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United States Ex Rel. Billy Sprinkle (#C15277 v. Alex Dawson

June 4, 2012

UNITED STATES EX REL. BILLY SPRINKLE (#C15277), PETITIONER,
v.
ALEX DAWSON, WARDEN, LOGAN CORRECTIONAL CENTER, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is pro se Petitioner Billy Sprinkle's petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). For the following reasons, the Court denies Sprinkle's habeas petition and declines to certify any issues for appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).

BACKGROUND

In 1969, Sprinkle pleaded guilty to charges of murder and deviate sexual assault, and the Circuit Court of Will County sentenced him to an indeterminate term of 75 to 90 years in prison. In 1977, while incarcerated, Sprinkle was convicted of aggravated battery and was sentenced to a consecutive indeterminate term of one to ten years. By operation of state law, Sprinkle's consecutive sentences were combined into a single indeterminate term of 76 to 100 years. Sprinkle was paroled in 1981, but after he violated his parole, he was re-incarcerated in 1986. He was paroled again in 1990, and was re-incarcerated in 2001 for parole violations.

In September 2009, Sprinkle sought federal habeas relief in this Court alleging that the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") failed to award him day-for-day good conduct credit. On October 29, 2009, the Court dismissed Sprinkle's habeas petition without prejudice because he had failed to exhaust his state court remedies. Thereafter, on December 15, 2009, Sprinkle filed a complaint for mandamus relief in the Circuit Court of Logan County, Illinois asking the state court to compel recalculation of his sentence and order his immediate release on the ground that the IDOC had wrongfully denied him day-for-day good conduct credit. In April 2010, the Circuit Court granted Respondent's motion to dismiss Sprinkle's mandamus complaint, after which Sprinkle filed an appeal in the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District. On May 13, 2011, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the Circuit Court's dismissal of Sprinkle's mandamus complaint. See Sprinkle v. Randolph, No. 04-10-0378 (4th Dist. 2011) (unpublished). Thereafter, Sprinkle filed a petition for leave to appeal ("PLA") in the Supreme Court of Illinois regarding his good conduct credit claim and on September 28, 2011, the Supreme Court of Illinois denied Sprinkle's PLA.

On January 13, 2012, Sprinkle filed the present pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). Construing Sprinkle's pro se habeas petition liberally, see Munson v. Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2012), he contends that: (1) IDOC is violating his due process and equal protection rights by failing to award him good conduct credit for time served after February 1, 1978; and (2) IDOC is violating Illinois statute 730 ILCS 5/3-3-10(b)(1) for failing to award good conduct credit for time served following his parole revocations. It is undisputed that Sprinkle has exhausted these claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

"[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)). Sprinkle brings his habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2), arguing that the Illinois Appellate Court's opinion "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." As the Seventh Circuit teaches, a "petitioner's challenge to a state court decision based on a factual determination under § 2254(d)(2) will not succeed unless the state court committed an 'unreasonable error.'" Morgan v. Hardy, 662 F.3d 790, 798 (7th Cir. 2011).

Sprinkle, however, does not present clear and convincing evidence challenging the statement of facts in the last state court decision to address his arguments on the merits, which was the Illinois Appellate Court's opinion in Sprinkle's mandamus action. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). Instead, he is challenging IDOC's calculation of his good conduct credits based on Illinois law. Therefore, Sprinkle's argument is not that the state court committed an unreasonable factual error, but that IDOC applied the wrong system in calculating his good conduct credits.

ANALYSIS

I. Constitutional Claim

In his first habeas claim, Sprinkle asserts that IDOC is violating his due process and equal protection rights by failing to properly award him good conduct credit for time served after February 1, 1978. See Scruggs v. Jordan, 485 F.3d 934, 939 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Prisoners have a liberty interest in their good-time credits and credit-earning class and thus must be afforded due process before prison officials interfere with those rights."). In particular, Sprinkle argues that because IDOC is improperly calculating his good conduct credit, IDOC is violating his constitutional rights resulting in him serving time past his maximum outdate.

Sprinkle's indeterminate sentence -- which began in 1969 -- spans a time period in which IDOC used two systems to calculate a prisoner's good conduct credit. The Supreme Court of Illinois explains the first system as follows:

Until February 1, 1978, Illinois had a system of indeterminate sentences in which those committed to the Department of Corrections for commission of a felony were sentenced to minimum and maximum terms of imprisonment. Good-conduct credits were applied to the minimum term to advance the date of parole eligibility and to the maximum to advance the date beyond which a prisoner could not be incarcerated. The Department was required to prescribe, at a rate within its discretion, a schedule of good-conduct credits for good behavior. These were known as "statutory good time credits." The Department was also empowered to award ...


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