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Cedillo v. Howard

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 7, 2019

LUIS CEDILLO, Petitioner,
v.
CATRICIA HOWARD, Respondent.

          AMENDED MEMORANDUM [1]

          SYLVIA H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On June 3, 2019, pro se Petitioner Luis Cedillo (“Cedillo”), who is currently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution Allenwood in White Deer, Pennsylvania (“FCI Allenwood”), initiated the above-captioned action by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. No. 1.) Cedillo challenges the decision of a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”) who found him guilty of assaulting other inmates. (Id.) After Cedillo paid the requisite filing fee, the Court directed Respondent to show cause why Cedillo should not receive the relief he seeks. (Doc. No. 4.) Respondent filed a response on July 11, 2019. (Doc. No. 6.) Cedillo filed a traverse on August 2, 2019. (Doc. No. 9.) Accordingly, his § 2241 petition is ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, Cedillo's § 2241 petition will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On August 4, 2018, inmates at FCI Fort Dix assaulted other inmates by hitting them with locks in socks. (Doc. No. 6-1 at 6, 9.) The injured inmates required outside treatment for lacerations, bleeding, and facial bruising. (Id. at 6, 9, 13-14.) Following the assault, a special investigative agent (“SIS”) began an investigation. (Id. at 6, 9.) Upon completion of the investigation, the agent determined that Cedillo and another inmate had committed the assault. (Id.) The injured inmates positively identified Cedillo as one of the inmates who assaulted them. (Id. at 6, 9, 18-20.)

         On October 3, 2018, Cedillo received a copy of Incident Report Number 3172144, charging him with a violation of Code 224, Assaulting Any Person. (Id. at 5, 9.)[2] Cedillo was advised of his rights, stated that he understood them, and remarked “I have nothing to say.” (Id. at 10.)

         On October 16, 2018, Cedillo appeared before the Unit Discipline Committee (“UDC”).[3] (Id. at 9.) When asked about the incident, Cedillo responded that he had “no comment.” (Id.) The UDC referred the Incident Report to the DHO for further proceedings based on the seriousness of the offense. (Id. at 9-10.) Cedillo signed an acknowledgment of his receipt of the Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing Form and Notice of Discipline Hearing Before the DHO and indicated that he did not want a staff representative and that he had no witnesses he wished to call on his behalf. (Id. at 11-12.)

         On October 16, 2018, Cedillo appeared before the DHO, who advised him of his rights. (Id. at 5.) During the hearing, Cedillo indicated that the report was not entirely true, stating that “the shot caller for the ‘Blacks' came to me and asked me [to] deal with a problem with the ‘Columbians' because I am the shot caller for the ‘Mexicans'; there was a big meeting in the third floor quiet room with the ‘Columbians' and things got out of control.” (Id.) He also stated, “I don't want [to] say anymore because it will follow me at my next institution; it is frowned upon if I cooperate with you.” (Id.)

         The DHO first noted that “this incident report was re-written and re-processed through the disciplinary process.” (Id. at 6.) The DHO concluded, however, that Cedillo's due process rights were not violated because he received sufficient notice of the charge and was able to prepare a defense. (Id.)

         The DHO found the charge of Code 224, Assaulting Any Person, to be supported by the greater weight of the evidence. (Id. at 6.) In doing so, the DHO, considered the Incident Report, the Inmate Investigative Report, the medical assessment of one of the injured inmates, and Cedillo's statement. (Id.) The DHO concluded that the injured inmate's statement was more credible than Cedillo's. (Id.) The DHO also noted that both injured inmates identified Cedillo as one of their assailants. (Id.)

         The DHO sanctioned Cedillo with disallowance of twenty-seven (27) days of good conduct time and six (6) months' loss of commissary and email privileges. (Id. at 7.) The DHO issued his report on November 30, 2018, and a copy was delivered to Cedillo that same day. (Id.) Cedillo appealed to the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”)' regional office, which denied his appeal on December 21, 2018. (Doc. No. 1 at 30.) He subsequently appealed to the Central Office, which notified him that its response was due on or before May 17, 2019. (Id. at 32.) The Central Office subsequently notified Cedillo that additional time was needed to respond. (Id.)

         Cedillo then filed the instant § 2241 petition. In his petition, Cedillo argues that his due process rights were violated because: (1) his UDC hearing was not held within five (5) working days of the incident; (2) the DHO “gave SIS the opportunity to rewrite the incident report”; (3) the DHO “relied on hearsay and [Cedillo] invoking [his] right to remain silent instead of physical evidence and proven facts to support his decision”; (4) Officer Roman “bust[ed] into [his] cell” and charged him with the assault because he is Mexican; and (5) the BOP “did not respond to [his] appeal by May 17, 2019.” (Id. at 6-9.) As relief, Cedillo requests that the Incident Report be expunged and that his privileges and good conduct time be restored. (Id. at 8.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         Liberty interests protected by the Fifth Amendment may arise either from the Due Process Clause itself or from statutory law. Torres v. Fauver, 292 F.3d 141 (3d Cir. 2002). It is well settled that “prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution and the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply.” Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has held that that there can be a liberty interest at stake in disciplinary proceedings in which an inmate loses good conduct time. Id. at 557. Because Cedillo's sanctions included the loss of good conduct time, he has identified a liberty interest.

         In Wolff, the Supreme Court set forth the following minimum procedural due process rights to be afforded to a prisoner accused of misconduct in prison which may result in the loss of good time credit: (1) the right to appear before an impartial decision-making body; (2) twenty-four hour advance written notice of the disciplinary charges; (3) an opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his defense when it is consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals; (4) assistance from an inmate representative if the charged inmate is illiterate or complex issues are involved; and (5) a written decision by the fact finder of the evidence relied upon and the rationale behind the disciplinary action. Wolff, 418 U.S. at 563-67. The Supreme Court has held that the standard of review about the sufficiency of the evidence is whether there is “any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.” Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455-56 (1985); see also Griffin v. Spratt, 969 F.2d 16, 19 (3d Cir.1992). If there is “some evidence” to support the decision of the hearing examiner, the court must ...


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