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Curtin v. Ebbert

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

December 18, 2014

TALBOT CURTIN, Petitioner
v.
WARDEN DAVID J. EBBERT, Respondent

MEMORANDUM

William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

I. Introduction

Talbot Curtin, an inmate confined at the United States Penitentiary in Canaan, Pennsylvania, has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding where he was found guilty of receiving money from another inmate. The other inmate had arranged for a friend of his to put $100 in Petitioner’s prison account. Petitioner was sanctioned with the loss of thirteen days’ good conduct time.

Petitioner makes the following claims: (1) he is actually innocent of the offense because he did not participate in, or have knowledge of, the transaction; (2) Petitioner did not receive the incident report within twenty-four hours of the staff’s becoming aware of the incident; (3) the charge should have been handled by the Unit Discipline Committee (UDC) but was instead improperly referred to the Discipline Hearing Officer (DHO); (4) an “Investigation Hold” was improperly placed on $100 in Petitioner’s prison account; (5) Petitioner is being treated differently than other inmates because other inmates received lesser sanctions for the same offense; and (6) the privacy rights of the friend of the other inmate were violated when that person’s name and e-mail address were used in the incident report and the DHO report.

In part, Respondent opposes the petition by arguing that Petitioner has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and because some evidence supports the conclusion of the DHO that Petitioner committed the offense charged.

II. Background

In an incident report dated December 3, 2013, Petitioner was charged with “accepting money from another inmate, ” a violation of Code 328. (Doc. 11-1, ECF p. 9). Code 328 prohibits an inmate from “[g]iving money or anything of value to, or accepting money or anything of value from, another inmate or any other person without staff authorization.” (Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Program Statement 5270.09, p. 51). The reporting officer described the incident as follows:

On December 3, 2013 at approximately 10:00 a.m., the SIS office conducted a review of inmate Trust Fund transactions. This review revealed that inmate [redacted] used his e-mail account to instruct his approved visitor to place a total of $100.00 on the trust fund account of inmate CURTIN, TALBOT, #02077-049. This was determined by the following information.
On July 23, 2013, at 6:36 p.m., inmate [redacted] wrote an email to [his approved visitor]. In the body of the e-mail, inmate [redacted] instructed [the approved visitor] to place $100.00 on the trust fund account of inmate CURTIN. On July 23, 2013, at 9:05 pm, inmate CURTIN, TALBOT, #02077-049 received $100.00 deposited via Western Union, from [the approved visitor]. Visiting Records show [redacted] is an approved visitor of inmate [redacted].

(Doc. 1-2, ECF p. 5; Doc. 11-1, ECF p. 9). Petitioner said “No comment” to the investigating officer when offered an opportunity to speak. (Doc. 11-1, ECF p. 10). The incident report was referred to the UDC for further disposition. (Id.). A correctional counselor, acting as a one-member UDC, referred the report to the DHO for further hearing. (Id., ECF p. 14). Petitioner also said he had no comment when he was before the UDC. (Id.).

On December 10, 2013, the DHO hearing was held. According to the DHO, Petitioner “elected to make the following allocution on his behalf before the DHO”: “Yeah, he sent me the money.” (Doc. 11-1. ECF p. 18). The DHO made the following findings of fact:

The DHO finds based on some facts that on July 23, 2013, CURTIN received money from a third party agent at email [redacted] on behalf of another inmate. Further the other inmate used the TRULINCS (or Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System) to orchestrate the deposit.

(Doc. 11-1, ECF p. 19). As additional findings, the DHO then quoted the language from the incident report, which we have just quoted above. The DHO also relied on “CURTIN’s verbal admittance to the DHO ‘Yeah, he sent me the money.’” (Id.). The DHO concluded his fact finding with:

The DHO considered all evidence and has drawn the conclusion based on some facts the prohibited act of Giving/Receiving Money or Anything of Value to/from Another Inmate, or any Person ...

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