Williams v. Holland
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: 1. J. Ray Ormond is SUBSTITUED for J.C. Holland as the respondent in this proceeding. 2. Williamss petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [Record No. 1] is DENIED. 3. This action is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the Court's docket. 4. Judgment shall be entered this date in favor of the respondent. Signed by Judge Danny C. Reeves on 06/26/2017.(KJA)cc: COR, mailed paper to pro se filer
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
J. RAY ORMOND, Warden,1
Civil Action No. 6: 15-229-DCR
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Inmate Alexander Williams has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeking to challenge the imposition of disciplinary sanctions.
[Record No. 1] For the reasons outlined below, the Court will deny the petition.
A prison officer conducted a search of cell 804 and found a “shank” inside, taped
under one of the lockers while Williams was confined at the Federal Correctional
Institution in Jesup, Georgia in February 2013. [Record No. 1-1 at 2-3] The officer took
a photograph of the shank and described it “as being approximately six and a half inches
in length, made of metal, sharpened to a point at one end, while the other end was taped
with yellow tape.” [Record No. 1-1 at 2] The officer reported that Williams and another
inmate were both assigned to cell 804, that both lockers in the cell were unsecured at the
Williams named J.C. Holland as the respondent in this proceeding because, at the time
Williams filed this action, he was confined at the United States Penitentiary (USP) – McCreary in
Pine Knot, Kentucky, and Holland was the warden at the facility. However, Holland is no longer
the warden at USP – McCreary. Since J. Ray Ormond is currently the warden at USP – McCreary,
the Court will substitute Ormond as the respondent in this proceeding.
time of the search, and that he found the shank under the unsecured locker that was assigned
to Williams. [Record No. 1-1 at 2-3] Williams was charged with a Code 104 offense,
possession of a weapon, As a result of the incident. [Record No. 1-1 at 1]
A disciplinary hearing was held on February 28, 2013. [Record No. 1-1 at 1]
Williams did not dispute that the officer found the shank in his cell. Instead, he contended
that someone set him up by planting the shank. [Record No. 1-1 at 1, 3] Notwithstanding
this argument, the discipline hearing officer (DHO) concluded that Williams committed
the prohibited act of possessing a weapon. [Record No. 1-1 at 2-3] The DHO explained
that the officer found the shank in Williams’s cell and observed that “[p]olicy makes you
responsible for everything on your person, in your personal property, and in your living
quarters (cell).” [Record No. 1-1 at 3] The DHO also noted, “[t]he fact that the instrument
was found attached under your locker, more closely related it to you, than to your cell
mate.” [Record No. 1-1 at 3] Ultimately, the DHO imposed 30 days in disciplinary
segregation and ordered that Williams lose 41 days of good conduct time and his prison
job for a minimum of one year. [Record No. 1-1 at 3]
Williams appealed the DHO’s decision administratively within the Bureau of
Prisons (BOP). [Record No. 1-1 at 5] He argued that he received “disparate treatment” as
compared to “similarly situated individuals” and suggested once again that he was set up.
[Record No. 1-1 at 5-6] Williams also argued that the imposition of sanctions was
“contrary to the weight of the evidence,” and he said that the locker under which the shank
was found was not assigned to him. [Record No. 1-1 at 5] Instead, Williams claimed that
“Jesup F.C.I. does not assign[ ] specific lockers to inmates,” but merely places them “in
the cells for storage purposes.” [Record No. 1-1 at 5] Williams then contended that,
“[s]uffice it to say, I was not the only person assigned to cell 804 . . ., yet I was the only
one penalized for having possession of a weapon. This is contrary to established policy
which commands that both cell mates are directly responsible for items found in the
common area of a cell.” [Record No. 1-1 at 5]
The BOP rejected Williams’s appeal. [Record No. 1-1 at 8] While it recognized
Williams’s argument that “other inmates in similar circumstances had their charges
expunged for this same type of prohibited act,” it explained that “[e]ach incident report is
considered on a case-by-case basis and many factors are taken into consideration prior to
the DHO rendering a sanction(s) which he hopes will deter future disruptive behavior.”
