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Turnage v. Bledsoe

September 9, 2010

JOSEPH TURNAGE, PETITIONER,
v.
WARDEN B.A. BLEDSOE RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie

MEMORANDUM

Background

On September 8, 2008, Joseph Turnage ("Petitioner") filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241*fn1 while incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (USP-Lewisburg).*fn2 On November 6, 2008, the government filed its response, and on November 21, 2008, Petitioner filed a traverse.

Petitioner, a District of Columbia offender serving a prison term of 20 to 100 years, challenges adverse parole decisions. Because the denial of parole is supported by a rational basis articulated in the pertinent written decisions, the habeas corpus petition will be denied.

Background

On August 1, 1984, Petitioner was sentenced by the District of Columbia Superior Court to a 100-year term of imprisonment, with a minimum term of 20 years, for Assault with Intent to Rape While Armed, Carrying a Dangerous Weapon, Rape While Armed, Assault with Intent to Commit Sodomy While Armed, Armed Robbery, and Assault with Intent to Commit Robbery While Armed. On May 19, 1998, following an initial parole eligibility hearing, the D.C. Board of Parole denied Petitioner parole, and scheduled reconsideration for parole in April 2000. This decision, which was outside the parole guidelines recommendation, was based on Petitioner's "need for programming to remain crime free in the community." (Dkt. Entry 1-2 at 19--20.)

On August 5, 1998, pursuant to the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, the United States Parole Commission ("Parole Commission") assumed jurisdiction over parole decisions for D.C. offenders, and the D.C. Board of Parole was abolished. Pub. L. No. 105-33, § 11231(a), 111 Stat. 712, 745 (1997) (codified as amended at D.C. Code § 24-131 (2001)). Consequently, the Parole Commission conducted Petitioner's second parole hearing. (See Dkt. Entry 1-2 at 22.) Although acknowledging that application of the 1987 D.C. Board of Parole guidelines indicated that Petitioner should be paroled at that time, the Parole Commission concluded that the "aggravated nature of [the] offense behavior" (involving the repeated rape and sodomy of the victim) made Petitioner a "more serious risk than indicated by [his] point score."*fn3 (Id.) The Parole Commission indicated that Petitioner would need to complete "the Breaking Barriers program and continue AA programming prior to further reconsideration of release." (Id.) The Parole Commission additionally noted that "[a] psychological evaluation... shall be completed to address program needs in the community and the likelihood of similar type behavior." (Id.)

On July 9, 2001, after another rehearing, the Parole Commission denied parole and continued for a rehearing in April 2002. (Id. at 23.) The Parole Commission again found Petitioner's score indicated that parole should be granted but that a departure from the guidelines was nevertheless warranted because Petitioner was still "a more serious risk than indicated by [his] point score." (Id.) The Parole Commission emphasized the "predatory criminal behavior" of Petitioner's offense in that he "raped and sodomized [his] victim at knifepoint, after stalking her on the city streets." (Id.) The Parole Commission further noted that Petitioner admitted to the D.C. Board of Parole that he had sexually assaulted two other women, but then denied all three incidents. (Id.) The Parole Commission concluded that Petitioner needed to complete the "Breaking Barriers Program and continue NA/AA programming prior to further consideration of release."*fn4 (Id.)

A rehearing was held the following year, and on June 3, 2002 the Parole Commission once again denied Petitioner release and continued for a rehearing in May 2004. (Id. at 24.) Again, the Parole Commission found that a departure from the guidelines was warranted because Petitioner was "a more serious risk than indicated by [his] point score." (Id.) The Parole Commission noted that Petitioner committed multiple rapes; had not expressed remorse; was a violent sex offender; had a 1983 attempted rape conviction that the Parole Commission had not considered at his last hearing; and it was likely that he would engage in similar crimes if granted release. (Id.)

On April 30, 2004, following another rehearing, the Parole Commission again denied Petitioner parole and continued for a rehearing in April 2005. (Id. at 25.) Once again finding a departure from the guidelines was warranted, the Parole Commission, in addition to noting that Petitioner had committed multiple rapes and had shown no remorse, stated that Petitioner had not participated in sex offender treatment or counseling programs. (Id.) The Parole Commission advised Petitioner to become involved in programs "that will demonstrate that [Petitioner] [is] no longer a sexual predator." (Id.) The Parole Commission also requested the Bureau of Prisons to provide "a current psychological/psychiatric report 90 days prior to the next scheduled hearing which specifically addresses the prisoner's propensity to commit sexual offenses, his mental health status and diagnosis and treatment needs in the community." (Id.)

On May 3, 2005, Petitioner was again denied parole and continued for a rehearing in March 2008. (Id. at 27.) The Parole Commission stated that although Petitioner had admitted to committing the offense and had expressed remorse, he had not participated in sex offender treatment or counseling programs. (Id.) The Parole Commission concluded that Petitioner "[had] little insight into the factors that led [him] to sexually assault three separate victims," and that as a result Petitioner was a more serious risk to the community. (Id.) The Parole Commission recommended Petitioner "become involved in the CODE Program, which will address substance abuse, Anger management, Victim Awareness, and other programs geared towards self-improvement." (Id.) The Parole Commission also recommended that Petitioner seek mental health counseling in order to "demonstrate [his] willingness to participate in ongoing sex offender treatment, thereby minimizing [his] threat to the community." (Id.)

The Parole Commission most recently denied Petitioner's release on March 14, 2008, and continued his case for a rehearing in February 2011. (Id. at 28.) The Parole Commission again determined that Petitioner was a more serious risk than indicated by his score under the 1987 D.C. Board of Parole guidelines due to the fact he is not a participant in "Sex Offender Treatment or Counseling Program." (Id.) The written decision added that Petitioner continued to be a risk to commit similar offenses in that his "treatment needs" had yet to be addressed.

(Id.) The Parole Commission recommended that Petitioner "participate in the CODE Program and any other Mental Health Programs available in the ...


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