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Johnson v. Williamson

November 20, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Chief Judge Kane)



Before the Court is a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 filed by Petitioner Rasheen Johnson ("Johnson"), an inmate confined at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP-Lewisburg"). (Doc. No. 1.) Johnson alleges that his constitutional rights were violated in the context of a disciplinary proceeding. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be denied.


In an April 13, 2005 incident report, Johnson was charged with extortion in violation of Section 204 of the Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") disciplinary code. (Doc. No. 10-3 at 1-2.) The incidents, which occurred in November and December, 2004, while Johnson was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Greenville, Illinois ("FCI-Greenville"), was described by the reporting officer as follows:

On April 13, 2005, at approximately 0800 hours, it has been determined that on or about November 16, 2004, inmate Johnson, Rasheen #29040-044 approached inmate [victim]*fn1 in housing unit H4B, and demanded he send two thousand one hundred dollars to Post Office Box 2641, Saint Louis, Missouri, in the name of [Johnson's mother]. On or about December 9, 2004, you again demanded that [victim] send you one thousand six hundred dollars to the same Post Office Box, and to the same person. On or about December 11, 2004, you once again demanded that [victim] send you two thousand one hundred dollars to the Saint Louis Post Office Box, and again to [Johnson's mother]. You demanded these payments from [victim] and if he refused to send you the money, you threatened to do harm to his wife by sending your people to her residence. (Id. at 1.) Johnson was provided with a copy of the incident report on April 13, 2005. Upon delivery and after being advised of his rights, Johnson denied the allegations, stating, "It's not true, we gamble and he owed me money, I didn't extort anyone. He has also sent other inmates money for debts from gambling and drugs. He owed me from gambling, didn't want to pay so he dropped a note on me in February so he wouldn't have to pay." (Id. at 2.) An investigation was conducted on the same day. (Id. at 1-2.) On April 15, 2005, the Unit Disciplinary Committee ("UDC") held a hearing to review the incident report. (Id.) Johnson again generally denied the allegations. (Id.) After reviewing the matter, the UDC referred it to the disciplinary hearing officer ("DHO") for a further hearing. (Id.)

A hearing was held on May 12, 2005, at which time Johnson indicated that he understood his rights. (Id. at 3, 8.) He waived his right to staff representation and made the following statement:

A kite was written on me a week before I was locked up saying my life was in danger and I was extorting people. A week later, I was brought over here and placed under investigation for drug trafficking. I was placed in a dry cell. I gamble and I had a store on the compound. I didn't sell any drugs on this compound, nor did I extort anybody. He has sent more people money other than just me. [Victim] owes me money right now. He has bought stuff for other people at the Commissary that is not his property right now. . . . Why would I give him my mother's address if I was extorting him? Not all of the money order receipts are there. There is more to this than me extorting him. (Id. at 3.) In addition, Johnson presented one inmate witness, who made the following statement:

It's all over the compound that [victim] is trying to get him for extortion. I don't believe that at all. He had a habit, and he owed lots of guys money. They are saying he owed thousands of dollars. He was a fraud from day one. He used to fake his seizures. [Victim] was a compulsive liar. He borrowed $200 in groceries from a guy in another unit, and they are having to pay his debt now that he's gone. (Id. at 4.)

The DHO also considered documentary evidence. Specifically, the DHO relied upon eight (8) photocopies of money orders sent from the victim to Johnson's mother. (See id. at 6.) In addition, a special investigative service officer prepared a report which summarized his interviews with the victim and another inmate detailing the allegations. (Id.)

The DHO issued a decision after the hearing in which he "chose to place more credibility in the statements of inmate [victim] and [victim's witness]. By making those statements that you placed their own safety in jeopardy and possibly the safety and well being of their families on the street. Whereas you and your witness would have everything to gain and nothing to lose by not telling the truth. When questioned, your witness would only state generalities that he had 'heard' on the compound." (Id. at 7.) Johnson was sanctioned with twenty-one (21) days of disciplinary segregation, disallowance of twenty-seven (27) days of good conduct time, and a disciplinary transfer was recommended. (Id. at 5.)

The DHO's decision was upheld on appeal. (Doc. No. 10-4 at 2, 4.) It was concluded that Johnson's due process rights were upheld during the disciplinary process, that the greater weight of the evidence supports the DHO's decision, and that the sanctions were commensurate to the severity level of the offense and in compliance with policy. (Id.)

Johnson has filed the present petition alleging the following eleven claims: (1) the charges were not thoroughly investigated, (2) he was not advised of his rights, (3) he did not receive the incident report within 24 hours after the investigation, (4) he did not receive prompt written notice of the unit disciplinary committee's findings, (5) he did not receive an opportunity to call a relevant witness at the hearing, (6) he did not receive notice of the charges at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing, (7) he did not receive access to a witness and a confidential informant prior to the hearing, (8) he was denied a staff representative, (9) he lacked adequate time to prepare for the ...

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