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Irvin Brodie, Jr v. J. C. Holland

May 15, 2013

IRVIN BRODIE, JR., PETITIONER,
v.
J. C. HOLLAND,
RESPONDENT.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Irvin Brodie, Jr., is an individual confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Manchester, Kentucky. Proceeding without counsel, Brodie has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in which he contends that a prison disciplinary conviction for possession of a cell phone and assaulting a prison officer violates his rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution. [R. 1] Brodie has paid the filing fee.

The Court conducts an initial review of habeas corpus petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 2243; Alexander v. Northern Bureau of Prisons, 419 F. App'x 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011). The Court must deny the petition "if it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief." Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (applicable to § 2241 petitions pursuant to Rule 1(b)). The Court evaluates Brodie's petition under a more lenient standard because he is not represented by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Burton v. Jones, 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2003). At this stage, the Court accepts the petitioner's factual allegations as true, and his legal claims are liberally construed in his favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Having reviewed the petition, the Court must deny relief because the record establishes that Brodie's disciplinary conviction was entered in conformity with the requirements of the Constitution.

I. BACKGROUND

On February 27, 2011, while Brodie was confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, New Jersey, Officer Reyes issued an Incident Report against him charging him with four prison infractions. [R. 1-3, p. 1] The Incident Report states that at 3:00 p.m. on that date Officer Reyes walked into a room in Brodie's unit and saw him lying on his bed using a cell phone. Reyes states that Brodie hid the cell phone under his hat, and when directed to submit to a pat-down search, Brodie pushed Reyes away and attempted to leave the room. Reyes states that Brodie then threw the cell phone into the hallway, and refused orders to stop and to submit to being placed in restraints, resulting in a minor altercation. Once Brodie was subdued, a search of his bed revealed a cell phone ear bud microphone and fifteen bags of loose tobacco. Id.

Before the Unit Disciplinary Committee, Brodie denied that he possessed a cell phone or that any scuffle occurred. As a result of these events, Brodie was charged with Prohibited Act Codes ("PAC") 108 for possession of a hazardous tool (cell phone); 224 for assaulting any person (minor); 305 for possession of any thing not authorized (tobacco); and 307 for refusing a direct order. [R. 1-3, p. 1] In light of the seriousness of the charges, the UDC referred the matter to a Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") for further hearing.

DHO Boyce held a hearing on these charges on April 6, 2011. [R. 1-3, p. 4] During the hearing, Brodie stated that Officer Reyes was lying and that he did not scuffle with the officers. The DHO also considered written statements from three BOP officers and two inmates; photographs of a cell phone, charger, ear buds, and tobacco; and records of the medical assessment performed on Brodie and the two officers after the incident. [R. 1-3, p. 5]

In his April 26, 2011, Report, DHO Boyce set forth verbatim the written statement provided by Officer Hansen:

On 2/27/2011 at approximately 3:00PM, I entered room 340 with S.O.S. Reyes to locate inmate Brodie #01832-094. Inmate Brodie was laying in bed 1U talking on a cell phone wearing ear buds. We ordered him to stay on the bed while we cleared the room of inmates. After the room was clear S.O.S. Reyes ordered inmate Brodie down from the bed and to put his hands on the wall. The inmate took the ear buds off and put the phone in his hat and climbed down from the bed and put his hands on the wall while holding his hat with the cell phone inside it. I then began to place a towel over the doors window so we could conduct a visual search of the inmate. After patting the inmate down S.O.S. Reyes ordered the inmate to give him the cell phone. At this time the inmate became belligerent and pushed S.O.S. Reyes and myself and forcibly pulled the door away from me and threw the cell phone into the hallway. The inmate continued to push me and pull the door in an attempt to run from the room. S.O.S. Reyes then activated my body alarm and we placed the inmate on the ground and applied hand restraints. After responding staff escorted the inmate out of the room I searched the inmate's bed and found the cell phone ear buds and a plastic bag approximately six inches in diameter filled with fifteen smaller bags of tobacco approximately one inch in diameter.

[R. 1-3, p. 6] DHO Boyce determined that Officer Hanson's statements corroborated those made by Officer Reyes in the Incident Report and supported a guilty finding on each of the charges. As a result, DHO Boyce imposed various sanctions, including the disallowance of a total of 87 days Good Conduct Time. [R. 1-3, p. 7]

Brodie appealed his disciplinary convictions to the Northeast Regional Office on three grounds. First, he contended that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that he possessed a cell phone; that the photograph of the cell phone recovered was a fabrication; that inmates charged under similar facts were not found guilty of possession of a cell phone; and that there was no evidence of an altercation between himself and Officers Reyes and Hanson. [R. 1-1, pp. 1, 2] Second, Brodie complained that Incident Report initially stated an incorrect Inmate Registration number for him. Third, Brodie claimed that he was not made aware that a cell phone could be considered a hazardous tool under PAC 108. [R. 1-1, p. 2] The regional office denied the appeal, noting that evidence supported the DHO's finding of guilt; that his correct Inmate Registration number was set forth in Section 3 of the Incident Report; and that the warden advised inmates on December 28, 2009, that possession of a cell phone in prison could result in a charge under PAC 108. [R. 1-1, pp. 3-4] The BOP's Central Office denied Brodie's subsequent appeal on the same grounds. [R. 3-1, p. 1]

In his petition, Brodie alleges that he was sleeping when Officers Reyes and Hanson entered the room and ordered the other inmates to leave it. Brodie implies that he became concerned when the officers directed him to consent to a pat search after covering the window with a towel, and states that he began to move toward the door so that other inmates could see what was transpiring in the room. [R. 1-2, p. 2] Brodie notes that while the officers stated that a scuffle ensued, the Clinical Encounter notes from the medical examination which followed only indicated that Brodie's feet were sore from having to walk to the Health Services Area in his socks. [R. 1-2, pp. 2-3] Brodie also contends that there was no evidence to establish that the cell phone which was found four hours after the incident was the one which the officers claimed he had thrown down the hallway. [R. 1-2, pp. 3-4] Finally, Brodie states that he is a Rastafarian, and alleges that during the hearing DHO Boyce stated "Do all Rastafarians think I'm stupid ... you're the third such person that wants me to take the word of a prisoner over my officer." Brodie characterizes this as a violation of his equal protection rights. [R. 1-2, p. 4-5]

II. DISCUSSION

When a prison disciplinary board takes action which results in the loss of good time credits in which a 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, a decision by an impartial decision maker, and a written explanation of the grounds used to determine guilt or innocence of the offense. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-72 (1974). Further, the 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).

Brodie's petition makes essentially two arguments challenging his disciplinary convictions. First, he contends that the DHO's decision on the cell phone and assault charges are not supported by "some evidence." Brodie argues that there was no proof that the cell phone which was later found was the same one that Officers Reyes and Hanson claim he threw from the room, nor any medical evidence adduced from the medical evaluations ...


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