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Peralta-Collado v. Hufford

October 7, 2010

RAFAEL PERALTA-COLLADO, PETITIONER
v.
H.L. HUFFORD, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Muir

(Petition Filed 7/22/10)

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Rafael Peralta-Collado, an inmate confined in the Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution (FCI-Schuylkill), Minersville, Pennsylvania, filed this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Named as Respondent is H.L. Hufford, Warden at FCI-Schuylkill. Petitioner claims that his due process rights were violated at FCI-Schuylkill during the course of a prison disciplinary hearing, where he was found guilty of the prohibited act of Fighting with Another Person, a violation of Disciplinary Code Section 201. Specifically, he claims that the Discipline Hearing Officer ("DHO") failed to review surveillance video which may have contained evidence to support his claim that he was defending himself against the assault of two other inmates. (Doc. 1, petition). The petition is ripe for disposition and, for the reasons that follow, will be denied.

Background

On August 27, 2009, at approximately 7:05 a.m., petitioner was served with Incident Report No. 1910578 for Fighting with Another Person, a violation of Disciplinary Code Section 201. (Doc. 8, Ex. C, Incident Report). The incident report, which was written by Lieutenant Joseph G. Reed, reads as follows:

Description of Incident (Date: 08/27/09 Time: 7:05 a.m. Staff became aware of incident)

On 08/27/09, at approx. 7:05 am, I was in the sallyport of the Special Housing Unit, waiting to exit. I was looking in the direction of the Education Department and I observed two inmates, identified as Peralta (#23274-069/3B) and Sylvestre (58186-054/ 2B), separate themselves from the other inmates who were walking on the sidewalk and they moved to the sidewalks leading to the HSU and SHU. I observed the two inmates circle each other, similar to the posturing of boxers. I made a call for assistance via radio for a fight in progress on the sidewalk, outside the Education Department. As I was making the transmission, the two inmates began to exchange punches with each other. Both inmates were in a fighting stance and both engaged in exchanging punches. As I concluded my transmission, the sallyport door opened, and I ran to the location of Peralta and Sylvestre. The inmates separated on their own prior to the arrival of staff. Upon the arrival of additional staff, I identified the two participants. Peralta and Sylvestre were escorted to the HSU where they were examined, treated, and photographed. Peralta required four stitches for a laceration behind his right ear. Sylvestre sustained a scratch on the middle finger of his right hand.

Id. On September 1, 2009, petitioner appeared before the Unit Disciplinary Committee ("UDC"). Id. Due to the seriousness of the charges, the UDC referred the charge to the Discipline Hearing Officer (DHO), recommending a transfer to a secure facility. Id.

Petitioner was advised of his rights before the DHO by a staff member on September 1, 2009. (Doc. 8, Ex. D, Inmate Rights at DHO hearing). Petitioner did not request any witnesses or staff representative for his hearing. Id.

On September 15, 2009, Peralta appeared for his discipline hearing. (Doc. 8, Ex. E, Discipline Hearing Officer Report). The DHO determined that petitioner had received advance written notice of the charge, and was advised of his rights before the DHO by a staff member on August 27, 2009. Id. Petitioner did not request a staff representative or any witnesses. Id. Petitioner did not raise any procedural issues or present written documentation as evidence. During the hearing, petitioner stated "The report is true, I was in the chow hall and when I came out he (Inmate SYLVESTRE) stopped me and someone came from behind and hit me and I tried to get away." Id.

The documentary evidence which the DHO considered in making his determination included the Incident Report and Investigation; Memoranda dated August 27, 2009, from Joseph Reed, Lt. Hansel, W. Gottshall and J. McKivigan; and photographs taken by E. Fetterolf, SIS Technician. Id. The specific evidence taken from the relied upon documentary evidence was as follows:

During this discipline hearing regarding inmate PERALTA-COLLADO, R., Register No. 23274-069, for the charge(s) of Fighting with Another Person, Code(s) 201, the following information was evidentiary and documented by the DHO in his findings. PERALTA-COLLADO's, involvement in the incident as noted in Section 11 of Incident Report 23274-069, as provided by Joseph G. Reed, Lt., was viewed as inculpatory in this case. Paraphrased, Lt. Reed writes: On 8/27/09, at approx. 7:05 am, I was in the sallyport of the Special Housing Unit waiting to exit. I was looking in the direction of the Education Department and I observed two inmates, identified as PERALTA (#23274-069/3B) and SYLVESTRE (58186-054/2B), separated themselves from the other inmates who were walking on the sidewalk and they moved to the sidewalks leading to the HSU and SHU. I observed the two inmates circle each other, similar to the posturing of boxers. I made a call for assistance via radio for a fight in progress on the sidewalk, outside the Education Department. As I was making the transmission, the two inmates began to exchange punches with each other. Both inmates were in a fighting stance and both engaged in exchanging punches. As I concluded my transmission, the sallyport door opened and I ran to the location of PERALTA and SYLVESTRE. The inmates separated on their own prior to the arrival of staff. Upon the arrival of additional staff, I identified the two participants. PERALTA and SYLVESTRE were escorted to the HSU where they were examined, treated and photographed. PERALTA required four stitches for a laceration behind his right ear. SYLVESTRE sustained a scratch on his middle finger of his right hand.

Inculpatory evidence in the form of Injury Assessment Report dated 8/27/09, corroborated the evidence cited in the incident report in this case. The assessment reports indicated both inmates were examined and treated for injuries consistent with those of having been involved in mutual physical altercation. Inmate PERALTA was treated for a cut behind his right ear. Inmate SYLVESTRE was treated for an abrasion to his right finger/hand. Photographs were taken by Officer Fetterolf dated 8/27/09 support the assessment reports. The DHO believed the information provided by the staff members involved in this case, as they derived no known benefit by providing false information.

Upon questioning by the DHO, inmate PERALTACOLLADO, admitted the charge(s). He elaborated upon his plea by ...


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