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Beckford v. Martinez

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


May 4, 2010

DAVID MICHAEL BECKFORD, PETITIONER
v.
WARDEN JERRY MARTINEZ, RESPONDENT

The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

(Judge Caputo)

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

Petitioner, David Michael Beckford, an inmate presently confined at the Allenwood Low Security Correctional Facility (LSCI-Allenwood), in White Deer, Pennsylvania, initiated the above action pro se by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Mr. Beckford asserts a due process violation in connection with an October 11, 2007, disciplinary hearing that took place while he was an inmate at the Satellite Prison Camp at the Federal Correctional Institution in Schuylkill County (SPC-Schuylkill), Pennsylvania, that resulted in the loss Good Conduct Time (GCT). For the reasons that follow, the petition will be denied.

II. Factual Background

A. Disciplinary Proceedings at SPC-Schuylkill

The morning of September 22, 2007, Senior Office Specialist (SOS) C. Patrick found a note on the floor of the prison camp indicating that Mr. Beckford had a cell phone hidden in his mattress. (See Doc. 11-2 at R. 19, Memorandum of SOS Patrick.)*fn1 SOS Patrick searched Mr. Beckford's assigned bunk and discovered a cellphone charger under his mattress. (Id.) David Beckford stated that he did not have a cell phone and that he believed someone "planted the charger." (Id.) A search of the housing area led to the discovery of a Pantech brand Cingular cell phone under another inmate's locker. (Id.) Mr. Beckford was transferred to administrative detention pending an investigation of the incident. (Id. at R. 21, Inmate History Quarters.) At approximately 7 p.m. the next day, David Beckford was issued Incident Report No. 1647368 charging him with Possession, Manufacture, or Introduction of a Hazardous Tool. (Id. at R. 23, Incident Report.)

On September 28, 2007, David Beckford appeared before the Unit Disciplinary Committee (UDC). (Id.) Mr. Beckford disavowed ownership of the charger and reported the charger belonged to another inmate. (Id.) The UDC referred the matter to the Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) for resolution. (Id.) At the conclusion of the UDC hearing, Petitioner was advised of his rights in front of the DHO Case Manager Christina Brill. (Id. at R. 25, Inmate Rights at Disciplinary Hearing.) Mr. Beckford acknowledged that he was advised of his right to have a full-time staff member represent him at the hearing, to call witnesses and to present documentary evidence on his behalf. (Id.) Mr. Beckford elected to waive his right to staff representation and his right to call witnesses. (Id. at R. 27, Notice of Discipline Hearing Before the DHO.)

The disciplinary hearing was held on October 9, 2007. (Id. at RR. 29 - 32, DHO Report.) At the onset of the DHO hearing, Mr. Beckford was again advised of his rights and indicated he understood them. Petitioner again waived his right to staff representation and witness testimony. (Id.) At the hearing Beckford stated that "[t]he cell phone charge is KIMLEY's. We used to work in UNICOR and we got into an argument and now he looks at me funny." (Id.) The DHO found that Mr. Beckford committed the prohibited act of possession of a Hazardous Tool, the cell phone charger. (Id. at R. 30.) The DHO Explained his finding as follows:

Beckford's involvement in the incident as noted in Section 11 of Incident Report 1647368, as provided by SOS C. Patrick, was viewed as inculpatory in this case. Paraphrased, Officer Patrick writes: On the above date at 10:30 AM this writer was conducting a routine shakedown in Camp 1 E01-004L which is assigned to inmate Beckford. While shaking down inmate Beckford's assigned bunk, I found one black cell phone charger underneath his mattress.

Inculpatory evidence in the form of a memorandum from SOS C. Patrick, dated September 22, 2007, which states he found a note stating BECKFORD keeps a phone in his mattress, and a copy of an anonymous note which states, "Beckford keeps phone in mattress B-4," corroborated the evidence cited in the incident report in this case.

