ADAMS v. SUPERINTENDENT
Entry Granting Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Directing Entry of Final Judgment - The petition of Benjamin Adams for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. IYC 17-03-0078. Benjamin Adams' s petition for a writ of habeas corpus it granted. The sanctions issued in No. IYC 17-03-0078 of 360 days' lost earned credit time and a demotion from credit class 2 to credit class 3 must be immediately VACATED. The motion for an evidentiary hearing, dkt. 19 , is denied as unnecessary. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue. (See Entry.). Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 8/27/2018. (DMW)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
Entry Granting Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Directing Entry of Final Judgment
The petition of Benjamin Adams for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison
disciplinary proceeding identified as No. IYC 17-03-0078. For the reasons explained in this
Entry, Mr. Adams’s habeas petition must be granted.
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 by 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).
The Disciplinary Proceeding
On October 13, 2017, Internal Affairs Investigator, Clinton Feldkamp, wrote a report of
conduct charging Adams for the offense A-102/111 conspiracy to commit assault and battery
with serious bodily injury. 1 The conduct report stated:
On 10/13/2017 at approximately 3:42 pm I Investigator C. Feldkamp completed
an investigation into an assault of an offender who[se] name[s] shall be
maintained in I&I confidential case file 17-IYC-0027 for safety and security
reasons. During the course of that investigation it was discovered that offenders
Kenneth Garretson #249544, Benjamin Adams #993788 and Raymond Barnett
#978588 participated in events in where [sic] staff and offenders were
intimidated, extorted and one person was seriously injured. Based on these factors
this writer is requesting aggravated circumstances be cited and that these
offenders be transferred to another facility. See Report of Investigation.
An incident report was also completed and provided to Adams at his screening. The
incident report stated:
On 9/6/2017 at approximately 10:30 am I Investigator C. Feldkamp completed an
investigation into offenders Adams Benjamin #993788, Kenneth Garretson
#249544 and Raymond Barnett #978588 for there [sic] participation in a series of
events that ultimately lead [sic] these offenders into participating in extortion,
intimidation, assault/battery that caused theft and serious bodily injury. The
names of the staff and offenders who were victimized by these offenders shall
remain confidential and are maintained in I&I case file 17-IYC-0027 for safety
and security reasons. On February 2, 2017 an offender was assaulted and
seriously injured when his arm was fractured. I was formally assigned to
investigate the circumstances that lead [sic] to the assault. During the course of
the investigation I discovered that the injured offender had been being victimized
by these offenders and extorted over the course of several months. During the
investigation the injured offender also identified these offenders who he alleged
intimidated and extorted him. Once the offender ran out of money and co[u]ld no
longer pay the extortion and refused to surrender his personal belongings to these
offenders he was then assaulted and robbed of his belongings. There was also an
allegation that the offenders who participated in these events were gang members,
and during interview with offender Garretson it was discovered that he was an
Previously, on March 16, 2017, Adams was found guilty of engaging in criminal gang activity
(A-100) with regard to the incident in this case. But on October 11, 2017, the final reviewing
authority issued a letter designating Adams’ disciplinary case for rehearing.
undocumented Gaylord gang member. Staff who reported the incident also
alleged to have been victimized by these offenders and instructed by the offenders
that the staff was under their “protection” and that they would run the unit as well
as decide who works and what times they work, allowing these offenders to
dictate unrestricted interaction in the unit during times that offenders would
normally be secured in their cells or restricted to an unauthorized areas or
activities. The offenders accused corroborated this allegation when the[y]
admitted that they were working when not assigned to [a] count letter and that
they instructed the staff on when they were going to work and took personal
ownership of HUC. This writer is formally requesting that aggravating
circumstances in the event of a guilty verdict is rendered as well as restitution for
the medical costs from the offenders [sic] serious injury. End of Report.
On October 18, 2017, Adams was notified of the charge and his rights. Adams pleaded not guilty
and requested a lay advocate. A lay advocate was later appointed. Adams requested the
Sgt. Roland Supv. That day – He will say that the offender who was assaulted that he had
not been assaulted.
Ofc. Nelson – I have never been involved in anything like this or this incident. Who did
the injured offender state assaulted him?
Offender Garretson – He went in the cell to fight one on one.
The injured offender – I don’t know his name. I didn’t have involvement. Who did the
injured offender state assaulted him?
Ofc. Bowen – He’s the ofc. that gave me permission to work.
Offender Barnett – He knows I didn’t have any participation.
Adams also requested the following physical evidence:
Video of incident. 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Audio review of everybody involved. Every offender/staff interviewed.
Audio review of Ofc. Nelson interview
Later, Adams also requested Ofc. Campbell as a witness, explaining that Campbell worked that
day. “He requested I work. He knows I wasn’t involved.”
The DHO provided the following response to Adams’ request for witnesses and physical
Sgt. Roland – Denied he was not present and did not witness the assault
Ofc. Nelson – Offnd Garretson – Denied no longer housed at the Plainfield Correctional
Injured Offender – Denied Adams did not provide name or DOC #
Ofc. Bowen – Denied Its irrelevant if he gave you permission to work or not.
