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Casper v. Brown

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

March 4, 2019

MARK CASPER, Petitioner,
v.
RICHARD BROWN, Respondent.

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

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         The petition of Mark Casper for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. CIC 17-04-0276. For the reasons explained in this Order, Mr. Casper's habeas petition must be denied.

         A. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits or of credit-earning class without due process. Ellison v. Zatecky, 820 F.3d 271, 274 (7th Cir. 2016); Scruggs v. Jordan, 485 F.3d 934, 939 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Rhoiney v. Neal, 723 Fed.Appx. 347, 348 (7th Cir. 2018). The due process requirement is satisfied with: 1) the issuance of at least 24 hours advance written notice of the charge; 2) a limited opportunity to call witnesses and present evidence to an impartial decision-maker; 3) a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the evidence justifying it; and 4) “some evidence in the record” to support the finding of guilt. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); see also Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-67 (1974).

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On April 26, 2017, Investigator Poer wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. Casper with A-113, trafficking. Dkt. 9-1. The Conduct Report states:

On 1/10/2017 an investigation into Trafficking with an offender was initiated on offender Casper, Mark 115399 3L-1DRH. I, Inv. J. Poer, reviewed video and phone records regarding offender Casper. I have determined that offender Casper did receive a contraband controlled substance from visitor Pamela Brian. On 1/6/17 Pamela Brian came to visit offender Casper here at CIF. Brian carried a package containing a contraband controlled substance through the facility search procedures and into the visiting room. Brian can be viewed on camera removing the package from her mouth and hiding it inside the sleeve of her shirt. Brian removes the package from her sleeve and passes it to Casper during the initial embrace at the start of the visit. Phone calls on the recorded system support the fact that Casper and Brian are trafficking in controlled substances. Please refer to confidential case file 17-CIC-0018 for additional details concerning the investigation.

Dkt. 9-1.

         Mr. Casper was notified of the charge on May 3, 2017, when he received the Screening Report. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and did not wish to have a lay advocate. Dkt. 9-2. He requested a witness statement from Sgt. Williams as to whether Sgt. Williams found anything on Mr. Casper. Id. He also requested video evidence to show that Ms. Brian did not pass any contraband during the initial embrace when she came to visit. Id. Mr. Casper's request for video evidence was marked as “denied - already listed as evidence.” Id. The disciplinary hearing board did not provide Mr. Casper with a copy of the video prior to his hearing. See dkt. 1 at 3. Sgt. Williams prepared a statement that “[he did] not recall this situation.” Dkt. 9-3.

         The Court reviewed the video, which was submitted ex parte.[1] Dkt. 12 (ex parte). The summary set forth in the Conduct Report accurately summarizes the video. Dkt. 9-1. Ms. Brian is seen sitting by herself on camera for quite some time. At some point, Ms. Brian can clearly be seen removing a package from her mouth and hiding it inside the right sleeve of her long-sleeved shirt. Ms. Brian then holds her right arm against her body and alternates between placing her left hand inside the sleeve or against her right arm over a visible bulge in her sleeve. When Mr. Casper shows up in the visiting area, Ms. Brian can be seen reaching into her right sleeve with her left hand to retrieve the package. She then clasps her hands together between her knees while waiting for Mr. Casper to approach. When Mr. Casper first embraces Ms. Brian, Mr. Casper's left hand can be seen reaching into the palm of Ms. Brian's right hand, retrieving the package. Dkt. 12.

         The prison disciplinary hearing was held on May 24, 2017. According to the notes from the hearing, Mr. Casper pleaded guilty. Dkt. 9-4. Mr. Casper denies that he pleaded guilty. Dkt. 1 at 4. He alleges there was a misunderstanding at the hearing where Mr. Casper meant to plead guilty to the write up for unauthorized financial transaction charge but not for the trafficking charge. Dkt. 17. However, the hearing officer thought that Mr. Casper pleaded guilty to both charges. Mr. Casper does not deny that he signed the hearing report but asserts that he signed the form through a food port and was unable to see the entire form. He did not know about the mistaken guilty plea until weeks later. Id.

         Based on the staff reports and Mr. Casper's statement, the hearing officer found Mr. Casper guilty of A-113, trafficking. Dkt. 9-7. The sanctions imposed included 365 days of earned credit time deprivation and a credit class demotion. Id.

         Mr. Casper appealed to the Facility Head and the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Final Reviewing Authority, both of which were denied. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. ...


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