The DHO believed the information provided by the staff members involved in this case, as they derived no known benefit by providing false information. The DHO finds [Beckford] committed the prohibited act of Possession of a Hazardous Tool (Cellular Telephone), Code 108, while incarcerated at the Schulkill (sic) Federal Prison Camp, Minersville, Pennsylvania, when a cellular telephone charger was found concealed inside your mattress. Inculpatory evidence in the form of a memorandum from Warden Holt, dated October 28, 2005, corroborated the evidence cited in the incident report in this case. Warden Holt indicated, "I have determined that inmate possession of a cellular telephone at this institution poses a serious impact on institution security. Effective immediately, any inmate found in possession of a cellular telephone will be charged with a violation of code 108, Possession, Manufacture or Introduction of a Hazardous tool and will be sanctioned accordingly. Also, please note that BOP Program Statement 5270.07 state's (sic) it is an inmate's responsibility to keep his area free of contraband. Therefore, you will be charged with a violation of code 108 if a cellular telephone is found in your personal area. ...

In deciding this issue, I find no credible or convincing evidence that the cellular telephone charger was placed there by another individual. You are responsible to maintain your assigned living area free and clear of contraband (P.S. 5270.07, Chapter 3, Page 1, Responsibility #4) and your unsupported theory that the charger was placed under your locker to set you up, does not absolve you from that responsibility. I have given greater weight to the officer's written report. Therefore, I find it prudent to hold you accountable for violating the prohibited act(s) of Possession, Manufacture, or Introduction of a Hazardous Tool, specifically a cellular telephone charger, Code 108, on September 22, 2007, in Camp 1, E02-004L, at the Schuhylkill (sic) Federal Prison Camp, Minersville, Pennsylvania. (Id. at RR. 30 - 31.) As a result, Mr. Beckford was sanctioned as follows: 41 days disallowance of GCT; 90 days disallowance of non-vested GCT; 60 days of Disciplinary Segregation; 12 months loss of phone privileges; 6 months loss of visits; and 6 months loss of commissary privileges. (Id.) The DHO also recommended a disciplinary transfer due to David Beckford's need for greater security/supervision. (Id.) Beckford was advised of his appellate rights and given a copy of the DHO's findings on October 11, 2007. (Id. at R. 10, Decl. of DHO Petrucci and R. 32, DHO Report.)

B. Mr. Beckford's Exhaustion Efforts

Adam Ackley, an Attorney Advisor at the Consolidated Legal Center in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 11-2 at RR. 2 - 3, Ackley Decl.) Attorney Ackley is familiar with the BOP's Administrative Remedy Program and has access to the BOP's computerized record system (SENTRY) which records and compiles various inmate records, including administrative remedies. (Id.) Copies of rejected administrative remedies are returned to the inmate and are not maintained by the BOP. (Id.)

At the time Attorney Ackley filed his declaration, Beckford had only filed two administrative remedies since his designation to BOP custody. (Id. at R. 2 and RR. 5 - 6, Beckford's Administrative Remedy Generalized Retrieval.) On August 15, 2008, Beckford filed administrative remedy No. 507215-R1 appealing the October 9, 2007, DHO decision relating to Incident Report No. 1647368. (Id.) On September 5, 2008, Beckford's administrative remedy was rejected because it was submitted "well beyond twenty (20) calendar days of the date on which the basis of the complaint occurred, as required ... Beckford was advised that if he could provide written verification from a staff member that the delay was not caused by him, his administrative remedy would be accepted." (Id. at R. 3.) On September 25, 2008, Beckford filed administrative remedy No. 507215-A1 with the BOP's Central Office appealing the October 9, 2007, DHO's decision. On October 1, 2008, administrative remedy No. 507215-A1 was rejected. BOP's Central Office concurred with the decision of the Northeastern Regional Office that his administrative remedy should be rejected as it was untimely. (Id.)

