Report for discipline at the institution level on February 26, 2014. The Incident Report was then investigated by a lieutenant, who gave Chestnut the opportunity to provide a statement and provided notice of the DHO hearing to him on February 27, 2104. Dkt. 32-1 at 9. The investigating lieutenant then referred the Incident Report to the Unit Disciplinary Committee (“UDC”) for further disposition.

Dkt. 32-1 at 8.

         Chestnut appeared before the UDC on February 27, 2014. Dkt. 32-1 at 7. Chestnut stated that he was not guilty. The UDC referred the incident report to the DHO for further hearing and because the appropriate sanctions were not available at the UDC level. Id. Chestnut was given the opportunity to name witnesses he wished to call and select a staff representative. Dkt. 32-1 at 9. Chestnut chose Officer Avery as his staff representative. Although Chestnut refused to sign acknowledging he had been informed of his rights, the UDC chairman completed a form indicating he had personally advised Chestnut of his rights. Dkt. 32-1 at 10.

         Chestnut's hearing before the DHO was held on March 12, 2014. Dkt. 32-1 at 14. Chestnut refused to appear before the DHO. Chestnut informed a staff representative he had chosen for another case that he wanted her to serve as his staff representative on the current case and that he refused to appear before the DHO. The DHO documented Chestnut's waiver of his right to appear. Dkt. 32-1 at 13. Chestnut provided a response to the allegations through his staff representative that he was innocent of all charges and that if the district court accepted his filings then they had to be legitimate. He requested an official from the district court to appear as a witness and requested a handwriting analysis in order to prove he did not forge DHO Chamber's response or signature. He stated he also wanted video footage of when staff delivered the Inmate Request to his cell and requested a polygraph examination. Dkt. 32-1 at 14.

         The DHO considered Chestnut's request for a court official to testify that the court received the documents and filed them. The DHO denied this request stating that the information the witness would provide was already provided in the body of the incident report stating that the documents were filed with ...

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