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Riley v. Meeks

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 11, 2015

VICTOR RILEY, Petitioner,
v.
BOBBY L. MEEKS, et al., Respondents.

OPINION AND ORDER[1]

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

Pending before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Petitioner, federal prisoner Victor Riley, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2241. He is challenging a disciplinary action taken against him in which he lost good time credits. As relief, he seeks an order from this Court directing that his incident report be expunged so that he may be restored the good time credit he lost as a sanction.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny the petition.

I.

A. Relevant Factual Background

On November 28, 2010, Petitioner was designated at FCI Sandstone in Sandstone, Minnesota. On that date, an incident report was issued for misconduct alleged to have occurred at 11:25 a.m. at the I-Unit entrance. The reporting staff, Correctional Officer David Bliss, wrote:

While opening the unit door, to allow an inmate on crutches and a food service worker back into I-Unit, I was standing with my back to the left door frame, when I was startled by someone trying to slide behind and past me into the unit. When I turned around I advised the inmate, later identified as [Petitioner], that he was not going to be allowed to go back inside since he left for lunch early with the food service workers. At that point I advised [Petitioner] to step away from the doorway. [Petitioner] did not obey instead he kept his hand on the door. I then repeated my order to step away from the doorway. At this point [Petitioner] still would not step away from the door, so I informed [Petitioner] with two direct orders to step away from the doorway. While [Petitioner] pulled his hand back from the door, our forearms bumped each other['s] and [Petitioner] responded "don't put your hands on me, " and repeated "don't put your hands on me, " "don't ever touch me." I then informed [Petitioner] again why I was not allowing him back in the unit at that time. [Petitioner] then started to approach me with both fists clinched at his sides."

(Resp's Ex. 2, Discipline Hearing Officer Packet ("DHO Packet") for Incident Report at 6, ECF No. 14-4). This encounter was witnessed by Correctional Officer Nicholas Supinger, who wrote in a memorandum that Petitioner acted so aggressively that the officer unzipped his jacket and prepared to activate his body alarm. (Id. at 12-13). As a result of the incident, Petitioner was charged with Conduct Which Disrupts or Interferes With Security, prohibited act Code 299 (most like Threatening, prohibited act Code 203) and Refusing an Order, prohibited act Code 307.

Lieutenant Santini of FCI Sandstone investigated the incident and advised Petitioner of his rights. He recorded that Petitioner stated to him:

"I'm an orderly on the unit and I took the trash out early and the Officer let me out early." "I went to the 7-11 and got on the computer then I went to chow." "I think the Officer is racial because the 2 dudes he let in the unit were white." "I had grabbed the door." "The Officer bumped me." "I told him he was wrong for touching me." "I told him he just needed to tell me I couldn't come in and that would have been fine."

(Id. at 7).

Petitioner did not request that video evidence of the incident be reviewed by the investigator. He did request witnesses. The first witness told Lieutenant Santini: "Officer Bliss just put his arm out to stop [Petitioner] from going into the unit, he never put his hands on [Petitioner]." "Bliss is a pretty good CO[, ] he['s] strait to deal with." The second witness stated: "Man I was closer to J-unit than I-unit." "The only thing I saw was Officer Bliss put his arm out to stop [Petitioner] from sliding into the unit." "Never saw him touch [Petitioner] just put his arm out to stop him and I walked away when [Petitioner] started in on Bliss." (Id.)

Lieutenant Santini referred the matter to the Unit Discipline Committee ("UDC") for disposition. Petitioner had a hearing before the UDC on December 2, 2010. At that time, Petitioner requested, for the first time, that video evidence of the incident be reviewed. The UDC found that Petitioner had committed the prohibited acts as alleged, and referred the matter to the DHO. (Id. at 6-7).

Petitioner's initial DHO hearing was held on December 16, 2010. The DHO inquired about the status of the video that Petitioner requested be reviewed during the UDC hearing, and was erroneously informed by staff that the video had not been saved. In light of that information, the DHO sent the Incident Report back to the UDC with a recommendation that only the Refusing an Order, Code 307, charge be handled. (Id. at 1-2). The next day, on December 17, 2010, a staff member provided the DHO with an update concerning the video issue, informing the DHO that an error had been made. Instead of staff failing to save the video, the staff member informed the DHO that there was never any video to save and/or review. (I ...


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