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Belcher v. Knight

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

April 2, 2019

DESHAWN BELCHER, Petitioner,
v.
WENDY KNIGHT, Respondent.

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

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         The petition of DeShawn Belcher for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as WCC 17-07-0192. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Belcher'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 Hearing

         On July 11, 2017, Investigator Tracy Cornett issued a Report of Conduct (Conduct Report) charging Mr. Belcher with a violation of Code 220, Engaging in Unauthorized Financial Transaction. Dkt. 7-1. The Conduct Report stated:

On July 11, 2017 while monitoring offender phone calls, offender Deshawn Belcher 127557 placed a call to 260-200-0318 at 14:14pm on July 6, 2017. Offender Belcher asked the female if she had 30 minutes on hand. Belcher then instructed the female to call 260-440-0880 and give it to them.
The number 260-440-0880 is on the phone list of offender Menelik Sizemore 166702.
On July 6, 2017 at 20:04pm offender Sizemore asks Brandy Lee has anyone contacted her today. Ms. Lee replied that the Belcher family called for 3 Cheesecakes.
The conversations are not consistent with minutes or cheesecakes, instead suggests code for currency.

Id.

         On July 17, 2017, Mr. Belcher was notified of the charge, when he received the Conduct Report and the Screening Report. Dkts. 7-1, 7-2. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and requested a staff lay advocate. Dkt. 7-4. Mr. Belcher did not request any physical evidence. Id.

         A hearing was held on August 4, 2017. Dkt. 7-4. Mr. Belcher pleaded not guilty to the charge of violating Code 220, Engaging in an Unauthorized Financial Transaction. Id. At the hearing, he stated that the other offender was supposed to ride with his family and that is why he provided the telephone number. Id. After considering the staff reports and Mr. Belcher's statement, the hearing officer found Mr. Belcher guilty of the charge. Id. The sanctions imposed included a loss of phone privileges, a deprivation of 60 days earned credit time, a demotion of one credit class, and imposition of a suspended sanction of loss of 60 days earned credit time. Id.

         Mr. Belcher filed an appeal to the facility head, which was denied on August 31, 2017. Dkts. 7-5, 7-6. Mr. Belcher then appealed to the Final Review Authority, who denied his appeal on September 14, 2017. Dkt. 7-7. After the denial of his final appeal, Mr. Belcher ...


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