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Thomas v. Potteiger

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 15, 2014

VINCENT THOMAS Petitioner,
v.
MICHAEL POTTEIGER, et al., Respondents.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, District Judge.

I. Introduction

On December 2, 2014, Vincent Thomas, an inmate at the state correctional institution in Dallas, Pennsylvania, filed this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is challenging the continued refusal of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole to grant him parole, asserting he is being denied parole for "unconstitutional reasons" and that the Board has violated the doctrine of separation of powers. He seeks his immediate release, or in the alternative, a new parole hearing. ( Id., ECF p. 33).

We have jurisdiction under section 2254 to entertain constitutional challenges to parole decisions, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Coady v. Vaughn, 251 F.3d 480, 485 (3d Cir.2001), but for the reasons that follow, the Petition will be summarily denied.

II. Background

Petitioner is currently serving a twelve-to forty-year sentence for unspecified sex offense(s). (Doc. 1, ECF p. 5). In December 1993, the Board denied Thomas parole on the bases that he is a "habitual offender, " that the "instant offense" was assaultive, " that he had a "very high assaultive behavior potential, " the "victim injury" and Petitioner's "need for treatment." ( Id., ECF p. 14). His failure to participate in and benefit from sex offender treatment program and the unfavorable recommendation of the Department of Corrections (DOC) were also given as reasons to refuse parole. ( Id. )

In 1994, 1995 and twice in 1996 the Board considered Thomas for parole, but ultimately denied his release. ( Id., ECF pp. 15-18). In January 2001, the Board again reviewed Thomas for parole but did not grant him parole. ( Id., ECF p. 19). The Board set his rehearing date to take place after January 2003. He was advised that at that time the Board would review his file and consider whether he had participated in and successfully completed a sex offender treatment program; maintained a favorable recommendation for parole from prison officials; his misconduct record; and whether he completed the DOC's prescriptive programs. ( Id. ) The Board also noted it would consider his "denial of essential elements of [his] sex offenses" and that "offender's written version of offenses [was] to be available at time of review." ( Id. )

In May 2002, the Board modified its 2001 decision setting his next review date for after January 2005. ( Id., p. 20). At this next review, the Board stated it would review his file and determine whether he successfully completed a sex offender treatment program, maintained the DOC's favorable recommendation for parole, and whether he maintained a clear misconduct record and completed the DOC's prescriptive program(s). ( Id. ) In August 2002, the Board modified its May 2002 decision to reflect the following:

FOLLOWING AN INTERVIEW WITH YOU AND REVIEW OF YOUR FILE, AND HAVING CONSIDERED ALL MATTERS REQUIRED PURSUANT TO THE PAROLE ACT OF 1941, AS AMENDED, 61 P.S. § 331.1 ET SEQ., THE BOARD IN THE EXERCISE OF ITS DISCRETION, HAS DETERMINED THAT YOUR RELEASE ON PAROLE WOULD CONSTITUTE AN UNREASONABLE RISK TO THE SAFETY OF THE PUBLIC AND AN INJURY TO THE INTERESTS OF THE COMMONWEALTH. THEREFORE, YOU ARE REFUSED PAROLE AT THIS TIME. THE REASONS FOR THE BOARD'S DECISION INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
THE NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE OFFENSE COMMITTED, AND YOUR MINIMIZATION OF THEIR SERIOUSNESS; YOUR PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY.
* * *
AT YOUR NEXT INTERVIEW, THE BOARD WILL REVIEW YOUR FILE AND CONSIDER: WHETHER YOU HAVE SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED A TREATMENT PROGRAM FOR: SEX OFFENDERS. WHETHER YOU HAVE MAINTAINED A FAVORABLE RECOMMENDATION FOR PAROLE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. WHETHER YOU HAVE MAINTAINED A CLEAR CONDUCT RECORD AND COMPLETED THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS' PRESCRIPTIVE PROGRAM(S).

( Id., ECF p. 21). In October 2002, the Board modified its August 2002 decision but ultimately decided not to grant Thomas parole. ( Id., ECF pp. 22-23). In 2005, Thomas was again reviewed for, but denied, parole. ( Id., ECF pp. 24-25). In 2007, 2010 and 2011, Thomas was again denied parole. ( Id., ECF pp. 26-29).

In October 2014, the Board again considered Thomas for parole. The Board cited the following reasons in support of ...


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