[Record No. 1-1 at 8] The BOP then acknowledged but rejected Williams’s arguments that
he was set up and did not possess the shank, citing BOP policy which indicates that it was
Williams’s responsibility to keep his area free of contraband. [Record No. 1-1 at 8] The
BOP advised Williams, “[i]n this case, the contraband was found in a common area of your
cell and you are responsible for all items found in these areas.” [Record No. 1-1 at 8]
Williams then filed his § 2241 petition with this Court. [Record No. 1] He suggests
that the Court should reverse the DHO’s imposition of sanctions because at least one other
inmate who was also charged with a Code 104 offense for allegedly possessing a weapon
had the charge against him dismissed. [Record No. 1 at 7] Williams also suggests that
there was insufficient evidence against him, implying that he was set up and arguing that
he should not be liable for possession because the shank was found in a common area.
[Record No. 1 at 7-8]
Williams’s arguments are without merit. As an initial matter, Williams does not
contend that he was denied the procedural protections to which he was due, such as advance
notice of the charge, the opportunity to present evidence in his defense, and a written
decision explaining the grounds used to determine his guilt. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418
U.S. 539, 563-66 (1974). Instead, he suggests that his case should be dismissed because
prison officials dismissed a Code 104 offense against another inmate. [Record No. 1 at 7]
But, as the BOP pointed out, each case is different and it is irrelevant how the BOP resolved
a different case involving a different inmate and different facts.
The pertinent question before this Court is whether there was “some evidence” in
the record to support the DHO’s decision in this case. See Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S.
445, 454 (1985); Selby v. Caruso, 734 F.3d 554, 559 (6th Cir. 2013). This is a very low
threshold. Indeed, the Court does not examine the entire record or independently assess
the credibility of witnesses. Hill, 472 U.S. at 455. Instead, it asks “whether there is any
evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.”
Id. at 455-56 (emphasis added); see also Higgs v. Bland, 888 F.2d 443, 448-49 (6th Cir.
1989) (discussing this standard).
In this case, there was certainly “some evidence” to support the DHO’s decision that
Williams possessed the shank. After all, the prison officer who conducted the search stated
that he found the shank taped under a locker in cell 804 and that Williams was assigned to
that cell. [Record No. 1-1 at 2-3] The prison officer also submitted a photograph of the
shank. [Record No. 1-1 at 2-3] The DHO then relied on this evidence in deciding that
Williams possessed the weapon. [Record No. 1-1 at 2-3]
Despite the evidence against him, Williams emphasized in his administrative appeal
that, notwithstanding the prison officer and DHO’s statements to the contrary, “Jesup F.C.I.
does not assign[ ] specific lockers to inmates,” but merely places them “in the cells for
storage purposes.” [Record No. 1-1 at 5] Williams also says in his petition, “I have no
way to secure my cell,” and he claims that the prison officer found the shank in “a common
area” that was “occupied by two individuals” and could be accessed by other people in the
unit. [Record No. 1-1 at 2-3] But even if Williams’s claims are true, he does not dispute
the simple fact that the prison officer found the shank in cell 804 and that he was assigned
to that cell. If anything, Williams admitted in his administrative appeal that “established
policy . . . commands that both cell mates are directly responsible for items found in the
common area of a cell.” [Record No. 1-1 at 5] Since the prison officer found the shank in
Williams’s cell, there was certainly sufficient evidence to support the imposition of
sanctions in this case.
This result is consistent with other constructive possession cases in this district in
which a DHO imposed sanctions on an inmate after contraband was found in that inmate’s
cell. See, e.g., Miles v. USP-Big Sandy, No. 7:11-cv-058-KSF, 2012 WL 1380274 (E.D.
Ky. 2012); Farris v. Wilson, No. 6:09-cv-127-GFVT, 2009 WL 3257955 (E.D. Ky. 2009);
Perez v. Rios, No. 7:08-cv-171-KKC, 2009 WL 499141 (E.D. Ky. 2009). In each of those
cases, the Court stressed that inmates are responsible for ensuring that their cells remain
free of contraband and decided that there was some evidence to support the DHO’s
decision. Miles, 2012 WL 1380274, at *3; Farris, 2009 WL 3257955, at *5; Perez, 2009
WL 499141, at *2. The same is true in this case.
Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED as follows:
J. Ray Ormond is SUBSTITUED for J.C. Holland as the respondent in this
Williams’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241
[Record No. 1] is DENIED.
This action is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the Court’s docket.
Judgment shall be entered this date in favor of the respondent.
This 26th day of June, 2017.
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