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Jones v. Warden

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

November 21, 2019

PATRICK JONES, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

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

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Patrick Jones' petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenges his conviction in a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as IYC 19-01-0109. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Jones' petition is denied.

         I. 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).

         II. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         IYC 19-01-0109 began with the following conduct report written on January 22, 2019, by Investigator Feldkamp:

On 1/22/2019 at approximately 8:30 A.M. I, Investigator Feldkamp and Officer J. Rios were conducting a targeted search in cell HUC N 26. The offenders who are assigned to that cell are Antwan Chatman #265153 N-26L and Patrick Jones #267912 N-26U. An egregious amount of unauthorized contraband was discovered in these offenders cell located in there locked property boxes as well as their personal bed assignment drawers and cell. The items discovered in offender Jones locked box was a bag of fermented apples chopped up in a rice bag that smelled like hooch. There were also four whole apples in Jones's box, gambling paraphernalia, phone numbers and nicknames. Additionally hidden inside of a sock belonging to offender Chatman was STG Vice Lord literature and another tomato based fermented hooch bottle along with two bags of sugar (items required to make hooch). The items were cataloged on an evidence card, photographed and submitted to l&I as evidence. The food items were disposed of properly and the gambling paraphernalia, tattoo paraphernalia, nickname and numbers were collected and will be stored as evidence.

Dkt. 9-1.

         On January 23, 2019, Mr. Jones received a screening report charging him with violating Code 231-B, “Intoxicants.” Dkt. 9-5. An inmate violates Code 231-B by “[m]aking or possessing intoxicants, or being under the influence of any intoxicating substance (e.g., alcohol, inhalants).” Dkt. 9-4 at § 231.

         Mr. Jones' cellmate, Antwan Chatman, submitted a witness statement asserting that all the items described in the conduct report were inside his property box. Dkt. 9-7. Nevertheless, Mr. Jones was convicted of violating Code 231-B at a hearing on January 25, 2019. Dkt. 9-8.

         The hearing officer assessed sanctions, including the deprivation of 60 days' earned credit time and the imposition of an earned credit time deprivation that was a suspended sanction from a previous disciplinary action. Id. Mr. Jones' administrative appeals were unsuccessful. See dkts. 9-9, 9-10.

         III. Analysis

         Mr. Jones petitions for habeas relief on three grounds, each dealing with the amount or quality of evidence against him. Therefore, the Court notes at the outset that “a hearing officer's decision need only rest on ‘some evidence' logically supporting it and demonstrating that the result is not arbitrary.” Ellison, 820 F.3d at 274. The “some evidence” standard is much more lenient than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Moffat v. Broyles, 288 F.3d 978, 981 (7th Cir. 2002). “[T]he relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.” Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-56 (emphasis added). See also Eichwedel v. Chandler, 696 F.3d 660, 675 (7th Cir. 2012) (“The some evidence standard . . . is satisfied if there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.”) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         A conduct report “alone” can “provide[] ‘some evidence' for the . . . decision.” McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999); see also Wilson-El v. Finnan, 311 Fed.Appx. 908, 910 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing McPherson, 188 F.3d at 786). That is the case here. Investigator Feldkamp's conduct report documents that he searched Mr. Jones' cell, including both inmates' property boxes. Dkt. 9-1. The report specifically states that “[t]he items ...


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