Manna v. Coakley, et al
Opinion and Order signed by Judge James S. Gwin on 4/10/14. The Court denies the motion for default and the petition for writ of habeas corpus. (Related Docs. 1 , 2 ) (M,G)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
CASE NO. 4:13-CV-2592
OPINION & ORDER
[Resolving Doc. Nos. 1 and 2]
JAMES S. GWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE:
Before the Court is pro se petitioner Peter Manna’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus under
28 U.S.C. §2241. (Doc. No. 1). Manna, who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional
Institute in Elkton, Ohio (“F.C.I. Elkton”), seeks the restoration of 27 days Good Conduct Time
(GCT) confiscated by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) as a sanction for violating prison code. He also
filed a pending Motion for Entry of Default. (Doc. No. 2). Inasmuch as the Court never directed the
respondent to show cause why the writ should not be granted, see 28 U.S.C. §2243, the Motion for
Default is DENIED. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES the petition for writ of habeas
Manna was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Canaan, Connecticut (“USP
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Canaan”) on February 28, 2013 when Officer Phillips heard Manna yelling to other inmates in the
unit: “go hard. This place sucks they won' t feed us enough, go hard.” (Doc. No. 1-3 at 1.) The
officer approached Cell #103 and told him to stop yelling. Manna responded, “It wasn't me.” Id.
Officer Phillips stated she recognized Manna’s voice , “knew it was him” and heard the yelling come
from Manna’s cell. When Officer Phillips returned to the cell door, the window was covered. She
ordered Manna to uncover the window, to which he responded: “[W]ait a minute I am busy.” Id.
After Phillips issued a second order, Manna uncovered his window. Within an hour, the officer
issued an Incident Report, charging Manna with “Conduct which disrupts or interferes with the
security or orderly running the institution; most like Encouraging others to riot” in violation of Codes
199 and 106.
A copy of the report was delivered to Manna on the evening of the incident. He denied the
charge claiming he was housed in Cell #102, not Cell #103; and, that he never made the statement.
He claimed it was his “crazy” cell mate who yelled the directive. Also, because the prison was
allegedly in lockdown at the time of the incident, Manna claims it was impossible for him to be in
Cell #103 during the incident. He concludes he had a witness who could identify the inmate who
was yelling and also knew Manna would never have yelled the phrase. Upon review of the report,
the Unit Disciplinary Officer determined that the matter warranted a referral to the Disciplinary
Hearing Officer (DHO).
Manna denied the charges during his subsequent hearing before the DHO. He argued the
prison was in lockdown at the time of the incident, making it impossible for him to be in Cell #103.
Moreover, he complained the prison failed to establish his location during the incident and did not
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permit him to present evidence verifying where he was housed at the time of the incident. Manna
requested another inmate as his witness, but the inmate was relocated to another prison before the
hearing. A written statement from the inmate/witness was provided to the DHO. Manna argues,
however, that the DHO should have made the witness available by telephone to allow him to
question the witness.
The DHO found the greater weight of evidence demonstrated that Manna committed the
prohibited act on February 28, 2013. Manna was sanctioned, in part, with the loss of 27 days GCT.
After fully exhausting his administrative remedies, Manna filed the petition before this Court.
II. Legal Standards
A. 28 U.S.C. §2243
For any federal habeas petitioner, “[t]he burden to show that he is in custody in
violation of the Constitution of the United States is on the prisoner.” Dodge v. Johnson
471 F.2d 1249, (6th Cir. 1973)(citing Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 138 (6th Cir. 1970), cert.
denied 400 U.S. 906 (1970)). Therefore, if “it appears from the application that the applicant or
person detained is not entitled [to relief] thereto,” the petition will be dismissed. See 28 U.S.C.
