United States District Court, D. New Jersey
B. Kugler, United States District Judge.
Vo Tran, is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at FCI
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. Respondent filed an Answer opposing
relief (ECF No. 3), and Petitioner filed a Reply (ECF No. 6).
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny the
case arises from a disciplinary hearing during
Petitioner's incarceration at FCI Fort Dix. On February
of 2016, officials discovered a cell phone in
Petitioner's housing unit. A forensic report of the phone
revealed five contacts, four of which matched numbers on
Petitioner's approved contact list. Petitioner had
registered these four numbers to his parent, sibling, spouse,
and attorney. Consequently, on March 10, 2016, officials
issued an incident report charging Petitioner with possession
of a hazardous tool, in violation of Bureau of Prisons Code
108,  delivered the report to Petitioner, and
advised him of his rights. Upon receiving his rights,
Petitioner stated: “none of those calls belong to me. I
never had possession of that phone. The calls and dates on
the incident report are not mine, I will have my family send
in the phone bill to show they do not belong to me.”
(ECF No. 3-2, at 19).
investigating official referred the incident report to the
Unit Discipline Committee (“UDC”). The UDC then
referred the incident report to a Discipline Hearing Officer
(“DHO”), due to the severity of the charges and
again advised Petitioner of his rights.
April 21, 2016, the DHO held a hearing and again advised
Petitioner of his rights. Petitioner confirmed that he did
not want a staff representative and did not wish to call any
witnesses. The DHO had postponed and rescheduled an earlier
hearing, however, to provide Petitioner with time to acquire
his family's cell phone records. Petitioner again stated
that he did not know how the numbers wound up on the phone.
considered Petitioner's statements in reaching a
decision, as well as: the incident report; the chain of
custody log for the cell phone; a memorandum from the staff
member who recovered the cell phone in Petitioner's
housing unit; a photo of the cellphone, a forensic report
detailing the contacts on the phone and call history; a
system report indicating that several of the phone numbers
matched the numbers on Petitioner's approved contact
list; and the phone bill records from Petitioner's
family. Petitioner argued that his family's phone bill
records did not match the calls on the forensic report.
other things, the DHO found that the system report showed
that several of the phone numbers at issue were only
on Petitioner's approved phone list, rather than on any
other inmates' approved list, and that officials had
discovered the phone in Petitioner's housing unit. More
specifically, DHO concluded, “the fact that these
numbers are tied only to you in Truview and you were assigned
to the same unit where the cell phone was found shows that
you had an opportunity to have these persons contacted for
you or you contacted these persons.” (ECF No. 3-3, at
4). The DHO also found that Petitioner's denials were not
credible and that the phone records were “inconclusive,
” in part, because Petitioner submitted redacted phone
records and failed to submit text message records.
Id. According to Petitioner, his family redacted all
or parts of the phone numbers to protect their privacy
interests and that the call times, alone, were sufficient to
prove his innocence.
considering all of the evidence, the DHO concluded that
Petitioner committed the act of aiding in the possession of a
dangerous tool, in violation of Code 108. The DHO then issued
the following sanctions: (1) revocation of forty days of good
conduct time; (2) loss of email privileges for sixty days;
and (3) loss of phone privileges for sixty days.
appealed the DHO's decision, arguing, among other things,
that the evidence did not support the DHO's findings and
that the decision was arbitrary. More specifically,
Petitioner argued that his family's phone records did not
match the calls from the forensic report, and that therefore,
he could not have possessed the phone, or aided in the
possession thereof. At each level of appeal, Petitioner
received a denial.
then filed the instant Petition, again arguing that the
DHO's decision was arbitrary. Respondent filed an Answer
(ECF No. 3), and Petitioner filed a Reply (ECF No. 6).
STANDARD OF REVIEW & JURISDICTION
hold pro se pleadings to less stringent standards
than more formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. See
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Courts must
construe pro se habeas petitions and any supporting
submissions liberally and with a measure of tolerance.
See Royce v. Hahn, 151 F.3d 116, 118 (3d Cir. 1998).
Court does not dismiss the petition at the screening stage,
the Court “must review the answer, any transcripts and
records . . . to determine whether” the matter warrants
an evidentiary hearing. Rule 8(a) of the Rules Governing
Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (made
applicable to proceedings under § 2241 by Rule 1(b)).
“Whether to order a hearing is within the sound
discretion of the trial court, ” and depends on whether
the hearing “would have the potential to advance the
petitioner's claim.” Campbell v. Vaughn,209 F.3d 280, 287 (3d Cir. 2000); States ...