SPANGLER v. SUPERINTENDENT
Entry Denying Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Directing Entry of Final Judgment - On July 12, 2017, petitioner Steven A. Spangler, an Indiana inmate, sought a writ of habeas corpus to vacate disciplinary sanctions imposed on him in a priso n disciplinary rehearing, case number IYC 16-10-0137. Respondent was directed to show cause why a writ should not issue. A show cause return was filed September 7, 2017. As a threshold matter, respondent contends that petitioner did not exhaust hi s administrative remedies as to any claim he brings in this habeas action. He has not filed a motion to dismiss. The return addresses a single issue - whether petitioner was denied due process by not being given access to all of the evidence used against him. The Court finds that petitioner exhausted his administrative remedies as to the two issues he raises in his petition - the due process issue identified by respondent and an insufficient evidence issue - but nevertheless holds that pe titioner is not entitled to habeas corpus relief. "The touchstone of due process is protection of the individual against arbitrary action of the government." Wolff, 418 U.S. at 558. Because there was sufficient evidence of Steven Spangle r's guilt and because there was no denial of due process, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue. (See Entry). Copy to petitioner via US Mail. Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 11/21/2017.(APD)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
STEVEN A. SPANGLER,
WARDEN, Plainfield Correctional Facility,
Entry Denying Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
and Directing Entry of Final Judgment
On July 12, 2017, petitioner Steven A. Spangler, an Indiana inmate, sought a writ of habeas
corpus to vacate disciplinary sanctions imposed on him in a prison disciplinary rehearing, case
number IYC 16-10-0137. Respondent was directed to show cause why a writ should not issue. A
show cause return was filed September 7, 2017. As a threshold matter, respondent contends that
petitioner did not exhaust his administrative remedies as to any claim he brings in this habeas
action. He has not filed a motion to dismiss. The return addresses a single issue – whether petitioner
was denied due process by not being given access to all of the evidence used against him. The
Court finds that petitioner exhausted his administrative remedies as to the two issues he raises in
his petition – the due process issue identified by respondent and an insufficient evidence issue –
but nevertheless holds that petitioner is not entitled to habeas corpus relief.
I. Fact and Procedural Background
Petitioner Steven Spangler was charged with attempted trafficking after IDOC Investigator
S. Puckett was monitoring phone calls and heard a conversation between Mr. Spangler and another
person that he thought was suspicious. He listened to other phone calls from Spangler. Puckett
then wrote the following conduct report:
On 10/4/2016 while monitoring GTL phone calls I S. Puckett found that offender
Spangler 249996 was talking to a person about bringing in a package to a visit.
Phone calls from June 2016 through September 30, 2016 talk in code about bringing
in contraband and making money. The following are just a sample of some of the
calls that were made. In a call on 6/6/2016 Spangler stated that he is having “25”
(strips) brought to her. In a call from 6/6/2016 Spangler stated that “you know that
317-3 whatever it was . . . I need you to do that.” The caller then stated “I can’t
stand this code shit.” On 10/1/2016 (13-14) his caller is on the way to the facility
for a visit and she stated I can’t bring the “20” to the visit cause I won’t have it till
after the visit. In another call on 10/1/2016 at 20:11 he stated “I got to make moves
in here [s]o I can’t dictate when the dude is going to walk up to me and say can I
get that “3 for 75”. In the same call he tells her to stop at Walgreens before she
comes to the visit and tells her in code to “get that” so he can have something to
puff on.” There are several other calls that can be referenced in the investigations
Dkt. 8 (citing dkt. 8-1).
Following the rehearing on March 27, 2016, Spangler was convicted of attempted
trafficking based on this conduct report. Before the rehearing Spangler had requested the call logs
and audio evidence and was provided with the logs and transcript summaries of the three phone
calls specifically identified in Puckett’s conduct report. The rehearing officer listened to those
three calls, considered the conduct report and Spangler’s arguments, and found Spangler guilty of
the charge and imposed grievous sanctions.
Spangler appealed to the head of the facility. Spangler contended that he had requested the
call logs and audio recordings for “four” dates listed in the conduct report but that he had received
transcripts of only three calls. He then asserted that nothing in the transcripts he reviewed revealed
an instruction for anybody to bring contraband to him or to the facility. Dkt. 1-1, p. 13 (Disciplinary
Hearing Appeal). His appeal to the head of the facility was denied.
An appeal was then made to the Final Reviewing Authority. It was in the form of a letter,
but the appeal review officer, J. Lyttle, considered the merits presented in the letter. Spangler
complained that the hearing officer and appeals officer continued to violate his due process rights,
specifically by providing him with only some of the telephone call transcripts out “of the many
listed” and that none of the transcripts show that he directed anyone to attempt to bring any
contraband into the facility. Dkt. 8-9, pp. 1-2. These are the same two issues Spangler appealed to
head of facility. Spangler thus complied with administrative appeal requirements. See Moffat v.
