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Olmeda v. Hollingsworth

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 27, 2014

JOSE MIGUEL OLMEDA, Petitioner,
v.
JORDAN HOLLINGSWORTH, Respondent.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at F.C.I. Fort Dix in Fort Dix, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner seeks the removal of a prison disciplinary finding from his prison record. For the following reasons, the habeas petition will be denied.

II. BACKGROUND

According to the prison discipline hearing report, on March 29, 2012, petitioner's cell was searched by a prison staff member. Petitioner's locker was searched and a white powdery substance was found. The white powdery substance tested positive for cocaine using NIK Test Kit G.

An incident report was prepared and delivered to petitioner on March 30, 2012. Petitioner was advised of his rights and stated that he was not guilty and that the substance was powder sugar. A Unit Disciplinary Committee Hearing was convened and referred the incident report to the Discipline Hearing Officer ("DHO").

Petitioner requested a staff representative and three witnesses at his disciplinary hearing. He subsequently waived his right to a staff representative at the hearing. On April 11, 2012, a disciplinary hearing was held. The initial disciplinary hearing report noted that petitioner did not request any witnesses. The DHO took petitioner's statements, which included his assertion that the substance was powder sugar, into account, along with a memorandum by a prison staff member which indicated the presence of cocaine found inside petitioner's locker during an inspection. Ultimately, on May 29, 2012, the DHO found that petitioner had possessed drugs in violation of Code 113. Petitioner received a sanction of thirty days disciplinary segregation. Furthermore, petitioner was disallowed forty days of good time credit amongst other sanctions.

Petitioner appealed this decision to the Regional Director. On July 13, 2012, the Regional Director remanded the disciplinary action for further review after it revealed some questions concerning the disciplinary process.

On August 20, 2012, an amended disciplinary hearing report was issued. The amended report now indicated that witnesses were in fact called at the disciplinary hearing and appeared. One inmate stated that he had seen petitioner put white powder on his oatmeal whenever he ate it. Another inmate stated that he did not remember ever seeing petitioner use powder sugar. A third witness was unavailable as he had been transferred. The DHO took into consideration these witnesses statements but came to the same conclusion in the amended disciplinary hearing report and found petitioner guilty of possessing of drugs in violation of Code 113. Petitioner received the same sanctions in the amended report as he had in the original report, namely thirty days disciplinary segregation and forty days loss of good time credits, among other sanctions.

Petitioner appealed the amended report to the Regional Director. The Regional Director determined that the DHO's decision was based on the greater weight of the evidence and that the sanctions were not disproportionate to petitioner's conduct.

Petitioner then appealed the Regional Director's decision to the Central Office. Ultimately, the appeal to the Central Office was rejected because it was untimely.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Exhaustion

"A prisoner may challenge the execution of his sentence in a habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241." Stanko v. Obama, 422 F.Appx. 146, 148 (3d Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (citing Woodall v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 432 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2005)). Indeed, "[s]ection 2241 is the appropriate vehicle for a petitioner alleging constitutional claims when a prison disciplinary proceeding results in the loss of good time credits." Lang v. Sauers, 529 F.Appx. 121, 122 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (citing Queen v. Miner, 530 F.3d 253, 254 n.2 (3d Cir. 2008) (per curiam)). "In general, inmates must exhaust administrative remedies before proceeding on a habeas petition brought under § 2241." Pinet v. Holt, 316 F.Appx. 169, 171 (3d Cir. 2009) (per curiam) (citing Moscato v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 98 F.3d 757, 760 (3d Cir. 1996)). "If a petitioner fails to exhaust ...


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