SANGSTER v. SUPERINTENDENT
ENTRY Dismissing Action and Directing Entry of Final Judgment - The Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied and the action dismissed. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue. (See Entry.) Signed by Judge Larry J. McKinney on 8/11/2017. (GSO)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
Entry Dismissing Action and Directing Entry of Final Judgment
“[I]n all habeas corpus proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the successful
petitioner must demonstrate that he ‘is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws
or treaties of the United States.’” Brown v. Watters, 599 F.3d 602, 611 (7th Cir. 2010)
(quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a)). Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of goodtime credits, Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004), or of credit-earning
class, Montgomery v. Anderson, 262 F.3d 641, 644–45 (7th Cir. 2001), without due
process. The due process requirement is satisfied with the issuance of advance written
notice of the charges, a limited opportunity to present evidence to an impartial decision
maker, a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the
evidence justifying it, and “some evidence in the record” to support the finding of guilt.
Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell,
418 U.S. 539, 570–71 (1974).
The single basis for Brent Sangster’s petition for writ of habeas corpus in
challenging the disciplinary proceeding identified as No. 17-IYC-0004, in which he was
charged with and found guilty of the use/possession of a cell phone, is that the decision
was not supported by sufficient evidence.
The Hearing Officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on February 6, 2017.
Sangster was present at that hearing and made a statement concerning the charge. The
hearing officer considered Sangster’s statement, together with the conduct report, the
Report of Investigation and other evidence, and found Sangster guilty of the misconduct
alleged. Sanctions were imposed and this action followed after Sangster’s administrative
appeal was concluded.
“To avoid arbitrary deprivation of prisoners' liberty interests, due process requires
that ‘some evidence’ supports the conduct board’s findings.” Smith v. Davis, 48 F. App’x.
586, 587 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445,
454 (1985)). The “some evidence” standard is lenient, “requiring only that the decision
not be arbitrary or without support in the record.” McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784,
786 (7th Cir. 1999).
The conduct report recites that the reporting officer found sufficient reason to issue
the charge. The accompanying Report of Investigation of Incident provides more
information. Specifically, that on January 24, 2017, the reporting officer generated a
report of cell phone data to analyze for activity with suspects listed in the Plainfield
Correctional Facility Investigations and Intelligence Office case number 17-IYC-0004.
“During the analysis of the data, activity was discovered that connected Offender Brent
Sangster 930407 directly to a cell phone recovered on November 9, 2017, from Housing
Unit South Dorm F Unit.” A complete report of the analysis, process and information used
to connect Offender Sangster to this cell phone is included in confidential case packet 17IYC-0004. The cell phone was recovered on November 9, 2016, from the housing unit to
which Sangster was assigned. This information “point[s] to [Sangster’s] guilt” and hence
is constitutionally sufficient. Lenea v. Lane, 882 F.2d 1171, 1175 (7th Cir. 1989). The
hearing officer was entitled to find this report credible, Russell v. Sandahl, 989 F.2d 502
(7th Cir. 1993), and “[i]n 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.” McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d
784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation omitted).
“The touchstone of due process is protection of the individual against arbitrary
action of the government.” Wolff, 418 U.S. at 558. There was no arbitrary action in any
aspect of the charge, disciplinary proceeding, or sanctions involved in the events
identified in this action, and there was no constitutional infirmity in the proceeding which
entitles Sangster to the relief he seeks. His arguments that he was denied the protection
afforded by Hill is refuted by the expanded record. Accordingly, his petition for a writ of
habeas corpus must be denied and the action dismissed.
Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
PLAINFIELD - CF
PLAINFIELD CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Electronic Service Participant – Court Only
Marjorie H. Lawyer-Smith
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
LARRY J. McKINNEY, JUDGE
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
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