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Potocki v. Thomas

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 23, 2014

DEREK POTOCKI, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN THOMAS, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM

MALACHY E. MANNION, District Judge.

Derek Potocki, an inmate currently confined in the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, filed this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง2241. (Doc. 1). Potocki claims that his due process rights were violated during the course of a prison disciplinary hearing held on February 12, 2014, where he was found guilty of the prohibited act of Assault. Id . Specifically, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence used to find him guilty. Id . Potocki requests that his incident report be reversed and expunged from his record. Id . The petition is ripe for disposition and, for the reasons set forth below, will be denied.

Background

On January 23, 2014, Potocki was served with Incident Report No. 25407108 charging him with "Assaulting any person, " a Code 224 violation. (Doc. 7, Ex. 1, Att. B). The incident report, written by C. Adams, S.O.S., states:

On January 24, 2014 at approximately 1:20 pm this officer escorted I/m Potocki #XXXXX-XXX back to cell 117 from I/m Potocki's DHO hearing. I/m Potocki was visibly upset concerning his DHO hearing. I/m Potocki was then secured in cell 117 by this officer. This officer then removed the hand restraints from I/m Potocki and secured the food slot to cell 117. After securing the food slot to cell 117, I/m Potocki threw an unknown brown liquid under the cell door which struck this officer on both his pant legs and boots.

Id. The incident was referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for charges, but the agency declined to file charges in lieu of prison disciplinary sanctions. Id.

On January 24, 2014, Potocki appeared before the Unit Discipline Committee ("UDC"). (Doc. 7, Ex. 1, Att. B). There, Potocki was informed of his rights, and acknowledged that he understood those rights. Id . He stated that "[t]he door was closed the food tray was closed. I threw a glass of water at the wall and it went under the door. Review the camera. I want the present staff as a witness." Id . The UDC referred the charge to the Discipline Hearing Officer ("DHO"). Id . Upon conclusion of the UDC hearing, a staff member provided Potocki with a copy of the "Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing" form and a "Notice of Discipline Hearing Before the DHO" form. Id . Potocki refused to sign the forms. Id . The staff member informed Potocki of his right to have a staff representative, call witnesses, or present evidence before the DHO. Id . Potocki stated that he wished to be represented by Lieutenant Wagner, and he wished to call Officer Heater to testify as a witness. Id.

The DHO attempted to conduct a hearing on February 5, 2014, at which time Potocki informed the DHO for the first time that he wished to have his staff representative view the video footage of the incident. Id . Potocki also introduced three handwritten statements. Id . In the first statement, Potocki wrote "I threw water at the wall in my cell, not at the officer" and asserted that "this was no assault or attempted assault." Id . He asserted that the liquid he threw leaked under the door, and did not strike the officer. Id . In the second and third letters, Potocki asserted that the liquid he threw was clear, not brown as the officer stated.[1] Id.

On February 12, 2014, Potocki appeared for a hearing before the DHO and acknowledged that his staff representative, Mr. Ilgen, had viewed the video footage as requested.[2] Id . At the hearing, Potocki stated:

I did not intentionally assault the officer. I was upset after my DHO hearing and threw water at the wall in the cell. There's no way any of it went under the door and hit that officer. It's all lies. They're making it all up. This is misconduct, classification I. Somebody's going to pay for this.

Id. Potocki had requested officer Heater's testimony at the DHO hearing. Id . However, Officer Heater was employed at a different facility, and therefore was not called to testify. Id . Instead, after verifying its accuracy, a memorandum written by Officer Heater on January 23, 2014 was read aloud at the hearing. Id.

The DHO reviewed the video footage of the incident, and noted the following timeline:

1:30:03 PM The reporting officer is observed escorting inmate Potocki to his cell door.
1:30:16 PM The reporting officer unlocks the cell door. Inmate Potocki steps inside the cell, and the reporting officer secures (locks) the cell door. The reporting officer is observed speaking through the cell door to inmate Potocki.
1:30:45 PM The reporting officer unlocks the handcuff port/food slot door in the center of the cell door in order to remove Potocki's hand restraints. Inmate Potocki does not place his hand out of the handcuff port/food slot to have his hand restraints removed. The ...

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