Beckford states that he never received a copy of the DHO's report until July 21, 2008. (Doc. 1, Pet. at R. 2.) Beckford claims he has learned from an "unknown inmate witnesses" that inmate Kimley entered his sleeping area and planted the cellphone charger. (Doc. 12, Traverse at R. 2.) Beckford claims that the BOP attempted to cover up this information. (Id.) Both parties agree that on the same day the cell phone charger was found in Beckford's area, a cell phone was found in Kimley's property. (Doc. 11, Response to the Pet. at R. 4, fn. 2; and Doc. 12 at R. 3.) Beckford states that the same day SOS Patrick discovered the cellphone charger under his mattress, he "was assaulted by Kimley." (Doc. 12, Traverse at R. 2.) This assault occurred after both inmates were placed in the same Security Housing Unit (SHU) cell. (Id at R. 9, Incident Report.) Beckford has provided the declaration of inmate Kimley who affirms that both he and Beckford warned his escorting officer not to place the two of them in the same SHU cell. (Doc. 12 at RR. 9 -10, Kimley Decl.) Kimley does not admit that he planted the cellphone charger under Beckford's mattress. (Id.) Kimley's declaration is not dated or signed. (Id.)

III. Standard of Review

"Habeas corpus relief is available to a prisoner who has been sanctioned in violation of due process to a loss of good conduct time." Robinson v. Warden, 250 Fed. Appx. 462, 464 (3d Cir. 2007).

IV. Discussion

A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

A federal inmate may use section § 2241 to challenge the loss of good-conduct time but must exhaust his administrative remedies before seeking habeas review in federal court. Moscato v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 98 F.3d 757, 760 (3d Cir. 1996). Failure to satisfy the BOP's procedural rules for administrative review can result in a procedural default, which will bar § 2241 review of a defaulted claim unless the prisoner can show "cause and prejudice." Id. at 760 - 61.

Exhaustion is required "for three reasons: (1) allowing the appropriate agency to develop a factual record and apply its expertise facilitates judicial review; (2) permitting agencies to grant the relief requested conserves judicial resources; and (3) providing agencies the opportunity to correct their own errors fosters administrative autonomy." Moscato, 98 F.3d at 761-62.

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has established a multi-tier system whereby a federal prisoner may seek formal review of any aspect of his imprisonment. 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.10-542.16. Inmates must first informally present their complaints to staff within 20 calendar days following the date on which the basis for the request occurred. 28 C.F.R. § 542.14 (a). Where an inmate can demonstrate a valid reason for delay, an extension in filing time may be allowed. 28 C.F.R. § 542.14(b). If unsuccessful at the informal resolution stage, the inmate may raise his complaint via a formal written complaint to the warden. 28 C.F.R. § 542.14(a). If dissatisfied with the Warden's response, the inmate may file an appeal to the BOP Regional Director. 28 C.F.R. § 542.15(a). Finally, if the inmate is dissatisfied with the Regional Director's response, that decision may then be appealed to BOP Central Office. Id. An exception is made for DHO appeals which are first raised directly to the Regional Director and then to Central Office. 28 C.F.R. § 542.14(d)(2). No administrative remedy appeal is considered to have been fully exhausted until decided by the BOP's Central Office. 28 C.F.R. § 542.15(a).

The record before the Court reveals that the DHO forwarded a copy of his decision to Mr. Beckford on October 11, 2007. David Beckford had 20 days, or until October 31, 2007, to appeal the DHO's decision. The DHO has submitted a declaration affirming that he advised Mr. Beckford of his appellate rights and gave him a copy of the DHO report on October 11, 2007. The DHO report submitted by Mr. Beckford reflects the same. David Beckford, however, claims that he did not receive a copy of the DHO's report until July 21, 2008. Clearly Mr. Beckford's August 15, 2008, administrative remedy No. 507215-R1 appealing the DHO's findings related to Incident Report No. 1647368 is untimely under the BOP administrative remedy guidelines.*fn2 Yet, when the BOP gave Mr. Beckford the opportunity to demonstrate a valid reason for his delay in filing his appeal, he did not do so. Mr. Beckford has not presented copies of his appeal to the BOP's Regional Director or Central Office offering any evidence to demonstrate he event attempted to comply with the BOP's allowance to explain his untimely filing allegedly based on his late receipt of the DHO's report. Thus, aside from his own self serving statement, the untimely receipt of the DHO report as justification for David Beckford's untimely administrative remedy is unsupported. Likewise, Mr. Beckford does not argue that he was not aware of his appellate rights, he simply argues he did not receive the DHO's Report in a timely manner. Mr. Beckford does not provide copies of documents or any supportive evidence to demonstrate that he attempted to appeal or otherwise question in writing his loss of GCT, telephone, commissary or visitation privileges or his disciplinary transfer in any manner. Certainly the loss of these privileges (which occurred as a result of the DHO's sanctions) and his transfer did not go unnoticed by Mr. Beckford. Receipt of the DHO report or not, David Beckford was aware of, and endured the DHO's sanctions, but yet did not file any administrative remedy challenging their imposition without the receipt of the DHO report. Accordingly, based on the record before the Court, because the BOP's Central Office affirmed the rejection of Petitioner's administrative remedy as untimely without excuse, so must this Court.

