Inmate wins habeas relief after ‘incendiary allegations’ of fraudulent discipline action

An Indiana prisoner has been granted habeas relief after making “incendiary allegations” that led a district judge to find that he had fraudulently been found guilty in a prison disciplinary action.

In 2011, Ra’mar Daniels, an inmate at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, was found guilty of violating Indiana Adult Disciplinary Code 204-Abusive Sexual Contact and was given a deprivation of 15 days earned credit time and a demotion in credit class.

In reviewing Daniels’ petition for writ of habeas corpus, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana noted that aside from Daniels’ verified petition, the only evidence before it was a disciplinary hearing report stating Daniels had admitted guilt during a hearing in 2011. However, Daniels alleged that such a hearing never took place and that the hearing officer “told him the charge would be dismissed for lack of evidence and instructed him to sign a blank disciplinary hearing form.”

According to Daniels, after he signed the blank form, the hearing officer allegedly falsified the report outside Daniels’ presence. It wasn’t until years later that Daniels learned the disciplinary violation had not been dismissed and he had been found guilty, he asserted. He therefore sought relief on the grounds of insufficient evidence and being convicted without a disciplinary hearing.

Southern District Judge James Sweeney found Daniels’ second ground meritorious, noting the undisputed evidence in the case showed a hearing was never held.

“Mr. Daniels was fraudulently induced to sign a blank disciplinary hearing form, which the hearing officer later falsified outside his presence. These are incendiary allegations, yet the Warden makes no effort to rebut them. Consequently, the Court accepts the facts alleged in Mr. Daniels’ verified petition as true and grants his petition for relief,” Sweeney wrote.

In a footnote, Sweeney said that after receiving two extensions of time, warden Dushan Zatecky’s deadline for answering the show cause order was Aug.19, 2019. But “(t)he Warden did not submit a return or ask for a third extension of time, even after Daniels filed a motion requesting a default judgment,” the footnote reads.

Daniels petition for relief was thus granted, but his motion to dismiss was denied as moot.

The case is Ra’Mar Daniels v. Dushan Zatecky, 1:19-cv-01048.

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