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Moles v. Holt

September 27, 2006

WALTER CURTIS MOLES, PETITIONER
v.
RONNIE HOLT, WARDEN, ET AL., RESPONDENTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court is a petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1) filed by petitioner, Walter Curtis Moles ("Moles"), an inmate confined at the Federal Correctional Institution at Schuylkill ("FCI-Schuylkill")in Minersville, Pennsylvania.*fn1 Moles alleges that his constitutional rights were violated in the context of a disciplinary hearing. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be denied.

I. Statement of Facts

In an August 1, 2005 incident report, Moles was charged with the following Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") disciplinary code violations: insolence toward a staff member in violation of Code 312, interfering with staff in the performance of duties in violation of Code 398, and conduct which disrupts or interferes with the security or orderly running of a BOP facility in violation of Code 399. (Doc. 1-1, p. 28). The incident, which appears to have occurred during the transfer of Moles from the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg ("USP-Lewisburg"), to the Federal Correctional Institution at Schuylkill ("FCI-Schuylkill"), was described by the reporting officer as follows:

On the above dated time, inmate Moles . . . became insolent and disruptive while I was applying restraints. He began arguing with me over a pair of ripped bus pants. He became increasingly louder, calling me a 'f[---]ing idiot." The bus lieutenant had to step in and remove the inmate from the crowded holding cell so we could continue applying restraints to the remaining inmates present. When returned to the holding cell, I/M Moles continued to argue with me, and make comments such as "I'll fix his ass when I file" to other inmates present. (Doc. 1, p. 15). Upon arrival at FCI-Schuylkill, he was informed that he was being placed in the Special Housing Unit pending an investigation into the stated code violations. (Doc. 1, p. 32). Upon delivery of the incident report, he stated that he "did nothing like that" and requested thirteen witnesses. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

Based upon the serious nature of the charges, the Unit Disciplinary Committee referred the matter for a disciplinary hearing on August 3, 2005. (Id.). On the same day, Moles was notified that the matter would be placed on the next available discipline hearing docket. In addition to requesting a staff representative, he requested a total of five witnesses be present at the hearing. (Id.). Four of the witnesses were inmates who would testify that he was "placed in a black box" and was given torn paper pants. Moles also requested the presence of the bus lieutenant from USP-Lewisburg, despite not knowing to what the lieutenant would testify. (Id.).

On August 9, 2006, Moles submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the names of staff members who worked in the "Receiving and Discharge" section of FCI-Schuylkill, and the names of the inmates who were transferred with him from USP-Lewisburg to FCI-Schuylkill, inter alia. (Doc. 1, pp. 17-18).

The disciplinary hearing was held on August 15, 2006. Moles was represented by a staff member. No procedural issues were cited. No documentary evidence was provided. However, Moles made the following statements:

I want it on the record that I am requesting thirteen other witnesses (Inmates) and was told by my unit team that I would need to file a FOI request to obtain their names.

During the strip search process, I was handed a pair of khaki pants and the officer gave the other inmate a pair of blue (paper) bus pants. I gave the other inmate my pair of pants (khaki) and took the pair of blue pants from the other inmate; the other inmate (Creel) told me the officer told him to come in the cell and kick my ass because that is the reason for him getting the blue paper pants. When I was putting on the pants, they had ripped so when they (the officers) were putting on the restraints, I was confronted by the officer and was told I ripped the pants on purpose. The lieutenant told me not to be acting up and Officer Bensinger said he wanted to put restraints on me and when it was all over with, I had a black box on. I told Armstead, I was going to file and the officer threatened me and put me up against the wall. (Doc. 1, p. 29). Three inmate witnesses also presented testimony on his behalf. (Doc. 1, p. 29). The DHO found that their testimony conflicted with the testimony provided by Moles. Specifically, "[t]he testimony provided by his witnesses are hearsay testimony which Moles had informed them of what was said by the officer. In addition, the witness statements indicate the pants were already ripped and were initially issued to Moles. This again conflicts with the inmates [sic] statement." (Id.) Moles' request for additional witnesses was handled as follows:

Inmate Moles requested an unidentified inmate named Scott and Lieutenant Ware (USP Lewisburg) as witnesses to present testimony on his behalf. The DHO informed Moles his witnesses could not be summoned due to the Lieutenant not being assigned to FCI Schuylkill and was not at the institution. In addition, the DHO informed Moles only having one part of a name was not sufficient to accurately identify the inmate he is requesting. Moles refused to waive his request for these witnesses. In addition, Moles requested thirteen other unidentified inmates which Moles claimed to be present during this incident. Moles did not know their names nor if these inmates were housed at FCI Schuylkill. (Id.).

Upon questioning by the DHO, Moles denied the charges and stated that the incident never took place as described in the incident report. (Id.). The DHO found "Moles [sic] actions, mannerisms and comments supportive of being insolent toward the officer and interfered with the performance of his duties during the bus operations." (Id.)

Based upon all the evidence presented, the DHO concluded that the greater weight of the evidence supported a finding that Moles committed the act of insolence towards a staff member in violation of Code 312. Moles was sanctioned with disciplinary segregation, disallowance of thirteen days of good conduct time, forfeiture of six days of non-vested good conduct time, and loss of commissary, phone and visiting privileges for a period of one year. (Doc. 1, p. 31). The Code 398 and 399 charges were found to be duplicative and were expunged from his record.

Following unsuccessful administrative appeals (Doc. 1, pp. 33-39), Moles filed the present petition alleging that he was denied witnesses, that the decision was not supported by the evidence, that no investigation was ...


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