B. Due Process Analysis

Notwithstanding David Beckford's failure to exhaust, and having reviewed the record in this action, the Court observes that, it we were to reach the merits of Mr. Beckford's petition, we would deny it.

Federal prisoners have a liberty interest in statutory good time credits. See Vega v. United States, 493 F.3d 310, 314 (3d Cir. 2007). In Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2975, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974), the Court observed that, while inmates are entitled to a fair process before GCT may be removed, prison disciplinary hearings "are not part of a criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply." An inmate receives adequate due process in an institutional disciplinary proceeding where GCT credits are at risk if given: "(1) advance written notice of the disciplinary charges; (2) an opportunity, when consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals, to call witnesses and present documentary evidence . . .; and (3) a written statement by the factfinder of the evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action." Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454, 105 S.Ct. 2768, 2773, 86 L.Ed.2d 356 (1985). If these protections are provided and there is "some evidence" to support the resolution of the disciplinary charge, then the Due Process Clause's procedural requirements have been met. Id. at 454, 105 S.Ct. at 2773. The determination of whether the standard is satisfied "does not require examination of the entire record, independent assessment of the credibility of witnesses, or weighing of the evidence. Instead, the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board." Id. at 455 - 56, 105 S.Ct. at 2774. The standard is met if there was a modicum of evidence from which the conclusion of the tribunal could be deduced.

Id. Under Hill, judicial review of a prison disciplinary decision is limited to ensuring that the prisoner was afforded certain procedures, the action against him was not arbitrary, and that the ultimate decision has some evidentiary support. Id.

Here, the record shows that Mr. Beckford was afforded all of the procedural rights to which he was entitled under Wolff. While Mr. Beckford believes there to have been insufficient evidence to prove that the cellphone charger was his, especially after claiming that another inmate who was later found with a cellphone in his possessions had planted the device in his property, that does not prevent the DHO from finding him guilty of the offense charged. At the DHO hearing Mr. Beckford was advised of his rights, he was given the opportunity to call staff and inmate witnesses but declined to do so. While he claims in his Traverse that he was advised by unidentified inmates that another inmate had planted the cellphone charger in his property, this information was not provided to the DHO. David Beckford, like all BOP inmates who reside at a prison camp, dormitory setting or have a cellmate, are aware that they must keep their area free of contraband. A cellphone charger was found beneath David Beckford's mattress. Thus, the Court finds that there was more than sufficient evidence to support the DHO's finding that Mr. Beckford had committed the prohibited act as charged. Mr. Beckford failed to proffer any sufficiently reliable contradictory evidence other than his self-serving statement that inmate Kimley had set him up.*fn3 Because the due process procedures of Wolff were fully adhered to and there was "some evidence" to support the DHO's finding that David Beckford committed the prohibited act of Possessing a Hazardous Tool, Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief.

V. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (doc. 1) will be denied. Since a certificate of appealability is not needed to appeal this dismissal of a habeas petition filed under § 2241, Burkey v. Marberry, 556 F.3d 142, 146 (3d Cir. 2009), Mr. Beckford need not apply for one with this Court or the Third Circuit Court of Appeals before seeking to appeal this decision.

An appropriate Order follows.

ORDER

NOW, THIS 4th DAY OF MAY, 2010, in accordance with the foregoing Memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AS FOLLOWS:

1. David Beckford's Petition for Habeas Corpus (doc. 1) is denied.

2. The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case.

A. RICHARD CAPUTO United States District Judge


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