B. 28 U.S.C. § 2241
The federal habeas statute provides, in relevant part, that: “The writ of habeas
corpus shall not extend to a prisoner unless . . . [h]e is in custody in violation of the Constitution
or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §2241(c)(3). The statute only extends its
reach to challenges that affect the length or duration of a prisoner's sentence. Thus, any claims
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seeking to challenge the execution or manner in which the sentence is served shall be filed in the
court having jurisdiction over the prisoner's custodian under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Capaldi v.
Pontesso, 135 F.3d 1122, 1123 (6th Cir. 1998)(citing United States v. Jalili, 925 F.2d 889, 893
(6th Cir. 1991)).
Habeas corpus jurisdiction is available under §2241 when a prisoner claims he has been
denied GCT without due process of law. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 487-88 (1973).
Thus, when a prisoner is faced with the loss of good time credits, due process requires the
prisoner receive the following hearing rights: 1) written notice of the hearing at least twenty-four
hours in advance; 2) an opportunity, when consistent with institutional safety and correctional
goals, to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his defense; and 3) a written
statement by the factfinder of the evidence relied on and the reason for the disciplinary action.
Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-67 (1974). The record shows that Manna received all due
process protections required by Wolff.
Manna argues that, even though his witness was housed at a different prison, the BOP
should have made him available via teleconference. There is, however, no mandate for that
accommodation under the law or Constitution. Any witness who appears before the DHO
“electronically [is] at the DHO’s discretion.” 28 C.F.R. §541.8(f)(1). Moreover, if “witnesses
are unavailable to appear, written statements can be requested by either the DHO or staff
representative.” 28 C.F.R. §541.8(f)(4). Finally,”[o]nly the DHO may directly question
witnesses at the DHO's hearing.” 28 C.F.R. §541.8(f)(5). Therefore, the DHO was fully
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authorized to use a written statement from Manna’s witness since he was no longer physically
housed at the prison. And, contrary to petitioner’s assertion, he had no right to question his own
Manna argues “there was no evidence . . . [he] committed the act from the scene of the
offense, Cell #103 . . . ”. (Doc. No. 1 at 3)(emphasis added). The Court disagrees.
Judicial review of prison disciplinary actions is limited solely to the determination of
whether there is evidence in the record to support the DHO's decision. As the Supreme Court
noted, “[r]evocation of good time credits is not comparable to a criminal conviction, and neither
the amount of evidence necessary to support such a conviction, nor any other standard greater
than some evidence applies in this context.” Superintendent, Mass. Corr . Inst., Walpole v. Hill,
472 U.S.445, 456(1985)(internal citations and quotations omitted). The DHO assigned greater
credibility to the eyewitness account of the reporting staff member, “who identified Manna as
making the statement from his cell, . . . derives no known benefit by providing false information
and has a legal obligation to present accurate and factual information.” (Doc. No. 1-3 at 4.) The
DHO further noted, that Manna admitted he engaged in conversation with the reporting staff
member, acknowledged questioning why he was being served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
and acknowledged his cell window was covered while he was “on the toilet.” From this, the
DHO concluded Manna’s own statements corroborated parts of the testimony against Manna.
There is no dispute that: 1) Manna was advised of the charges and of his rights more
than 24 hours before each appearance before the DHO; 2) Manna was provided the opportunity
to call a witness; 3) Manna was given the right to be assisted at the hearing by a staff
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representative; 4) Manna was advised in writing of the DHO's findings, the specific evidence
relied upon, and the reasons for the sanctions imposed; and 5) Manna was advised of his right to
appeal the sanctions. The record clearly reveals an evidentiary basis for the disciplinary decision.
Therefore, contrary to Manna’s allegations, the record contains “some evidence” to support the
DHO’s decision to sanction him with the loss of GCT. Superintendent, Mass. Correctional Inst.
v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455-56 (1985).
IV. Conclusion and Order
Based on the foregoing, the Petition is DENIED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243 (Doc. No.
1). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision
could not be taken in good faith.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: April 10, 2014
James S. Gwin
JAMES S. GWIN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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