United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
September 27, 2005.
ROBERT EARL SIMPSON, Petitioner
TROY WILLIAMSON, Respondent.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MUNLEY, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Petitioner, Robert Earl Simpson ("Simpson"), at the relevant
time, confined at the Federal Correctional Institution at
Allenwood, Pennsylvania ("FCI Allenwood") filed this petition for
writ of habeas corpus on July 6, 2005. (Doc 1). A supplemental
memorandum of law was filed on July 11, 2005. (Doc. 4).
Respondent filed a response (Doc. 8-1) and supporting exhibits
(Doc. 8-2) on August 17, 2005. The petition is ripe for
disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the petition will
Following the conclusion of an investigation by the Federal
Bureau of Investigations, on October 14, 2004, Simpson received
an incident report which charged him with attempted introduction
of any narcotics or related paraphernalia in violation of Section
111A of the Bureau of Prisons disciplinary code. (Doc. 8-2, p.
1). Following a "Special Investigative Service" ("SIS")
investigation, it was concluded that "inmate Simpson attempted to
introduce narcotics into the institution by having a former staff
member bring a pair of sneakers with narcotics concealed inside
them into the institution." (Doc. 8-2, p. 9).
On October 18, 2004, a Unit Disciplinary Hearing ("UDC") was
held and the matter was referred to the Disciplinary Hearing Officer. ("DHO"). At that
time, Simpson was given a "Notice of Discipline Hearing before
the DHO" and he indicated that he would like a staff member to
represent him at the hearing. He also requested that inmate
witness Burke appear at the hearing. Simpson was also provided
with an "Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing" form. His signature
appeared on both forms.
The disciplinary hearing was held on November 10, 2004.
Simpson's requested staff member appeared as his representative
and Simpson presented the testimony of inmate witness "Burke."
Simpson also submitted a number of redacted statements from the
FBI investigation. Other evidence presented included the incident
report, a July 1, 2004 memorandum from J. Lyons, Lieutenant with
the SIS, an October 14, 2004 memorandum from "B. Feltman, SIS
Lieutenant," which contained the statements of confidential
In arriving at a determination of guilty, based upon the
greater weight of the evidence, the DHO found that the evidence
presented at the hearing corroborated the information contained
in the incident report. As noted above, the DHO considered an
October 14, 2004 Memorandum authored by Lieutenant Feltman. (Doc.
8-2, Attach. D, Respondent's Exhibit 1, submitted in camera).
"Specifically, Lt. Feltman indicated through several confidential
sources Simpson was involved in having narcotics introduced into
the institution through the compromised staff [member] [David
Peifer ("Peifer")]. The narcotics would be placed inside of a
shoe and brought into the institution by the compromised staff
member. Several sources validated this statement." (Doc. 8-2, p.
21). The memorandum included statements of other inmates involved as well as details of the operation of the
scheme. The DHO relied on information provided by the
confidential informants. He found them to be credible as they
derived no known benefit from providing false information and,
"by virtue of their position, are obligated to be truthful."
(Id.). Simpson denied the charge as well as any association
with the compromised staff member.
The following sanctions were imposed: sixty days of
disciplinary segregation, disallowance of fifty-four days of Good
Conduct Time, loss of phone, visit and commissary privileges for
two years, and a disciplinary transfer. (Doc. 8-2, p. 21).
A habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 is the
proper mechanism for a federal prisoner to challenge the "fact or
duration" of his confinement. Preiser v. Rodriguez,
411 U.S. 475, 498-499 (1973). A violation of a prisoner's liberty interest
may be addressed by a writ of habeas corpus only to the extent
that the alleged violation impacts a prisoner's length of
confinement. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974).
Simpson's claim that his due process rights have been violated,
and that the violation has resulted in the imposition of the
sanction of loss of good conduct time, which lengthens his prison
term, is properly brought in a habeas corpus petition.
