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Decker v. Krueger

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

May 30, 2019

ROBERT K. DECKER, Petitioner,
J. E. KRUEGER, Respondent.



         On June 1, 2018, petitioner Robert K. Decker filed his petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging a disciplinary proceeding that commenced with Incident Report No. 3019959. As directed, the respondent filed an amended return to order to show cause on October 11, 2018, dkt. 19, and Mr. Decker replied on November 30, 2018, dkt. 22, and January 8, 2019, dkt. 25.

         For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Decker's habeas petition 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); Jones, 637 F.3d at 845.

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding Regarding Incident Report 3019959

         Officer D. Clark prepared Incident Report No. 3019959 on August 9, 2017, charging Mr. Decker with a violation of Code 297, Phone Abuse. The Incident Report stated as follows:

On 8/9/17, at 12:24 p.m., I was in A1 unit looking for an inmate when I observed inmate Decker, Robert, reg. no. #51719-074, using the telephone in A-1. Inmate Decker lost his phone privileges due to being a Public Safety Factor of Phone Abuse. After observing him on the phone, I then went to my office and pulled up TruLinks and listened to phone calls around the time I saw him on the phone. I heard his voice on a phone call listed to inmate [redacted]. During this phone call, he asked the person he was talking to to place a 3-way call to another phone number, [redacted] who he stated was his wife [redacted]. That phone number is listed on Inmate [redacted] account also. The phone number he called was [redacted] and is listed as friend as the relationship. The phone call was from 12:22 to 12:25 pm.

Dkt. 19-4 at 1.

         The Incident Report was delivered to Mr. Decker and he was verbally advised of his rights on August 9, 2017. Id. The Unit Disciplinary Committee referred the charge to the Discipline Hearing Officer (DHO) due to the severity of the charge. Id. Mr. Decker signed the Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing form and the Notice of Discipline Hearing Before the DHO on August 14, 2017. Dkt. 19-5 at 4, 5.

         On September 7, 2017, DHO Bradley held an Institution Discipline Hearing for Incident Report No. 3019959. Mr. Decker was verbally advised of his rights, was offered a staff representative, and was also advised he could request witnesses. He requested a staff representative, and one was appointed. Mr. Decker called no witnesses. Dkt. 19-5 at 1. Mr. Decker stated to the investigating lieutenant, “I went around the system because I was supposed to come off phone restriction and they have not removed me from the restriction list. I tried to talk to unit team and they blew me off. I am going to do what I need to do.” Dkt. 19-5 at 2. At the hearing, Mr. Decker stated, “I should [sic] been off phone restriction. No. one would let me use the phone. I don't care what you do I'm going to keep using other inmate's phone.” Dkt. 19-5 at 1.

         At that hearing, the DHO found that Mr. Decker had violated Code 297, Phone Abuse, and the following disciplinary sanctions were imposed: disallowance of 27 days good time credit, 90 days loss of visitation, and a $25.00 monetary fine. Dkt. 19-5 at 3. The findings were based on the following evidence: the Incident Report, staff memorandum, Mr. Decker's own statements, and his disciplinary history of phone abuse. Dkt. 19-5 at 2. The DHO issued the report on October 13, 2017, and it was delivered to Mr. Decker on October 19, 2017. Id. at 3.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Decker argues that his due process rights were violated during the disciplinary proceedings. His claims are construed as follows: 1) he was sanctioned twice for one incident; 2) he was fined in violation of his equal protection rights because inmates who do not have money in their trust fund accounts are not fined; 3) he was charged in retaliation for filing grievances; and ...

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