United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division Ashland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HENRY R. WILLHOLT, Jr., District Judge.
Petitioner Gilbert Goff was previously confined by the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") in the FCI-Ashland. Proceeding without an attorney, Goff filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging his prison disciplinary conviction at FCI-Ashland which resulted in the loss of 40 days of his good-time credits ("GTC"). Goff seeks an order expunging that disciplinary conviction and reinstating his 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 Goff is not represented by an attorney, the Court evaluates his 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 Goff's factual allegations and liberally construes his legal claims in his favor. As explained below, however, Goff's habeas petition will be denied because he has not alleged facts supporting his claim that his disciplinary conviction should be expunged or that his GTC should be reinstated.
On December 7, 2013, Jeremy Skidmore, an official of FCI-Ashland, issued Incident Report charging Goff with "Refusing to Provide a Urine Sample" in violation of BOP Prohibited Acts Code ("PAC") 110. [R. 1-2, p. 1] Skidmore alleged that Goff was unable to provide him with a urine sample within two hours of requesting the sample. [R. 1-3] In the Incident Report, Skidmore stated that he requested Goff to provide the urine sample at 12:30p.m. that day, and that pursuant to BOP Policy, he waited two hours, until 2:30p.m., for Goff to provide him with the urine sample, but that Goff was unable to do so within that time frame. Skidmore's statement is somewhat confusing, in that he also stated in that report that supervised Goff "... the entire the 3 hours while he attempted to obtain a urine sample several times with no success. At 2:30 I notified operations lieutenant then escorted Goff to special housing." [ Id. ] (emphasis added)
The charge was referred to a Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") for resolution. On January 14, 2014, a disciplinary hearing transpired at FCI-Ashland, over which DHO "C." Metzger presided. On January 23, 2014, DHO Metzger prepared a Report summarizing all aspects of the proceeding, stating therein Goff had waived staff representation and had testified at the hearing that right before Skidmore demanded the urine sample, he (Goff) had just gone to bathroom and urinated; that he was unable to provide a new urine sample despite having consumed a lot of water during the two-hour period Skidmore had provided him; and that it was another hour and half (after 2:30pm on December 7, 2013) before he was finally able to urinate. See R. 1-4, p. 1 (DHO Report, "Summary of Inmate Statement, " § III (B)).
On January 23, 2014, DHO Metzger found Goff guilty of the charged PAC 110 offense as charged in the Incident Report. [ Id., pp. 2-3] DHO Metzger stated that he had considered Goff's explanation about why he had been unable to urinate within the time allotted to him, but that he did not find Goff's explanation to be a valid excuse for his refusal to provide a urine sample within the 2-hour time period provided in the BOP's policy. [ Id., p. 2, § V, "Specific Evidence Relied on to Support Findings"] DHO Metzger further stated that there was no indication that Goff had a documented medical or psychological problem which precluded him from providing a urine sample within the ordinary time limit. [ Id. ] The DHO imposed sanctions consisting of: (1) the disallowance of 40 days of GTC; (2) confinement in disciplinary segregation for 30 days, and (3) the loss of visiting privileges for 3 months. [ Id., p. 3]
In February 4014, Goff appealed the DHO's findings to the BOP Mid-Atlantic Regional Office ("MARO"), arguing that the DHO had based his findings on insufficient evidence; that he had not been given enough time to provide his urine sample; that under BOP regulations, he could and should have been given a reasonable extension of time in which to provide the urine sample; that his age (66 years) prevented him from being able urinate on demand; that he had requested information about side effects of various prescription medications he was taking, which might have prevented him from being able to urinate within a two-hour period; and that he did not "refuse" to provide a urine sample, he was instead simply unable to provide the sample within two hours because of a medication he was taking. [R. 1-8, pp. 1-2]
On April 25, 2014, the MARO denied Goff's BP-10 appeal, finding that DHO's findings were accurate, adequate, and based on the greater weight of the evidence, and that the required disciplinary procedures were substantially followed. [ Id., p. 3] The MARO explained that the institution was not required to give an inmate additional time in which to provide a urine sample, and that the decision was instead merely optional on the part of prison staff. [ Id. ]
In May 2014, Goff appealed the MARO's decision to the BOP Central Office, asserting essentially the same arguments he had advanced before the MARO. [R. 1-9] The BOP Central Office's response was due on July 19, 2014, see R. 1-11, but Goff alleges in his § 2241 petition that the has never received a response from the BOP Central Office. Assuming that assertion is correct, the lack of a response from the BOP Central Office operates as a denial of the appeal. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.18.
Goff seeks an order setting aside his disciplinary conviction and reinstating his forfeited GTC. He asserts the same arguments set forth in his § 2241 petition, and challenges the sufficiency of the evidence on which he disciplinary conviction was based. Goff has attached information indicating that certain medications that he claims he was taking (Simvastin and Cephalexin) affected his urine flow and likely prevented him from being able to urinate within a two-hour period on December 7, 2013. Goff states that he did not obtain this medical information until after he was convicted of the PAC 110 offense, through a Freedom of Information request; that he was not provided with any information about the side effects of his medication prior to the disciplinary hearing; and that prior to the hearing, the DHO and/or the prison staff should have researched his medical condition and history before concluding that he did not have a medical condition which would have affected his ability to produce a urine specimen within two hours. Goff alleges that the disciplinary conviction and resulting sanctions violated his right to due process of law in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
As previously noted, Goff was released from BOP custody on December 16, 2014. Thus, to the extent that Goff challenged the disallowance of his 40 days of GTC against his actual prison term, i.e., the time which he spent in the actual custody in the BOP, his claim has become moot by reason of his release from BOP custody. Goff, however, was sentenced to a three-year term of supervised release as part of his criminal sentence imposed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. See United States v. Gilbert Goff, No. 6:12-CR-27-NKM (W.D. Va. 2012) [R. 17, therein, imposing a 24-month prison sentence and a 3-year term of supervised release). Therefore, to the extent that Goff remains under supervised release, the challenge to his disciplinary conviction set forth in his § 2241 petition is not moot. See McClain v. Bureau of Prisons, 9 F.3d 503, 505 (6th Cir. 1993) (finding that although petitioner had been released from federal custody, his supervised release dates were affected by the BOP's computation of credit on his federal sentence)
The due process to which prisoners are entitled during the prison disciplinary process is set forth in 28 C.F.R. § 541.8 and in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). In Wolff, the United States Supreme Court explained that when a prison disciplinary hearing may result in the loss of good conduct time credits, due process requires that the inmate receive: 1) written notice of the charges at least 24 hours in advance of the disciplinary hearing; 2) a written statement by the fact finder as to the evidence relied on and reasons for the disciplinary action; 3) an opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his or her defense when doing so would not be unduly hazardous to ...