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Staine v. Oddo

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 17, 2017

LIONEL STAINE, Petitioner
v.
L.J. ODDO, Respondent

          MEMORANDUM

          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         On February 8, 2016, Lionel Staine, a prisoner formerly confined at the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex in White Deer, Pennsylvania, [1] filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging his loss of good conduct time (GCT) after a disciplinary conviction for assault, possession of a weapon, threatening another with bodily harm, and refusing to obey an order. (ECF No. 1, Pet.) As relief, Mr. Staine seeks expungement of the disciplinary conviction and the reinstatement of forfeited GCT. He has paid the $5.00 filing fee.

         The government filed a Response on March 16, 2016. (ECF No. 5, Resp.) Mr. Staine filed a Reply on April 14, 2016. (ECF No. 8, Reply.) This matter is now fully briefed and the Court has considered all submissions by the parties.

         For the reasons stated herein, the Petition will be denied.

         II. Standard of Review

         A challenge to a disciplinary action resulting in the loss of good conduct time is properly brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, “as the action could affect the duration of the petitioner's sentence.” Queen v. Miner, 530 F.3d 253, 254 n. 2 (3d Cir. 2008).

         Exhaustion of available administrative remedies is a prerequisite to habeas corpus relief under § 2241.[2] See Moscato v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 98 F.3d 757, 760 (3d Cir. 1996).

         III. Background

         On April 21, 2014, while housed at USP-Canaan, staff ordered Mr. Staine and his cellmate (Reid) out of their cell to submit to a pat search. (ECF No. 1, Pet., Discipline Hearing Officer (DHO) Report, p. 19; see also ECF No. 5-1, Exs. to Resp. to the Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Incident Report No. 2574103, p. 23.) Officer D. Smith offers the following eyewitness account of the events as reported in the Incident Report:

Inmate Reid, exited the cell, submitted to the pat search. Inmate Reid was ordered to keep his hands on the wall, disobeying the order, the inmate moved into the doorway of cell 131 attempting to block staff from observing inmate Staine. Inmate Staine was observed with his arm in the bottom wall locker. I ordered to remove his arm and exit the cell. Inmate Staine refused my direct order twice. Inmate Staine was observed removing a sharpened metal rod approx. 8 inches in length in his right hand. Inmate Staine bent the sharpened weapon and threw the weapon into the toilet, in an attempt to flush the weapon. I started to move into the cell, when inmate Reid attempted to push me, attempting to keep me out of cell 131. I moved passed inmate Reid and placed inmate Staine on the floor of the cell. Inmate Staine attempted to resist my efforts of placing him on the ground and inmate Staine bite [sic] on my right wrist, breaking my skin with his teeth. Inmate Staine continued to resist staff efforts to place hand and leg restraints on him by swinging his arms and attempting to kick staff with his legs. Inmate Staine made several threats to staff stating “I kill you” and “you're a dead man.” The sharpened approx. 8 inch weapon was recovered by staff.

(ECF No. 5-1, Incident Report 2574103, p. 23.) Mr. Staine was charged with violating the following offenses: assault (Code 101); possession of a weapon (Code 104); destroying and/or disposing of any item during a search or attempt to search (Code 115); interfering with a staff member in the performance of duties (Code 198); threatening another with bodily harm (Code 203); and refusing to obey an order (Code 307). (Id.)

         Incident Report 2574103 was prepared on April 21, 2014. (ECF No. 1, Pet, DHO Report, p. 19; see also ECF No. 5-1, Incident Report 2574103, p. 23.) A copy of the report was delivered to Mr. Staine on April 21, 2014. (Id., p. 23.) The disciplinary matter was suspended pending referral to the FBI. (Id., p. 24.) The matter was released for administrative processing and investigation on May 23, 2014. (ECF No. 1, Pet, DHO Report, p. 19.) A copy was delivered to Mr. Staine the same day. (ECF No. 5-1, p. 23.) On May 26, 2014, Mr. Staine appeared before the Unit Disciplinary Committee (UDC), which was comprised of a single staff member. (ECF No. 5-1, Incident Report 2574103, pp. 23 - 24.) Mr. Staine indicated the “Incident is not accurate.” (Id., p. 23.) Due to the seriousness of the charges, the matter was referred to the DHO. (Id.) The same day, staff notified Mr. Staine of the referral and gave him a copy of the Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing. (Id., p. 26.) Mr. Staine was apprised that he had the right: (1) to have a written copy of the charges against him at least 24 hours prior to appearing before the DHO; (2) to have a full-time staff member to represent him before the DHO; (3) to call witnesses (or present written statements of unavailable witnesses) and to present documentary evidence on his behalf; (4) the right to remain silent or present a statement; (5) to be present during the disciplinary hearing except during deliberation or when institutional safety would be jeopardized; (6) to be advised of the DHO's decision and the facts supporting that decision except where institutional safety would be jeopardized; and (7) to appeal the decision of the DHO within 20 calendar days of notice of the DHO's decision. (Id.) Mr. Staine refused to sign the acknowledgment form indicating he was advised of these rights. (Id., pp. 26 - 28.) He did, however, request a staff representative and indicated he would not call any witnesses. (Id., pp. 26 - 30.)

         On June 12, 2104, the DHO conducted a hearing. The DHO reviewed Mr. Staine's rights with him. (Id., pp. 35 - 36.) Mr. Staine advised the DHO that he “never received a copy of the incident report.” (Id., p. 35.) The DHO noted the alleged procedural error on the record. (Id.) The DHO noted that the record showed that Mr. Staine received a copy of the incident report on April 21, 2013 and again on May 23, 2014. Nonetheless, the DHO afforded Mr. Staine the opportunity to postpone the hearing or waive the 24-hour notice and proceed with the hearing. (Id., pp. 23 and 35.) Mr. Staine affirmed, in the presence of a witness, that he wished to waive the 24-hour notice and proceed with the hearing by signing a waiver form. (Id., pp. 27 and 35.)

         Mr. Staine's appointed staff representative was present at the hearing. He affirmed reviewing the “Duties of Staff Representative” and agreed to appear on Mr. Staine's behalf. (Id., p. 34.) The representative noted that all documentation in reference to the incident report had been disclosed to him. (Id.) At the hearing Mr. Staine requested that his “staff rep [ ] review the camera.” (Id., p. 35.) The representative stated he watched the video related to the incident but “couldn't see in the cell” and “couldn't hear anything.” (Id. at p. 35.)

         When questioned by the DHO, Mr. Staine admitted that he and his cellmate were the only inmates in their cell. He denied biting Officer Smith or seeing his cellmate bite the officer. (Id.) Mr. Staine did not recall whether Officer Smith was in his cell on April 21, 2014, and denied making threatening statements to staff or refusing to obey any order. (Id.) Mr. Staine did admit that the weapon depicted in the photographic evidence “was in [his] possession at one time” and that he ...


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