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Edmonson v. Gilley

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 1, 2017

JAMES EDMONSON, Petitioner
v.
GILLEY, Respondent

          MEMORANDUM

          Robert L. Mariani United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court is a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 filed by Petitioner, James Edmonson, an inmate currently confined at the United States Penitentiary, Canaan, in Waymart, Pennsylvania ("USP-Canaan"), (Doc. 1). Named as the sole Respondent is the Warden of USP-Canaan. Edmonson claims that his due process rights were violated in the context of a prison disciplinary hearing. The petition is ripe for disposition and, for the reasons that follow, will be denied.

         I- Background

         On July 31, 2013, Edmonson was sentenced in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to a 52-month term of imprisonment for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base, and knowingly transferring firearms to be used in drug trafficking crimes. (Doc. 6-1, p. 2, Declaration of Michael Figgsganter, ¶ 3; Doc. 6-1, p. 5, Public Information Inmate Data). His projected release date is October 4, 2026, via good conduct time. (Doc. 6-1, p. 2, Declaration of Michael Figgsganter, ¶ 3; Doc. 6-1, p. 4, Public Information Inmate Data).

         On February 9, 2016, a correctional officer conducted a random search of Edmonson's cell and found "a brown paste-like material" hidden under a toilet paper wrapper located on top of the desk. (Doc. 6-1, p. 8, Incident Report). The substance was referred to the Special Investigative Services office for testing with a NIK Test Kit E. [Id.). The substance tested positive for marijuana. (Id.).

         On February 10, 2016, Edmonson was charged in incident report number 2814364 with possession of any narcotics, marijuana, drugs, alcohol, intoxicants, or related paraphernalia not prescribed for the individual by medical staff, and possession of anything not authorized, in violation of Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") Prohibited Acts Code Sections 113 and 305. (Doc. 1, p. 9; Doc. 6-1, p. 8).

         A disciplinary hearing was held and the disciplinary hearing officer ("DHO") ultimately found that Edmonson committed the prohibited act of possession of any narcotics, marijuana, drugs, alcohol, intoxicants, or related paraphernalia not prescribed for the individual by medical staff. The DHO expunged the charge of possession of anything not authorized. (Doc. 6-1, pp. 11-14, DHO Report). The DHO sanctioned Edmonson with a loss of 42 days of good conduct time, 60 days of disciplinary segregation, forfeiture of 41 days of non-vested good conduct time, 2 months impounding of personal property, 18 months loss of commissary privileges, 18 months loss of Trulincs privileges, 18 months loss of visiting privileges and visiting restriction, and a monetary fine of $2.00. (Id. at p. 13).

         The instant petition was filed on August 22, 2016. (Doc. 1). In the petition, Edmonson challenges the sufficiency of the evidence relied on by the DHO to find him guilty of a code 113 violation. (Id. at p. 5). For relief, Edmonson requests that the Court remand the matter to USP-Canaan to conduct laboratory testing of the confiscated substance, and that the Court expunge the incident report. (Id. at p. 6).

         II. Discussion

         Respondent argues that the petition should be denied because Edmonson was afforded all of his procedural rights, and "some evidence" supports the finding of the Disciplinary Hearing Officer regarding incident report number 2814364. (Doc. 6, pp. 5-9).

         As stated, on February 10, 2016, Edmonson was served with incident report number 2814364 charging him with violation of codes 113 and 305 for possession of any narcotics, marijuana, drugs, alcohol, intoxicants, or related paraphernalia not prescribed for the individual by medical staff, and possession of anything not authorized. (Doc. 6-1, p. 8).

         The reporting officer described the incident as follows:

On 2/9/16 at approximately 6:15 pm, while conducting a random cell search of BA Cell 114 assigned to inmate Edmonson, James 65606-054, this reporting officer discovered a brown paste-like material hidden under [a] toilet paper wrapper located on top of the desk. The substance was sent to SIS tech Brandt for testing. SIS Tech Brandt utilized NIK test Kit E. The substance tested positive for cannabis paste, thus resulting in the above charges.

(Doc. 6-1, p. 8, Incident Report, ¶ 11).

         On February 10, 2016, the investigating lieutenant gave Edmonson advanced written notice of the charges against him. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-16).

         During the investigation, Edmonson was advised of his right to remain silent, he indicated that he had "no statement" regarding the charges, he exhibited a poor attitude, and did not request any witnesses on his behalf. (Doc. 6-1, p. 9, ¶¶ 23-25). At the conclusion of the investigation, the lieutenant determined that the report was true and correct as written, and Edmonson remained housed in the Special Housing Unit. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27).

         On February 11, 2016, Edmonson appeared before the Unit Discipline Committee ("UDC"). (Doc. 6-1, p. 8, ¶¶ 17-21; Doc. 6-1, p. 26). Edmonson acknowledged that he was advised of his rights, he indicated that understood his rights, and had "no comment" regarding the charges. (Doc. 6-1, p. 26). Due to the seriousness of the alleged act, the UDC referred the charges to the DHO with a recommendation that sanctions be imposed if Edmonson was found guilty of the alleged prohibited acts. (Id.).

         On February 11, 2016, a staff member provided Edmonson with a copy of the "Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing" form and "Notice of Discipline Hearing before the Discipline Hearing Officer (DHO)" form. (Doc. 6-1, pp. 27-29). Edmonson refused to signed for his copies of the forms. (Id.). Edmonson did not request to have a staff member represent him and did not request to call any witnesses on his behalf, (Id. at p. 27).

         On February 15, 2016, Edmonson appeared for a hearing before DHO Marc A. Renda. (Doc. 6-1, pp. 11-14, DHO Report). During the February 15, 2016 DHO hearing, the DHO confirmed that Edmonson received advanced written notice of the charges on February 10, 2016, that he had been advised of his rights before the DHO on February 11, 2016, and that Edmonson waived his right to a staff representative. (Doc. 6-1, p. 11, § I). The DHO again advised Edmonson of his rights and Edmonson ...


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