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Timothy J. Mitts v. Donna Zickefoose

April 20, 2012

TIMOTHY J. MITTS, PETITIONER,
v.
DONNA ZICKEFOOSE,
RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert B. Kugler United States District Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon Respondent's filing of her answer to the Petition, see Docket Entry No. 5,*fn1 and Petitioner's filing of his traverse. See Docket Entry No. 7. For the reasons detailed below, this Court will grant Petitioner a writ of habeas corpus, thus providing him with a remedy in the form of a superceding administrative hearing.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Petitioner is a federal inmate serving his 51-month sentence imposed by the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky;*fn2 he is currently housed at FCI Fort Dix ("Fort Dix"), Fort Dix, New Jersey. Prior to being housed at Fort Dix, he was housed in a number of federal correctional facilities, one of which was USP Hazelton ("Hazelton"), a facility located in West Virginia, where Petitioner was confined on September 9, 2010. See Docket Entry No. 5-1, at 26.

Petitioner maintains that, on that date, while Petitioner was standing on line to Hazelton dining facility, another inmate (namely, Richard Walters, BOP Register # 39913-13) entered the line in front of Petitioner, and that entry resulted in an oral argument between Petitioner and Walters. See Docket Entry No. 1, "Statement of Case" Section (Attachment to Petition).

There appears no dispute that, after this oral argument, Walters and Petitioner entered the dining facility area, and a scuffle took place between them. That scuffle was witnessed by a prison officers, who prepared an incident report reading:

On 9/9/2010 at 10:45 AM as I was walking threw [sic] the dinning [sic] room in Camp food service I saw two inmates Striking [sic] each other with closed fists middle of the dinning [sic] room. The two inmates are [Petitioner] and . . . Walters . . . . I stated to them to knock it off and to separate. Inmates did not comply. I called the control center via my radio that I had a fight in food service. I then gave the inmates more verbal commands to stop and the Inmates [sic] complied. Staff arrived and escorted both inmates out of food service.

Docket Entry No. 5-1, at 26.

Right after the incident, Petitioner was given a copy of the above-quoted incident report, and another prison officer discussed the incident with him; during that discussion, Petitioner stated, "I did not throw a [single] punch." Id. at 44. The incident report eventually resulted in a disciplinary hearing. See id. During that hearing, Petitioner made additional statements; specifically, he averred as follows:

[Right after Walters cut into the line to the dining facility, Walters] made [a] statement [to Petitioner to the effect] that [Walters] should always be first in line. [In response, Petitioner] told [Walters, "]like his sister[," implying that Walters] put himself before his sister because she got [sentenced to a] seventeen year [prison term, while Walters] only got five year [term of imprisonment. Walters] got really angry and followed [Petitioner] to the salad bar [area], knocked over [Petitioner's] tray [and] then aggressively bumped [Petitioner] with his stomach. Then [Walters] hit [Petitioner] with his fists. [Walters] is 6'5" and 240 pounds. Petitioner [who is much smaller,*fn3 ] just tried [his] best to cover up and duck under [Walters'] punches.

Id. at 42.

As a result of this disciplinary hearing, Petitioner was found guilty of committing a disciplinary infraction, namely, a prohibited act of "Fighting with Another Person," and so he was sanctioned to loss of 27 days of good-conduct-time ("GCT") credit, plus a period of disciplinary segregation and a temporary loss of certain prison-life privileged (such as having visitors, using telephone and making commissary purchases). In entering the aforesaid decision to sanction Petitioner, the disciplinary officer assessed the above-quoted Petitioner's oral statement and incident report, as well as memoranda from other prison staff members (who, as their statements showed, did not witness the incident), as well as medical assessments ...


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