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Jose Daniel Cruz Aponte v. Bureau of Prisons

May 22, 2012

JOSE DANIEL CRUZ APONTE, PETITIONER
v.
BUREAU OF PRISONS, AND ARCHIE
LONGLEY, RESPONDENTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly

OPINION

Jose Daniel Cruz Aponte, ("Petitioner") is a federal prisoner currently confined in the Federal Correctional Institution at McKean ("FCI-McKean"), which is located within this judicial district. He is serving an aggregate sentence of 235 months imposed by the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico as a consequence of him being convicted in June, 1998, of various drug crimes.

Petitioner has filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 ("the Petition"), challenging a disciplinary sanction imposed for his attack upon another inmate. The sanction included the disallowance of 27 days of Good Conduct Time ("GCT") which necessarily impacts the amount of time Petitioner will serve in prison. Petitioner's sole claim is that his procedural due process rights were violated in the course of the disciplinary proceedings because the United States Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") did not comply with certain time requirements listed in the BOP's regulations for conducting disciplinary proceedings.

The first problem with Petitioner's argument is that the BOP regulations do not necessarily define what procedures are required by the Fifth Amendment procedural due process clause of the United States Constitution. Hence, a mere violation of the BOP regulations regarding timing does not result in the denial of procedural due process under the Constitution. Even if it were otherwise, Petitioner would still not prevail. Because this is a habeas petition and Petitioner must establish that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, and because Petitioner cannot show prejudice from any claimed procedural due process violations occurring during the disciplinary proceedings given the overwhelming evidence of his guilt, including a videotape capturing Petitioner's striking of the fellow inmate, Petitioner's due process claims do not merit the grant of habeas relief. The Petition will be denied.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The facts are mostly taken from the Answer.

On March 29, 2009, Incident Report No. 1850596 was issued, charging Petitioner with Assaulting Any Person in violation of Code 224. ECF No. 13-1. Incident Report No. 1850596 charged Petitioner with the following:

On 03-29-2009 at 7:30 pm I identified inmate Cruz-Aponte #14797-069 on the CCTV as being involved in an assault on inmate (name and Register Number withheld) by the hobby craft bathroom. Specifically, inmate Cruz-Aponte is seen striking inmate (name withheld) buttocks area with his right foot. Inmate Cruz-Aponte then helped force inmate (name withheld) into the bathroom where he was assaulted by other inmates.

ECF No. 13-1 at 20. On March 30, 2009, the processing of Incident Report No. 1850596 was suspended pending a referral to the United States Attorney's Office for possible criminal prosecution. Id., at 21. On April 2, 2009, the United States Attorney's Office released the Incident Report to FCI-McKean for internal disciplinary action, i.e., declined to criminally prosecute Petitioner. Id., at 21.

On April 2, 2009, Incident Report No. 1850596 was delivered to Petitioner. Id., at 20.

Upon delivery of the Incident Report to Petitioner, an investigation was conducted. Petitioner was advised of his right to remain silent during the disciplinary process. Id., at 21. After the Incident Report was read to him, Petitioner indicated that he understood the charges against him, and he stated, "I don't know why they were fighting. I helped my brother. I just want to go to a Pen." Id., at p. 21. Petitioner did not request any witnesses. Id. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigating Lieutenant referred the Incident Report to the Unit Discipline Committee ("UDC") for an initial hearing. Id.

On April 3, 2009, the UDC convened for an initial hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, the UDC referred Incident Report No. 1850596 to the Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") for final disposition. The UDC recommended that if Petitioner was found to have violated Code 224, that he should be sanctioned by: disallowance of GCT, disciplinary segregation ("DS"), and disciplinary transfer.

After the initial hearing, Petitioner was advised of his rights at the DHO Hearing. ECF No. 13-1 at 23. Petitioner waived his right to a staff representative and to witnesses at the DHO Hearing. ECF No. 13-1 at 25.

On April 9, 2009, the DHO hearing for Incident Report No. 1850596 was held at FCI-McKean. ECF No. 13-1 at 27 to 29. Petitioner was advised of his rights before the DHO. He declined to make any statement to the DHO. Id., at 27. The DHO noted that in addition to the Incident Report and Petitioner's oral statement, he also considered a videotape of the incident. Id., at 28. At the conclusion of the hearing, the DHO determined that Petitioner committed the prohibited act of assault in violation of Code 224. In reaching its decision, the DHO relied upon the written statement of the reporting staff member indicating that on March 29, 2009, at about 7:20 p.m., Petitioner was identified on closed circuit television as being part of an assault on another inmate outside of the hobby craft restroom. Petitioner was observed striking the other inmate in the buttocks area with his right foot. He then helped force the inmate into the restroom where he was ...


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