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Johnson v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 11, 2017

JAMES JOHNSON, Prisoner Identification No. 57364-053, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         James Johnson, currently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, has filed correspondence that has been construed as a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. S 2241. The Petition seeks the rest?ration of 724 days of revoked good conduct time, which Johnson lost pursuant to two disciplinary sanctions imposed while he was confined at the Federal Correctional Institution-Aleenwodd ("FCI-Allenwood") in White Deer, Pennsylvania. Pending before the Court is Respondent's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, which the Court construes as an Answer to the Petition. See Rules 1(b) & 5 of the Rules Governing S 2254 Cases (permitting a court to apply these rules to any habeas corpus petition). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies habeas corpus relief and dismisses the Petition.

         BACKGROUND

         I. First Sanction

         On October 17, 2013, while Johnson was confined at FCI-Allenwood, he was charged with violating Disciplinary Code 111(A) for attempting to make alcohol or intoxicants. The charge arose from the recovery from a laundry room of a bag containing liquids. Video footage revealed that on October 16, 2013, Johnson had exited his cell carrying a white bag. He entered the laundry room and placed the bag on the window sill, where it was discovered by an officer a few hours later. According to the October 17, 2013 Incident Report, Johnson acknowledged that the contents of the bag were "intended to become intoxicants, " "that he had made them, " and that he had "placed them in the laundry room" on October 16, 2013. Answer Ex. 1 Attach. B at 11, ECF No. 9-2. In his written response to the Incident Report, Johnson stated, "I admit my wrong, but I didn't say everything in the report!" Id.

         On October 22, 2013, the Unit Discipline Committee ("UDC"), a group of independent prison staff that reviews incident reports once staff investigations are complete, see 28 C.F.R. S 541.7 (2016), referred the October 17, 2013 Incident Report to a discipline hearing officer ("DHO"), an impartial decision maker who had no prior involvement in the matter, see Id. S 541.8. The UDC recommended disciplinary segregation, the loss of good conduct time, a fine, and the loss of commissary privileges. Johnson received a copy of his rights, waived his right to a staff representative, and declined to request any witnesses.

         The DHO held a hearing on October 31, 203,, during which Johnson "was advised of his [r]ights before the DHO, indicated he understood them, " and stated, "The report is true; I accept responsibility for this." Answer Ex. 1 Attach. E at 14, ECF No. 9-2. Upon reviewing the evidence, the DHO issued a written report finding Johnson guilty of the rule violation. The DHO based his ruling on the statements of the reporting officer, the video surveillance footage from October 16, 2013, a memorandum from the staff member who searched the laundry room, a photograph of the intoxicants, and Johnson's statements. The DHO stated that he found "the greater weight of the evidence" supported the conclusion that Johnson committed the prohibited act of "Making any Alcohol or Intoxicants (Attempted.." Id. at 16.

         Based on the DHO's finding, Johnson was sanctioned with the loss of 41 days of good conduct time, forfeiture of 324 days of non-vested good conduct time, and the loss of eight months of telephone and visitation privileges. He was also sanctioned with 60 days of disciplinary segregation. The DHO found that the Code 111(A) conviction warranted the forfeiture of non-vested good conduct time, in addition to the disallowance of good conduct time, because the misconduct constituted a "highly aggravated offense which greatly jeopardizes the safety of staff and inmates" in part because "[v]iolent acts often follow" the use of intoxicants, such as during "distribution and payment." Id. at 16. Johnson received a copy of the DHO report. He unsuccessfully appealed the DHO decision.

         II. Second Sanction

         On January 26, 2014, Johnson was charged with violating Code 112 for the use of alcohol or intoxicants. On January 25, 2014, Johnson had been asked to submit to a Breathalyzer test. The result of the test was positive, as was the result of a second test taken 15 minutes later. On January 28, 2014, the UDC referred the charge to the DHO for further disposition based upon the test reading, a supporting memorandum, and photographs. The UDC recommended disciplinary segregation, the loss of good conduct time, loss of commissary privileges, and a fine. Johnson received a copy of his rights, waived his right to a staff representative, and declined to request any witnesses.

         On February 12, 2014, the DHO conducted a hearing on the January 25, 2014 incident, during which Johnson "was advised of his Rights before the DHO, indicated he understood them, " and stated, "The report is true." Answer Ex. 1 Attach. I at 20, ECF No. 9-2. After considering the statements of the reporting officer and Johnson, a photograph of the test reading, a staff memorandum, the testing log, and records of Johnson's Health Services Clinical Encounter, the DHO found the "greater weight of the evidence" supported the conclusion that Johnson had committed the prohibited act of "Use of intoxicants, " a violation of Code 112. Id. at 20-21.

         Johnson was then sanctioned with 60 days of disciplinary segregation, disallowance of 41 days of good conduct time, forfeiture of 400 days of non-vested good conduct time, and loss of eight months of visitation, telephone, and commissary privileges. The DHO found that the Code 112 charge warranted the forfeiture of non-vested good conduct time in addition to the disallowance of good conduct time because the misconduct constituted a "highly aggravated offense which greatly jeopardizes the safety of staff and inmates" in part because the use of intoxicants "potentially threatens" the "orderly running of the facility" and intoxicated inmates "are the target for violence and staff have great potential for injury responding to this violence." Id. at 22. Johnson received a copy of the DHO report.

         DISCUSSION

         In his Petition to this Court, Johnson claims that the forfeiture of 724 days of non-vested good conduct time for the two disciplinary infractions was "unfair, excessive, " "capricious, retaliatory, " and violated his "due process and equal protection rights." Pet. 1, ECF No. 1. Respondent seeks dismissal of the Petition on the grounds that Johnson's rights under the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution were not violated, the sanctions were ...


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