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Shane N Townsend v. Warden

January 30, 2013

SHANE N TOWNSEND, PETITIONER
v.
WARDEN, FCC LEWISBURG, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Caputo)

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

Petitioner Shane Townsend is a federal prisoner presently incarcerated at the Allenwood United States Penitentiary in White Deer, Pennsylvania. On March 28, 2012, Mr. Townsend filed this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241,*fn1 to challenge a decision issued by a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) finding that he violated Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regulations which resulted in the loss of good conduct time.*fn2 He seeks expungement of the incident report and the restoration of his good time credits. The petition is ripe for disposition. Also pending before the Court are two motions for temporary restraining orders filed by Mr. Townsend seeking to prevent the BOP from transferring him to a facility outside the Middle District of Pennsylvania prior to the resolution of his petition. For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus will be denied as well as Mr. Townsend's motions for preliminary injunction.

II. Background

On April 20, 2011, Lt. Taylor issued Mr. Townsend an Incident Report charging him with "Killing," a violation of BOP Code No. 100. Specifically, the Incident Report alleged the following:

In conclusion of an SIS Investigation on April 20, 2011, it was determined that on January 12, 2011, at approximately 5:50 a.m., the J-1 Unit Officer activated his body alarm when he observed a physical altercation taking place between inmates Piankhi-Shabaka, Wo'se Reg. No. 03086-000 and Townsend, Shane, Reg. No. 13736-041. Specifically, staff observed inmate Piankhi-Shabaka swing a sock with an unknown object at Inmate Townsend. Both inmates then grabbed each other and continued to wrestle on the floor. Responding staff separated the inmates and placed them in hand restraints. Inmate Townsend was escorted to the Lieutenant's Office holding cell were he was medically assessed by Health Services staff. Inmate Piankhi-Shabaka was escorted to Health Services to be medically assessed by Health Services staff. During the assessment, Health Services staff noted inmate Piankhi-Shabaka was unresponsive and not breathing. Life saving measures were performed by medical staff until EMS services arrived at approximately 6:42 a.m. The EMS administered life saving procedures which was met with negative results. At approximately 7:01 a.m. inmate Piankhi-Shabaka was pronounced deceased by the On-call Emergency Room Medical Doctor. The autopsy report by the Medical Examiner concluded the cause of death was asphyxia, due to neck compression. (Doc. 11-2, Respondents' Exs. at ECF p. 15.)

The following day Mr. Townsend appeared before the Unit Disciplinary Committee (UDC). (Doc. 11-2 at ECF pp. 15-18.) He told the members UDC that after inmate Piankhi-Shabaka attacked him with boiling water and a lock in a sock, they "wrestled a bit" while he tried to keep inmate Piankhi-Shabaka away from him. He stated his actions were in "self defense" and that he "did not attack" PiankhiShabaka. (Id. at ECF pp. 15-16.)

Due to the seriousness of the offense, the UDC referred the incident to the DHO for resolution. (Id. at ECF p. 15.) The UDC did not reach a determination whether Mr. Townsend had violated BOP regulations, and the UDC administered no punishment on that day. Mr. Townsend was given notice of the hearing scheduled before the DHO and advised of his rights with respect to that hearing. (Id. at ECF pp. 36-37.) At that time, Mr. Townsend indicated he did not wish to call any witnesses on his behalf but he did request the assistance of a staff representative, Mr. Rossignol. (Id. at ECF p. 36.) Mr. Rossignol received written notice of his duties as a staff representative. (Id. at ECF p. 38.) He was advised that his "role is to help the inmate present the best defense possible to the charged violations," "consult[ ] with the inmate," and be familiar "with all reports relative to the charge against the inmate." (Id. at 38.) He was advised to "present any evidence favorable to the inmate's defense", and that he may request "additional time" to prepare for the hearing if needed. (Id.)

On April 29, 2011, DHO Lane conducted Mr. Townsend's disciplinary hearing. (Id. at ECF pp. 8- 12.) As requested, Mr. Rossignol appeared as his representative. (Id. at ECF p. 8.) Mr. Townsend did not call any witnesses or present any documentation in his defense. (Id. at ECF p. 9.) At the outset of the hearing, Mr. Townsend confirmed he understood his due process rights and that both he and Mr. Mr. Rossignol "stated [they] were ready to proceed". (Id.)

