Carroll v. Quintana
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: (1) DENYING Carroll's 1 petition for a writ of habeas corpus; (2) this action is DISMISSED & STRICKEN from the court's docket; (3) judgment shall be entered. Signed by Judge Karen K. Caldwell on 12/22/15.(KJR)cc: COR, Carroll (US Mail)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CENTRAL DIVISION AT LEXINGTON
ANTHONY LEON CARROLL,
Civil No. 5: 14-326-KKC
FRANCISCO QUINTANA, Warden,
*** *** *** ***
Anthony Leon Carroll is an inmate formerly confined at the Federal Medical Center
in Lexington, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Carroll filed a petition for a writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on August 11, 2014, contending that the
Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) wrongfully convicted him of a disciplinary infraction, resulting
in the loss of 41 days of good conduct time. [R. 1] At the direction of the Court, Warden
Francisco Quintana filed a response to the petition. [R. 9] Carroll was invited to reply [R.
10], but failed to do so. This matter is therefore ripe for decision.
On September 26, 2012, while Carroll was confined at the Federal Correctional
Institution in Edgefield, South Carolina, BOP officers searched his cell and found two cell
phone chargers and thirteen cigarettes rolled up inside socks in Carroll’s laundry bag.
Carroll was initially charged with violating BOP Prohibited Action Codes 305 and 331 for
possession of any thing not authorized and possession of non-hazardous contraband, but the
Code 305 charge was later upgraded to a Code 108 offense for possession of a hazardous
tool. [R. 1-1, p. 1; R. 9, pp. 3, 5]
Carroll alleges that he had asked for Counselor Watkins to represent him at the
hearing, but Watkins did not appear at the hearing on October 4, 2012.
Carroll waived his right to have a staff representative present and proceeded with the DHO
Hearing. [R. 9, p. 5] While Carroll insisted that the items found did not belong to him, the
disciplinary hearing officer (“DHO”) relied upon the Incident Report itself, the investigation
reports, a photograph of the cigarettes and cell phone chargers, and Carroll’s statements to
find him guilty of the Code 108 offense. The DHO dismissed the Code 331 offense, and
imposed various sanctions, including the disallowance of 41 days good conduct time. [R. 1,
p. 2; R. 9, pp. 5-6]
Carroll contends that the disciplinary conviction violates his equal protection rights
because his cellmate admitted that the cigarettes belonged to him, and because his cellmate
had access to all areas within the cell, the cell phone chargers could also have belonged to
him. For relief, Carroll asks that the incident report be expunged and for all privileges to
be restored.1 [R. 1-1, p. 4]
As a preliminary matter, Carroll notes in his description of the facts that the
Counselor he asked to serve as his representative did not appear at the DHO hearing, and
that the Code 305 charge was changed to a Code 108 charge four days before the hearing.
[R. 1-1, p. 2] However, Carroll makes no argument that either of these facts violated his
The BOP’s website indicates that Carroll was released from BOP custody on November 10, 2015, see
http://www.bop.gov/inmateloc (last visited on December 22, 2015), but respondent indicates that Carroll was
subject to a five-year term of supervised release following his incarceration. [R. 9, p. 1] There is a significant
question whether Carroll’s petition has been rendered moot by his release. Compare McClain v. Bureau of
Prisons, 9 F.3d 503, 505 (6th Cir. 1993) (per curiam) (holding § 2241 petition challenging calculation of prison
term in light of prior custody credits was not rendered moot by prisoner’s release because petitioner’s
“supervised release dates are affected by the erroneous computation.”) with Watkins v. Garrett, 476 F. App’x
430, 432 (5th Cir. 2012) (holding § 2241 petition challenging loss of good conduct time through BOP disciplinary
conviction was mooted upon prisoner’s release where, although prisoner was still “in custody” serving
supervised release term, prisoner had not sought corresponding reduction of supervised release term by motion
under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(2). The Court will assume Carroll’s petition still presents a live controversy.
rights; instead, he argues only that his right to equal protection under the law was violated
when he, rather than his cellmate, was convicted of possessing the contraband. [R. 1-1, pp.
3-4] Carroll therefore only makes a single argument under the Equal Protection Clause.
Pursuant to Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), the Court will also liberally
construe his allegations - which suggest a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence based
upon his sharing of a cell with his cellmate - to include a due process claim. However, the
Court need not and will not consider other arguments that Carroll could have, but did not,
First, with respect to Carroll’s apparent challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence,
when a prison disciplinary board takes action that results in the loss of good time credits in
which the prisoner has a vested liberty interest, the Due Process Clause requires prison
officials to observe certain protections for the prisoner. Specifically, the prisoner is entitled
to advanced notice of the charges, the opportunity to present evidence in his or her defense,
whether through live testimony or documents, and a written decision explaining the
grounds used to determine guilt or innocence of the offense. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S.
