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Alfred v. Ortiz

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 20, 2017

DAVID ORTIZ, Respondent.

          Jamal Hasan Alfred, Petitioner pro se

          Caroline A. Sadlowski, AUSA Kristen Lynn Vassallo, AUSA Office of the U.S. Attorney District of New Jersey Attorney for Respondent David Ortiz




         This matter comes before the Court on Jamal Hasan Alfred's petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging a disciplinary proceeding at FCI Fort Dix. Petition, Docket Entry 1. Respondent David Ortiz opposes the petition.1 Answer, Docket Entry 8. The petition is being decided on the papers pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.


         Petitioner is a convicted and sentenced federal prisoner presently incarcerated in FCI Fort Dix, New Jersey. On April 11, 2015, Petitioner was leaving the Fort Dix kitchen area when a corrections officer conducted a random pat-down search. According to the Incident Report, the officer found Petitioner “had 3 ten pound bags of liquid eggs, secured to his body with a home-made waist band with his number on it, hidden under his clothes and jacket.” Incident Report, Respondent's Document 2a, § 11. He was charged with violating Code 219, stealing. Id. § 9. See also 28 C.F.R. § 541.3. Petitioner received a copy of the report on April 11, 2015 at 2:35 pm. Incident Report §§ 15-16. Petitioner declined to make a statement after being advised of his rights, and the matter was referred to the Unit Discipline Committee (“UDC”) for a hearing. Id. §§ 17-19.

         The UDC conducted a preliminary review and concluded that Petitioner had committed the offense of stealing. Id. § 20. It recommended the loss of Petitioner's job, preferred housing, and 1 Jordan Hollingsworth was warden of FCI Fort Dix at the time the petition was filed. The Court substitutes current warden David Ortiz as respondent. Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d). good time credits. Id. The UDC referred the report to a Discipline Hearing Officer (“DHO”) for a full hearing. Id. Petitioner received notice of the DHO hearing on April 14, 2015. Notice of Discipline Hearing, Respondent's Document 2c. He indicated he wanted Officer Collins from Food Service to appear as his staff representative. Id. He waived his right to present witnesses. Id.

         The hearing was held on April 28, 2015. DHO Report, Respondent's Document 2d § I.B. When Petitioner arrived at the hearing, the DHO informed him that Officer Collins had declined to act as Petitioner's representative. Officer Collins indicated “it would be detrimental for inmate Alfred, Jamal Hasan to have [him] as a representative do [sic] to the knowledge of prior stealing.” Duties of Staff Representative, Respondent's Document 2e. The DHO offered to reschedule the hearing so Petitioner could obtain another representative, but Petitioner declined the offer. DHO Report § II.C. He instead elected to waive staff representation and to proceed with the hearing as scheduled. Id.

         Petitioner did not call any witnesses during the hearing. He argued: “‘There was not ten pounds of liquid eggs, [the reporting officer] is exaggerating. The strap belt was medically issued to me.'” Id. § III.B. The DHO considered this argument as well as the Incident Report and photographs of the three liquid egg containers and the strap belt. Id. § III.D; Photo Sheet. After considering Petitioner's argument and the documentary evidence, the DHO concluded Petitioner had committed the offense of stealing. DHO Report § V. He sanctioned Petitioner to the loss of 27 days good-time credit, loss of commissary privileges for 60 days, and the loss of his job and preferred housing for one year. Id. § VII.

         Petitioner appealed the findings via the Bureau of Prisons' (“BOP”) administrative remedy process. He denied the DHO's assertion that he admitted to stealing. “I assert that I am innocent of the charge against me. . . . I was accused of having ‘3 ten pound bags of liquid eggs secured to [my] body.' However, as I stated to the Hearing Officer, ‘I did not have three 10 pound bags of eggs. In fact, there are no 10 pound bags of eggs.'” Regional Appeal, Respondent's Document 1b (alteration in original). He attached a label from a scrambled egg mix indicating it weighed 5 pounds. Id. He also argued his due process rights were violated when Officer Collins declined to represent him and told the DHO about having knowledge about Petitioner's prior acts of theft. Id. The Regional Director denied the appeal, as did the Central Office.

         Petitioner filed this habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on May 13, 2016. Respondent submitted its answer on December 9, 2016. Petitioner did not submit a traverse. The matter is now ripe for decision.

         III. ANALYSIS

         “Federal prisoners serving a term of imprisonment of more than one year have a statutory right to receive credit toward their sentence for good conduct. When such a statutorily created right exists, a prisoner has a constitutionally protected liberty interest in good time credit.” Denny v. Schultz,708 F.3d 140, 143-44 (3d Cir. 2013) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). “Due process protections attach in prison disciplinary proceedings in which the loss of good-time credits is at stake.” McGee v. Schism, 463 F. App'x 61, 63 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam). In assessing whether ...

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