Mr. Rossignol testified that he reviewed the video footage of the incident. (Id. at ECF p. 10.) He then described the events of the video. He reported seeing inmate Piankhi-Shabaka heat something in the microwave and place something "in [his] waist". (Id. at ECF p. 10 and p. 20.) After retrieving something from the microwave, inmate Piankhi-Shabaka walked with increasing speed towards the ice machine while raising his right arm as if he was going to strike something. (Id.) He reports "the stairs were obstructing the incident." (Id.) Mr. Rossignol reported seeing a set of legs rolling on the floor and observed staff running in the unit towards the incident where "something is occurring." (Id.) Mr. Townsend was then seen being escorted from the scene by staff while inmate Piankhi-Shabaka was escorted from the scene in a wheelchair with his head "slumped" over to one side. (Id.)

Mr. Townsend testified in his own defense. He said that inmate PiankhiShabaka, his cellmate, had previously been "disrespectful" and asked him to leave the cell. (Id. at ECF p. 10.) On the day of the incident, inmate Piankhi-Shabaka initiated the physical altercation between the two by throwing hot water on him and hitting him with a sock with a lock in it. (Id.) Mr. Townsend testified that he did not intend to kill his cellmate, but rather was "trying to 'hold onto' inmate PiankhiShabaka so staff could get him." (Id. at ECF p. 21.) Mr. Townsend testified he "may have held [inmate Piankhi-Shakaba] in the neck area." (Id.)

At the disciplinary hearing DHO Lane "used some evidence contained in staff memorandum referencing the incident." (Id. at ECF p. 10.) Staff members responding to the incident reported that although the two inmates were given a direct order to cease fighting, they failed to do so. (Id. at ECF p. 10.) Officer Shultz's memorandum noted the physical altercation between the two cellmates occurred following a verbal dispute. (Id.) He also reported inmate Piankhi-Shabaka struck Mr. Townsend first and then both inmates began "to grab each other and strike each other with fists. Both inmates fell to the ground and continued to grab each other around the head and body." (Id.) Officer Vasquez, who also responded to the incident, filed a memorandum reporting that it "appeared" that Mr. Townsend was "resisting staff and would not let go of inmate Piankhi-Shabaka." (Id.) Officer Rivera, reported giving the inmates a direct order to stop fighting but that Mr. Townsend "continued to fight." (Id.) "Officer Rivera tried to pull [Mr. Townsend] off inmate Piankhi-Shabaka, but [he] would not let go." (Id.) A fourth staff member, "Recreation Specialist Connelly stated he observed Officer Headley pull [Mr. Townsend] off inmate Piankhi-Shabaka." (Id.) Additionally, while restraining Mr. Townsend on the floor, Mr. Connelly reported Mr. Townsend yelling at inmate Piankhi-Shabaka "something to the effect of 'That's what you get bitch. I'm getting out. Your bitch ass will stay in prison forever. Fuck your bitch ass.'" (Id.)

The DHO also remarked that he used "expert information contained in inmate Piankhi-Shabaka's autopsy report" as evidence of Mr. Townsend's guilt. (Id.) The Medical Examiner ruled inmate Piankhi-Shabaka's death a "homicide." The cause of death was listed as "asphyxia, due to neck compression." (Id.)

On June 3, 2011, Mr. Townsend received a copy of a report with the DHO's decision. (Id. at ECF p. 12.) He was "informed the element of the prohibited act of killing, Code 100, is to deprive of life." (Id. at ECF p. 11.) Relying on "the incident report and investigation," staff memorandum referencing the incident, the autopsy report, as well as Mr. Townsend's admission that he "may have held inmate PiankhiShabaka in the neck area," DHO Lane found Mr. Townsend guilty of violating BOP Code 100 offense, killing. (Id. at ECF pp. 9-11.) DHO Lane noted that "[a]lthough [Mr. Townsend] said this was not an intentional act there is significant evidence that inmate Piankhi-Shabaka was choked until unconscious." (Id.) DHO Lane wrote that "whether intentional or not, holding someone around the neck has the possibility of causing death due to asphyxia. The DHO believes [Mr. Townsend] knew [he] was harming inmate Pianki-Shabaka by holding him around his neck." (Id.) The DHO also questioned how Mr. Townsend ...


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