Offender Barnett – You said you would bring a sworn Affidavit from him and Offender
Video – Denied irrelevant you are not being cha[r]ged for doing the assault you [sic]
being charged with ordering the assault.
The DHO granted Adams’s request for the audio to the extent that the hearing officer listened to
Adams provided an affidavit testifying that neither he nor Barnett had any knowledge of
or participation in the acts alleged in the conduct and incident report. Barnett also provided a
two-page affidavit testifying that neither he nor Adams had any knowledge of or participation in
the acts alleged in the conduct report and incident report. Barnett stated that he could not have
participated because he was in segregation from December 24, 2016 until January 17, 2017.
Garretson stated that he acted alone in battering the victim and that he has no affiliation with
Barnett or Adams.
On October 20, 2017, a hearing was held in disciplinary case IYC 17-03-0078. Adams
pleaded not guilty and testified that he did not assault the victim. The DHO provided the
Offender supplied DHO with 4 papers of sworn statement. Offender requested
several offenders and video. All were denied, reasons attached to this case.
Offender kept trying to defend himself on assault, when I kept telling him that he
was only charged with conspiracy.
Based on evidence from confidential case 17-IYC-0027 as well as reviewing
audio and reports, DHB finds offender Adams #993788 guilty of 111/102A.
The DHO relied on staff reports, Adam’s statement, witness testimony, and video evidence in
finding Adams guilty of conspiracy to commit assault. Based on the seriousness of the offense
and the likelihood of the sanction having a corrective effect on Adams’s future behavior, the
DHO imposed the following sanctions: 1-year of disciplinary segregation, 360 days’ lost earned
credit time, and a demotion from credit class 2 to credit class 3.
On October 20, 2017, and October 23, 2017, Adams filed two first-level appeals. On
October 27, 2017, the facility head responded to Adams’ October 20th appeal, and on November
2, 2017, the facility head responded to Adams’ October 23rd appeal. On November 13, 2017,
Adams’ filed a third appeal to the head of the facility, and the facility did not respond to that
third appeal because Adams’ prior first-level appeals were already addressed. On November 8,
2017, the final reviewing authority received Adams’ second-level appeal. On December 13,
2017, the final reviewing authority denied Adams’ second-level appeal.
Adams challenges the disciplinary action against him arguing that he was denied an
impartial decision-maker, the evidence was insufficient to support the disciplinary conviction, he
was denied the right to call witnesses, and he was denied the right to present evidence. Because
the Court finds that Adams was improperly denied a witness request, his other arguments do not
need to be addressed and the Court makes no comment on their merits.
At least one of Adams’s witness requests was improperly denied. Adams requested
testimony from fellow inmate Barnett. He asserts that Barnett, who was also accused of being
involved the assault, would testify that he and Adams had nothing to do with it. Adams was
permitted to present an affidavit from Barnett, but Barnett did not testify at the hearing. No
reason was given for the failure to call Barnett to testify other than that he had provided an
affidavit. In response to Adams’s petition, the respondent argues simply that this witness request
was not denied because the hearing officer reviewed the testimony that Adams said Barnett
The Seventh Circuit has repeatedly rejected the contention that when written testimony is
provided, live testimony is unnecessary. Instead, only when live testimony is not otherwise
feasible do written witness statements comport with due process. See Whitlock v. Johnson, 153
F.3d 380, 388 (7th Cir. 1998) (“We are . . . unconvinced by the prison’s assertion that its policy
of interviewing requested witnesses and summarizing their testimony in an unsworn report is a
legitimate means of ‘calling a witness’ even when live testimony would be feasible.”); see also
Doan v. Buss, 82 Fed. Appx. 168, 170-71 (7th Cir. 2003) (rejecting the contention that “under
Wolff oral testimony is not required as long as written statements are obtained”); Ashby v. Davis,
82 Fed. Appx. 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2003) (holding that “[t]he submission of a written [witness]
statement is not by itself a valid reason for not appearing,” and explaining that “[l]ive testimony
is the presumption absent a valid reason for proceeding differently”). Therefore, the decision to
consider Barnett’s written statement and not have him provide live testimony amounted to a
denial of this witness request. When a prisoner challenges the denial of witnesses in a prison
disciplinary proceeding, it is the prison official’s burden to provide a “justification” for the
denial. Ponte v. Real, 471 U.S. 491, 498-99 (1985); see Wilson v. Davis, 102 Fed. Appx. 37, 38
(7th Cir. 2004) (“The burden is on the state to offer a rational explanation for the denial of an
inmate’s request for witnesses.”). The respondent has provided no justification here.
Accordingly, on this record, the Court must conclude that Adams’s due process rights were
violated when he was denied this witness request. Adams is entitled to habeas relief on this basis.
For the foregoing reasons, Benjamin Adams’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus it
granted. The sanctions issued in No. IYC 17-03-0078 of 360 days’ lost earned credit time and a
demotion from credit class 2 to credit class 3 must be immediately VACATED. The motion for
an evidentiary hearing, dkt. , is denied as unnecessary.
Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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