United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.
LaShawn Booker is an inmate confined by the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") at the Satellite Campus of the Federal Medical Center ("FMC")-Lexington located in Lexington, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Booker has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging a prison disciplinary conviction which resulted in the loss of 27 days of good-time credits ("GTC"). Booker seeks an order expunging that disciplinary conviction and reinstating her forfeited GTC.
In conducting an initial review of habeas petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2243, the Court must deny the relief sought "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)). Because Booker is not represented by an attorney, the Court evaluates her petition under a more lenient standard. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Burton v. Jones , 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2003). Thus, at this stage of the proceedings, the Court accepts as true Booker's factual allegations and liberally construes her legal claims in her favor. As explained below, Booker's habeas petition will be denied because she has not alleged facts which would warrant relief from either her disciplinary conviction or the sanctions imposed.
On March 2, 2013, Booker was assigned to the Atwood Food Service detail as a food server. On that date, "A." Rivello, an FMC-Lexington official, signed an Incident Report in which he charged that Booker had stolen six oranges from the dining room at 8:35 a.m. that day. [R. 1-2, p. 4] The charged offense was listed as a violation of BOP Prohibited Acts Code ("PAC") 219. [ Id ., § 10] In the Incident Report, Rivello stated that he observed Booker carry the oranges on a tray to the table nearest the exit door of the dining room, place the oranges under her grey coat and in her coat pockets, leave the dining room, and run down the hall. [ Id ., § 11] Rivello stated that he lost sight of Booker, but that he reported Booker's actions to Officer Gilbert, who located Booker with no further incident. [ Id .]
The Unit Disciplinary Committee ("UDC") referred the charges to a Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") for resolution. [ Id ., § 18(B)] On April 12, 2013, a disciplinary hearing transpired at FMC-Lexington, and at Booker's request, a staff representative appeared on her behalf. DHO Timothy Smart presided over the hearing, and on April 30, 2013, Smart prepared a Report summarizing all aspects of the proceeding. [ Id ., pp. 8-11] Booker gave a statement at the hearing, which DHO Smart summarized as follows:
I was not stealing. Mr. Rivello gave each of us a muffin because there was extra muffins and bagels. I got a muffin and ate it. I never took anything out of the dining hall. Mr. Rivello had already put up all of the oranges. I did not run from him either.
[ Id ., "Summary of Inmate Statement"]
Booker called five other inmates (Martin, Whitlow, Hargis, Sherrill, and Sandoval) as witnesses to testify on her behalf, and DHO Smart also summarized their testimony. [ Id ., p. 9] According to DHO Smart, these witnesses testified that Booker did not steal any oranges; that Rivello had offered all of them a muffin that day in the dining room; and that Booker had eaten one of the muffins that Rivello had offered to them. [ Id .]
DHO Smart nevertheless found Booker guilty of the stealing offense, stating that although he considered Booker's and the other inmates' statements, he was more persuaded by the reporting employee's version of the events in question. [ Id ., pp. 9-10, "Finding of the DHO"] DHO Smart stated that although the other inmate-witnesses testified that Booker was eating a muffin and not an orange, "I don't believe Mr. Rivello would confuse muffins and oranges. I believe Mr. Rivello knows the difference between an orange and a muffin; as any reasonable person would. In other words, muffins and oranges are not easily confused." [ Id .] DHO Smart determined that based on the greater weight of the evidence, Booker was guilty of stealing the oranges in violation of the PAC 219 offense. [ Id ., § V]
The DHO imposed sanctions consisting of 15 days of disciplinary segregation; 180 days of lost commissary privileges; and 27 days of forfeited GTC. [ Id ., p. 11] The DHO explained that Booker's theft of the oranges posed "... a serious threat to the ability of staff to provide for the feeding of the institution population, " and that her conduct kept "... that food from being used for other inmates which can precipitate arguments and unrest." [ Id .]
Booker appealed her conviction to the BOP Mid-Atlantic Regional Office, again arguing that the evidence upon which DHO Smart based his findings was insufficient and that numerous inmates had testified that she did not steal any oranges. [R. 1-2, p. 23] Booker did not attach the Regional Office's response, but apparently that office denied her appeal, because she then appealed to the BOP Central Office [R. 21]. In that final administrative appeal, Booker again argued that the evidence upon which the DHO had relied was insufficient. She also claimed that her TRULINCS e-mail records and her TRUFONE transactions for March 2013 substantiated that she could not have stolen the oranges on the date and at the time alleged in the Incident Report. [ Id .].
On November 21, 2013, the BOP Regional Office denied Booker's final administrative appeal, concluding that although Booker and her witnesses disputed the allegation in the Incident Report, her disciplinary conviction was based on sufficient evidence; that Booker could and should have produced any exculpatory documents, such as phone and e-mail records, at the hearing, not for the first time ...