Bell v. Superintendent
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 1 PETITION for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Ralphfel Bell. Clerk DIRECTED to close this case. Signed by Judge Rudy Lozano on 5/18/17. (Copy mailed to pro se party).(cer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
CAUSE NO. 2:16-CV-80 RL
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the Petition under 28
U.S.C. Paragraph 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed by Ralphfel
Bell, a pro se prisoner. For the reasons set forth below, the
petition (ECF 1) is DENIED. The clerk is DIRECTED to close this
In the petition, Bell challenges the prison disciplinary
hearing (ISP 16-01-106) where he was found guilty of possession
Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO). ECF 1 at 1. Bell was sanctioned
with the loss of 90 days earned credit time and was demoted from
Credit Class 2 to Credit Class 3. Id. While Bell asserts three
grounds in his petition, each of the grounds in his petition
challenges the sufficiency of the evidence.
The Conduct Report charges:
[o]n 1/11/16 at approx. 0830 2 phones and a USB wall
charger and cord were found hidden in a cracker box at
the back of the range in a empty trash bag tied to the
railing. With the tools available to this office of
Investigations and Intelligence the phone was able to be
accessed. On the phone were photos of Offender Bell,
messages and voice recordings that all identified the
phone to belong to Offender Bell, Ralphfel # 998078. The
Face Book Page that was on the phone was Offender Bell,
Raphfel (sic) identified by him by name.
ECF 1-1 at 1.
Bell has not filed a traverse to Respondent’s return to the
order to show cause, nor has he sought additional time to do so.
He is now several months past his deadline to file a traverse, and
therefore, this case is deemed fully briefed.
disciplinary hearing, they are
entitled to certain protections
under the Due Process Clause: (1) advance written notice of the
charges; (2) an opportunity to be heard before an impartial
decision maker; (3) an opportunity to call witnesses and present
institutional safety and correctional goals; and (4) a written
statement by a fact finder of evidence relied on and the reasons
for the disciplinary action. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563
(1974). To satisfy due process, there must also be “some evidence”
to support the hearing officer’s decision. Superintendent, Mass.
Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985).
Bell argues that the DHO did not have sufficient evidence to
find him guilty because he was not in physical possession of the
cell phone at the time it was discovered. ECF 1 at 2.
that the phone was discovered in a trash bag in a common area, and
that at the time of its discovery he was in a different part of the
prison. Id. Bell also argues that there were photographs of four
other inmates on the phone, and therefore it is impossible to
determine the true owner of the phone. Id.
Respondent, on the
other hand, contends that there was sufficient evidence for the DHO
to find Bell guilty. Respondent points to the text messages and
photographs connecting Bell to the phone as “some evidence” that
Bell used or possessed the phone. ECF 8 at 8. The court agrees.
In evaluating whether there is adequate evidence to support
the findings of a prison disciplinary hearing, “the 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. Even a conduct report alone can provide
evidence sufficient to support the finding of guilt. McPherson v.
McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999).
In reviewing a decision for some evidence, courts are not
required to conduct an examination of the entire record,
independently assess witness credibility, or weigh the
evidence, but only determine whether the prison
disciplinary board’s decision to revoke good time credits
has some factual basis.
Hill, 472 U.S. at 457 (quotations marks and citation omitted).
[T]he findings of a prison disciplinary board [need only]
have the support of some evidence in the record. This is
a lenient standard, requiring no more than a modicum of
evidence. Even meager proof will suffice, so long as the
record is not so devoid of evidence that the findings of
the disciplinary board were without support or otherwise
arbitrary. Although some evidence is not much, it still
must point to the accused’s guilt. It is not our province
to assess the comparative weight of the evidence
underlying the disciplinary board’s decision.
Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000) (quotation
parenthesis, and ellipsis omitted).
Here, there was sufficient evidence to find Bell guilty of
possession or use of a cell phone. Indiana Department of Correction
(IDOC) policy A-121 prohibits “[u]nauthorized use or possession of
any cellular telephone or other wireless or cellular communications
15(1).pdf. Bell’s emphasis on the physical location of the cell
phone at the time of its discovery is misplaced. IDOC policy
photographs of Bell were discovered, the Facebook page on the phone
identifying the user of the phone as Bell, including a message
identifying Bell by his IDOC inmate number. This is certainly “some
evidence” that Bell used or possessed the cell phone at some time even if he was not in physical possession of the phone at the time
of its discovery.
The DHO heard Bell’s arguments, weighed the facts, and found
against him. There is no indication that the decision was
arbitrary. Bell’s assertions to the contrary, the DHO was not
required to definitely exclude the possibility that any other
offender was the true owner of the phone. “The Federal
Constitution does not require evidence that logically precludes
any conclusion but the one reached by the disciplinary board.”
Hill, 472 U.S. at 457. Moreover, it is not for this court to reweigh the evidence. The DHO determined that Bell used the phone
and this was a sufficient basis on which to find him guilty.
For the reasons set forth above, the petition (ECF 1) is
DENIED. The clerk is DIRECTED to close this case.
DATED: May 18, 2017
/s/RUDY LOZANO, Judge
United States District Court
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