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Caudle v. Stewart

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 16, 2018

BRANDON LEE CAUDLE, #20711-058 Petitioner,
v.
TIMOTHY S. STEWART, WARDEN Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL United States District Judge.

         While confined at the Federal Correctional Institution ("FCI") in Cumberland. Maryland, [1] Brandon Lee Caudle, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmate, filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 Petition challenging his August 2014 disciplinary report that was issued while he was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton. Ohio, In that report. Caudle was charged with a Code 196 violation occurring on March 24, 2014, for "use of the mail for an illegal activity." ECF No. 5-2 at 26-29. Presently pending before the Court is Respondent's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment filed by Respondent on March 3, 2017. ECF No, 5. Caudle has filed a Response and Respondent has filed a Reply. ECF No. 7, ECF No. 8. The Motion is ready for disposition, and a hearing is unnecessary. See Local Rule. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016), For reasons set forth below, Respondent's Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Caudle is currently serving an 89-month sentence following his December 2013 convictions for mail fraud and aggravated identity theft in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. ECF No. 5-2 at 9; see also United Stales v. Caudle, Criminal No. HEH-13-0154 (E.D. Va.). On March 26, 2014, during a review of mail at FCI Elkton. an outgoing letter was discovered with another inmate's (Willard Macallaster's) return address, but apparently written in Caudle's handwriting. ECF No. 5-2 at 17. The envelope was opened, revealing a letter written to the Better Business Bureau complaining about an account with a bank (Household Bank). Id. The letter, "admittedly"[2] written by Caudle, stated that the other inmate was a victim of identity theft while incarcerated, and wanted the bank to investigate the account. Id. Attached to the letter was a purported Bureau of Prisons' memo from Case Manager "B. Cooke'" of FCI Elkton. claiming that the other inmate had been in continuous custody since his arrest in 1999 to the present. Id. However, there is no case manager at FCI Elkton by the name of B. Cooke. Id. Additionally, an inmate incarceration history was generated from the BOP national inmate data bank (Sentry), which revealed that the other inmate had been released from August 29, 1996, to May 28, 2013. ECF No. 5-2 at 2-3.

         On March 31, 2014, pursuant to BOP policy, FCI Elkton Special Investigative Services ("SIS") staff referred the matter to the Youngstown, Ohio FBI Field Office, noting that Caudle appeared to be involved in several forms of fraud via mail, e-mail, and telephone, using other inmates with bad credit and fraudulent BOP documents. ECF No. 5-2 at 3. When referred to the FBI, the local investigation conducted by BOP staff at FCI Elkton was suspended. Respondent states that the internal disciplinary process was suspended in order to ensure the integrity of the federal investigation and potential prosecution. Id.

         On May 6.2014, BOP personnel received information from another bank (GE Capital Retail Bank) that they had also received correspondence from another inmate who, with help from Caudle, was claiming identity theft with a forged BOP document as proof of incarceration.. Id. at 17. The other inmate used this forged BOP document to falsely claim identity theft in order to illegally clear accounts. Id.

         On May 21, 2014, the FBI accepted the matter for prosecution. Id. at 4. On August 7, 2014, all relevant information and material was released from the FBI. Id. at 17. At that point, the FC1 Elkton SIS staff concluded their mail fraud inquiry and an incident report was delivered to Caudle and the other inmate. Id. Caudle received his incident report on August 7, 2014, charging him with "use of the mail to further criminal activity, " a violation of disciplinary Code 196. Id.

         On August 13, 2014, a Unit Discipline Committee ("UDC") was conducted. Id. The UDC referred the incident report to the Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO"') for sanctions not available at the UDC level. Id. Caudle received a copy of his rights and requested a staff representative, but declined to request any witnesses to appear on his behalf. ECF No. 5-2 at 4, 21, 24.

         DHO Montgomery conducted a disciplinary hearing on September 22, 2014, ECF No. 5-2 at 26. At the outset of the hearing. Caudle was read his due process rights and given the opportunity to review them with his staff representative, Ms. Baker. Id. At the hearing. Baker indicated: "Inmate Caudle wanted me to ensure his due process rights were upheld during this disciplinary process and during the DHO hearing. I have reviewed the DHO Packet to include all evidence, and I have no concerns." Id. Gaudle declined to call any witnesses, to present documentary evidence, or make a statement on his own behalf. Id. DHO Montgomery informed Caudle that his silence would be used as a negative inference against him. Id. at 28. During the hearing, the DHO also considered the reporting officer's written account of the incident and photocopies of the documented evidence. Id. at 27. These documents included "mail envelope information, a memorandum from 'B. Cooke, ' Case Manager, a letter to the Better Business Bureau, the USMS prisoner tracking system, fax cover sheet, a letter to Tammie A. Smith, a corporate specialist in fraud solutions, a bank memo and a CFPB-portal[3] complaint detail submitted by the FCI Eikton SIS Department." Id. at ¶ 12.

         The DHO found that the greater weight of the evidence supported a finding that Caudle committed "the prohibited act of using of the mail to commit, or aid in the commission of a crime or a greatest category prohibited act (aiding/attempted)." Id. at 28. DHO Montgomery sanctioned Caudle with 40 days disallowance of good conduct time and 60 days of disciplinary segregation (suspended pending 180 days of clear conduct). Id. Caudle was subsequently criminally charged with mail fraud, presumably on identical facts, in federal court in Ohio, pled guilty to all three counts of mail fraud, and was sentenced to 41 months imprisonment. ECF No. 1. Caudle unsuccessfully appealed the DHO decision at the Regional and Central Office levels of the BOP. Id. at 40.

         On December 22, 2016, Caudle filed this action, seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. ECF No. 1. Caudle claims that his Fifth Amendment and Due Process rights were violated during his hearing. Specifically, Caudle claims that the administrative hearing should have been suspended while his parallel criminal charges for the same conduct were pending. ECF No. I at 7. Furthermore, in his Response to Respondent's Motion to Dismiss, Caudle argues that his due process rights were also violated because his staff representative did not meet with him before the hearing. Id. at 5. He contends he would have provided her "exculpatory evidence" that would have "allowed her to argue on his behalf." Caudle additionally claims that he was not allowed to have his statements recorded by the DHO and that the DHO was biased against him. Finally, he argues that there was no evidence to support a finding of guilt as required under the law. Id. In his Response, Caudle claims for the first time that his equal protection rights were also violated. ECF No. 7 at 1. He points to other instances involving BOP inmates where the BOP suspended their investigation of the inmates, pending criminal prosecution. Id. at 2-A. He therefore contends that he was treated differently than other similarly situated individuals.

         Respondent argues that Caudle received all the due process to which he was entitled, that the DHO hearing was properly held once the FBI released Caudle's case to them, and that Caudle's staff attorney assisted him properly. ECF No. 5-1 at 6, 10. Respondent contends that Caudle's equal protection claim is not properly before the Court as it was first raised in response to his summary judgment motion. ECF No. 8 at 2. Alternatively, he argues that Caudle has failed to show that any alleged unequal treatment was the result of intentional discrimination or that he was part of a protected class. Id. at 3. Respondent further argues that Caudle cannot show that DHO Montgomery was biased against him or relied on improper factors to find him guilty of committing the prohibited act. Id. at 6.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Respondent's motion is styled as a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 5-1. If the Court considers materials outside the pleadings, as the Court does here, the Court must treat a motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). When the Court treats a motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment, "[a]tl parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to ...


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