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Elliot K. anderson v. Warden Bledsoe

July 31, 2012

ELLIOT K. ANDERSON, PETITIONER
v.
WARDEN BLEDSOE, : RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: : Hon. John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS MEMORANDUM IS AS FOLLOWS:

Petitioner Elliot K. Anderson ("Petitioner" or "Anderson"), an inmate presently confined at the United States Penitentiary Lewisburg ("USP Lewisburg") in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, initiated the above action pro se by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Petition") under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1.) He alleges that his right to due process was violated during disciplinary proceedings that resulted in a finding that he was guilty of the offense of Possession, Manufacture, or Introduction of a Weapon, Dangerous Chemical, Explosive or any Ammunition, in violation of Code 104.

By Order dated April 26, 2012, we directed service of the Petition on Respondent and directed Respondent to file an answer within twenty-one (21) days. (Doc. 4.) On May 17, 2012, Respondent filed a Response to the Petition (Doc. 5) along with supporting exhibits*fn1 (Doc. 5-1). Although our April 26 Order provided Anderson with the opportunity to file a reply brief (see Doc. 4 at 2 ¶ 4), the docket reflects that no reply brief has been filed. Accordingly, the Petition is fully briefed and ripe for review. For the reasons set forth herein, the Petition will be denied.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Anderson presently is serving a 210 month sentence imposed by the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida on February 13, 2003 for firearm related charges. (Doc. 5-1 at 1*fn2 , Romano Decl., ¶ 2; Attach. A.) As of the date of this Memorandum, the BOP Inmate Locator System reflects that his projected release date via good conduct time release is August 3, 2018.*fn3

On April 7, 2009, while Anderson was confined at the United States Penitentiary Hazelton ("USP Hazelton") in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, Incident Report #1856077 was delivered to him charging him with the offense of Possession, Manufacture, or Introduction of a Weapon, Dangerous Chemical, Explosive or any Ammunition, in violation of Code 104. (Doc. 5-1 at 12-13, Incident Report.) Reporting Officer T. Knotts provided the following description of the incident in the report:

On April 6, 2009 at approximately 1745, while conducting a random cell search of cell 23, which is occupied by inmate Anderson, Elliot reg. #29849-018 and inmate [ ], I found a homemade weapon made from a piece of melted plastic, approximately 6 1/2 inch[es] long, with a part of a brown glove and string as a handle and sharpened to a point on one end. The weapon was found inside two blanket[s] on the top bunk. The homemade weapon was confiscated. (Id. ¶ 11.)

On April 28, 2009, the Unit Discipline Committee ("UDC") referred the charge to the Discipline Hearing Officer ("DHO") for further hearing as the severity of the charges warranted consideration for sanctions higher than those the UDC can impose. (Id. § II ¶¶ 19, 21.) On the same date, Anderson was provided with a Notice of Discipline Hearing before the DHO (id. at 17) and an Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing Form (id. at 14).

A DHO hearing was conducted on May 2, 2009. (Id. at 7, DHO Report, § I ¶ B.) At the outset of the hearing, the DHO advised Anderson of his rights, and Anderson indicated that he understood them. (Id. § III ¶ B.) Anderson also waived his right to his previously requested staff representative. (Id. § II ¶ A; at 8 § V; at 17.) Anderson was afforded the opportunity to provide a statement, which he chose to do. (Id. at 7 § III ¶ B.) The following is the summary of his statement, as set forth in the DHO Report:

Inmate Anderson acknowledged receiving a copy of the incident report and stated he understood his rights before the DHO. DHO Lohr read aloud Section 11 of the Incident Report and asked Inmate Anderson if the report was true. Inmate Anderson stated that he was on the lower bunk and that it was not his knife. Anderson told the DHO inmate Haynes was supposed to have put it there and that he left for chow. (Id.) Anderson was provided with the opportunity to present witness testimony through the Notice of Discipline Hearing Form provided to him on April 28, 2009, but elected not to call any witnesses. (Id. at 17; at 7 § III ¶ C.) He also was afforded the opportunity to provide documentary evidence, but he stated that he had no documentary evidence to present. (Id. at 8 § III ¶ D, § V.) As such, as documented by the DHO, in addition to the Incident Report, the only other evidence before her for consideration was a digital photograph of the homemade weapon and the Chain of Custody Log dated April 6, 2009. (Id.)

Upon consideration of the evidence, the DHO determined that Anderson committed the prohibited act of Possession, Manufacture, or Introduction of a Weapon, Dangerous Chemical, Explosive or any Ammunition, in violation of Code 104. (Id. §§ IV, V.) The DHO sanctioned Anderson with the disallowance of forty (40) days of good conduct time; thirty (30) days of disciplinary segregation, with fifteen (15) days suspended pending 180 days of clear conduct; ninety (90) days loss of commissary privileges; and ninety (90) days loss of telephone privileges. (Id. at 9 § VI.)

II. DISCUSSION

The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides in pertinent part as follows: "No State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . . ." Federal inmates possess a liberty interest in good conduct time. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 555-57 (1974); Young v. Kann, 926 F.2d 1396, 1399 (3d Cir. 1991). Accordingly, "[h]abeas corpus relief is available to a prisoner who has been sanctioned in ...


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