539, 563-66 (1974).
Further, the board’s findings used as a basis to revoke good time
credits must be supported by some evidence in the record. Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S.
445, 454 (1985). When determining whether a decision is supported by “some evidence,”
the Court does not conduct an independent review of the evidence or assess the credibility
of witnesses. It asks only “whether there is any evidence in the record that could support
the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.” Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-56.
Here, the DHO relied upon the incident report itself, the investigation report, and
Carroll’s testimony at the hearing to conclude that Carroll possessed both the cigarettes
and the cell phone chargers. Carroll complains that the DHO ignored his claim that his
cellmate had admitted that the cigarettes belonged to him. It is not entirely clearly that
this is true, because the DHO dismissed the Code 305 charge for possession of
nonhazardous contraband. [R. 9-2, pp. 7, 26-28] Further, the laundry bag in which the
cigarettes were found not only belonged to Carroll, but was located in his cell, which BOP
regulations expressly require every inmate to maintain free of contraband. Perez v. Rios,
No. 7: 08-171-KKC, 2009 WL 499141, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Feb. 27, 2009).
With respect to the cell phone chargers, Carroll argues only that his cellmate also
had access to his laundry bag, but this is not enough to conclude that the DHO lacked any
evidence to support his conclusion that they belonged to (or were constructively possessed
by) Carroll. Cf. Wofford v. Snyder, 90 F. App’x 469 (6th Cir. 2004) (disciplinary sanction
imposed by BOP was supported by some evidence notwithstanding prisoner’s objection that
contraband was found in common area of cell accessible to other inmates); Briggs v.
Quintana, No. 5: 13-330-KSF, 2014 WL 320591, at *5 (E.D. Ky. Jan. 29, 2014) (Code 108
conviction for possession of cell phone was supported by some evidence notwithstanding
contrary statements by prisoner that cell phone did not belong to him). The DHO’s finding
that Carroll was guilty of possessing the cell phone chargers, and was hence guilty of
violating Code 108, is supported by “some evidence” as required by the Due Process Clause.
Carroll’s second claim - that the BOP’s failure to investigate and charge his cellmate
for the contraband violates his equal protection rights - fares no better. Carroll complains
that he was treated differently than his cellmate, another prisoner. Because prisoners are
not a suspect classification entitled to strict scrutiny, Jackson v. Jamrog, 411 F.3d 615, 619
(6th Cir. 2005), he must show not only that he was treated differently from his cellmate but
that such treatment was not rationally related to a legitimate government interest. Henry
v. Metropolitan Sewer Dist., 922 F.2d 332, 341 (6th Cir. 1990).
Carroll offers no explanation for his claim that his cellmate was similarly-situated to
him apart from the fact that the pair shared a cell, and notwithstanding the fact that all of
the contraband was found in Carroll’s laundry bag, not his cellmate’s. The BOP has the
discretion, based upon the facts before it, to conclude that one inmate has hidden
contraband in his cell where his cellmate has not. As the Court has previously held in a
Perez has offered no support from the record for his claim that the sanction
imposed was not supported by a rational basis other than his status as the
cellmate of the other inmate charged. As noted by the BOP in its responses
to his grievances, a DHO must judge each case upon its own circumstances,
which may reasonably include not merely the incident in question, but the
credibility of witnesses, the criminal and disciplinary history of each inmate,
and other confidential evidence and witness statements. Having failed to
present any evidence which suggests that the DHO’s sanction did not bear a
rational relationship to the BOP’s goals in maintaining institutional security
and control, petitioner’s equal protection claim fails as a matter of law.
Perez v. Rios, No. 7: 08-171-KKC, 2009 WL 499141, at *3 (E.D. Ky. Feb. 27, 2009) (citations
omitted). The simple exercise of that charging discretion does not, without more, viably
support a claim that the inmate’s equal protection rights have been violated. Cf. Hall v.
Zickefoose, No. 10-2345(RMB), 2011 WL 2173773, at *7 (D.N.J. June 1, 2011) (“The fact
that prison officials have discretion to charge different violations, depending upon the
circumstances applicable to an individual case, is not sufficient to state a claim for an equal
Courts have therefore found that equal protection challenges
asserted under functionally identical circumstances fail as a matter of law.
Shartle, No. 13-5735(RMB), 2013 WL 5719499, at *4 (D.N.J. Oct. 18, 2013) (citing Hall v.
Zickefoose, 448 F. App’x 184, 186 (3d Cir. 2011)). Carroll’s equal protection claim therefore
fails to provide a viable basis for relief.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that:
Petitioner Carroll’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241 [R. 1] is DENIED.
This action is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the Court’s docket.
Judgment shall be entered contemporaneously with this Memorandum
Opinion and Order.
This December 22, 2015.
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