Broyles, 288 F.3d 978, 982 (7th Cir. 2002) (prisoner appellant must provide a reasonable prison
official with sufficient notice of his claim so that the official has an opportunity to correct any
Lyttle denied the final appeal, writing that there was no procedural or due process error
and the evidence was sufficient. Dkt. 8-10, p. 1 (Denial of Appeal letter). These are the same issues
presented in Spangler’s habeas corpus petition. Therefore, respondent’s contention that petitioner
did not exhaust his administrative remedies is without merit.
The Court now turns to the merits of Spangler’s two habeas corpus issues.
II. Legal Standards
Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits, Cochran v. Buss,
381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004) (per curiam), 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); Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2003);
Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).
Due process requires “prison officials to disclose all material exculpatory evidence,” unless
that evidence “would unduly threaten institutional concerns.” Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 847
(7th Cir. 2011) (citation and quotation marks omitted). In the prison disciplinary context, “the
purpose of the [this] rule is to insure that the disciplinary board considers all of the evidence
relevant to guilt or innocence and to enable the prisoner to present his or her best defense.” Id.
(citation and quotation marks omitted). Evidence is exculpatory if it undermines or contradicts the
finding of guilt, see id., and it is material if disclosing it creates a “reasonable probability” of a
different result, Toliver v. McCaughtry, 539 F.3d 766, 780-81 (7th Cir. 2008). When prison
administrators believe a valid justification exists to withhold evidence, “‘due process requires that
the district court conduct an in camera review’ to assess whether the undisclosed [evidence] is
exculpatory.” Johnson v. Brown, 381 Fed. Appx. 494, 497 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting Piggie, 344
F.3d at 679).
Challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence are governed by the “some evidence”
standard. “[A] hearing officer’s decision need only rest on ‘some evidence’ logically supporting it
and demonstrating that the result is not arbitrary.” Ellison v. Zatecky, 820 F.3d 271, 274 (7th Cir.
2016); see 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). 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.
Lack of Access to Evidence
For his rehearing, Spangler requested the audio recordings and call logs referenced in the
conduct report. He complains in his petition that he was only given four recordings out of many
that were referenced, and contends this violated his rights to due process. 1 The conduct report, the
relevant portion of which was quoted above, identifies just three phone calls but infers that more
were listened to. Of the three calls referenced in the conduct report, Spangler agrees they were
provided to him for his review, and there is no dispute as to the contents of the calls.
Spangler does not point to or identify any exculpatory evidence contained in the three calls,
but argues instead that because he was not provided all of the phone call recordings or transcripts
listened to by prison officials, he has been denied due process. He does not specify what the other
calls would have shown – or how they were exculpatory – other than his general contention that
nowhere in the phone calls does he ask anyone to traffic contraband.
This is where Spangler’s contention fails. The denial of the right to present evidence will
be considered harmless unless the prisoner shows that the evidence could have aided his defense.
See Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 847 (7th Cir. 2011). Spangler has only generally asserted that
the phone call recordings not provided to him would have been exculpatory, but does not in any
material way say why or how. Generalized and vague arguments in this context does not support
habeas corpus relief.
Spangler was not denied due process of law when prison officials supplied him with only
the phone call transcripts and summaries of the phone calls specified in the conduct report and
Spangler’s petition and administrative appeal documents differ on whether he received three
or four transcript summaries of the telephone call recordings. The number is not material, however,
in light of the disposition of the due process and sufficiency of the evidence issues.
denied his request for others. He did not specify or explain how the other calls were exculpatory.
This claim is denied.
The Court has reviewed the audio recordings, submitted on a CD in an ex parte filing,
dkt. 10, of the three phone calls considered by the prison disciplinary hearing officer and finds no
exculpatory evidence. The Court agrees with petitioner that nowhere in the recordings does he
explictily tell the person he is speaking with to traffic contraband, or to bring him any contraband
to the prison, or to do anything overtly improper. But the import of the conversations, in which the
specific action being discussed is avoided, the use of “code” is discussed, and at one point the
action is even categorized as something that cannot be discussed by telephone (and Spangler said
he would call back later from another number), is sufficient evidence, under Hill, 472 U.S. at
455-56, to satisfy the “some evidence” constitutional standard.
Because there is some evidence in the record to support the hearing officer’s decision, this
claim is denied.
“The touchstone of due process is protection of the individual against arbitrary action of
the government.” Wolff, 418 U.S. at 558. Because there was sufficient evidence of Steven
Spangler’s guilt and because there was no denial of due process, the petition for a writ of habeas
corpus is denied. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Steven A. Spangler
Plainfield Correctional Facility
727 Moon Road
Plainfield, IN 46168
Marjorie H. Lawyer-Smith
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
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