While extreme limitations on the due process rights that arise
from the Fourteenth Amendment have been imposed by the Supreme
Court in Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472 (1995), the
applicability of those protections to matters where an inmate is
faced with the loss of good conduct time credit, as is the case here, was left
undisturbed. When an inmate is faced with the possibility of loss
of good conduct time credits, due process requires that the
prisoner receive: (1) written notice of the claimed violation at
least twenty-four hours in advance of the hearing, (2) an
opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in
his or her defense when doing so would not be unduly hazardous to
institutional safety or correctional goals, (3) assistance from a
representative, if the charged inmate is illiterate or if complex
issues are involved, and (4) a written statement by the
factfinder as to evidence relied on and reasons for the
disciplinary action. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at 564.
Simpson raises two issues concerning procedural irregularities.
Simpson first challenges the fact that he was not able to call
Peifer, the compromised staff member, as a witness or to secure
answers to written questions directed at Peifer prior to the
hearing. As pointed out by Respondent, there is no evidence in
the record that Simpson requested Peifer appear as a witness.
Further, even if Simpson had requested that Peifer appear, such a
request would have been subject to concerns of institutional
safety and correctional goals. Given the number of inmates
involved in the scheme, there is no question that having Peifer
testify at a hearing in the institution, or to provide responses
to inmate questions would implicate serious institutional
Simpson also takes issue with the fact that there was a delay
in holding the hearing. The Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP")
disciplinary process is fully outlined in Code of Federal
Regulations, Title 28, Sections 541.10 through 541.23. These
regulations dictate the manner in which disciplinary action may be taken should a prisoner violate,
or attempt to violate, institutional rules. The first step
requires filing an incident report and conducting an
investigation pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 541.14. Staff is required
to conduct the investigation promptly unless circumstances beyond
the control of the investigator intervene. 28 C.F.R. § 541.14(b).
"When it appears likely that the incident may be the subject of
criminal prosecution, the investigating officer shall suspend the
investigation, and staff may not question the inmate until the
Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] or other investigative
agency interviews have been completed or until the agency
responsible for the criminal investigation advises that staff
questioning may occur." Id. In the instant case, the FBI did
conduct an investigation. Naturally, the FBI investigation caused
delay in proceeding with a disciplinary hearing. However, such a
delay is not contrary to Wolff. Wolff simply requires that an
inmate be provided with written notice twenty-four hours prior to
the hearing. It is clear from the record that once the FBI
investigation concluded, the BOP complied with the requisite
procedures, including providing Simpson with the requisite
twenty-four hour notice.
Simpson also contests the sufficiency of the evidence. The
disciplinary hearing officer's decision is required to be
supported by "some evidence" in the record. See Superintendent
v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); see also Young v. Kann,
926 F.2d 1396, 1402-03 (3d Cir. 1991) (applying Hill standard
to federal prisoner due process challenges to prison disciplinary
proceedings). Determining whether this standard is met does not
require examination of the entire record, independent assessment
of witness credibility, or weighing of the evidence; the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record
that could support the disciplinary hearing officer's conclusion.
See Hill, 472 U.S. at 454.
In considering the evidence recited in the statement of facts
section, supra, the court finds that there was "some evidence"
to support the disciplinary hearing officer's decision.*fn1
See id. at 455-56 ("The fundamental fairness guaranteed by
the Due Process Clause does not require courts to set aside
decision of prison administrators that have some basis in fact. . . .
[N]o other standard greater than some evidence applies in
this context."). Thus, the petition will be denied with respect
to Simpson's claim that there was insufficient evidence to
support the disciplinary hearing officer's decision.
Simpson also challenges the severity of the sanctions received.
The sanctions that may be imposed upon a finding of guilt of a
100 level offense include disallowance of a minimum of forty days
good conduct time, disciplinary transfer, up to sixty days of
disciplinary segregation and loss of privileges for a certain
period of time. See 28 C.F.R. § 541.13. Simpson is not entitled
to relief on this ground as the sanctions imposed upon him are
within the range permitted.
An appropriate order will issue. AND NOW, to wit, this 21 day of September 2005, for the
reasons set forth in the accompanying memorandum, it is hereby
1. The petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1) is DENIED.
2. The Clerk of Court is directed to CLOSE this case.
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