United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE
Shah is an inmate at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington,
Kentucky. Proceeding without a lawyer, Shah filed a petition
for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to § 2241 in which
he challenges the imposition of disciplinary sanctions
against him. [R. 1]. For the reasons set forth below, the
Court will deny Shah's petition.
2013, Shah pled guilty to one count of Transmitting in
Interstate Commerce a Threat with the Intent to Extort in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(b) and seven counts of
Mailing Threatening Communications in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 876(b). See United States v. Shah, No.
5:12-cr-172 (S.D. W.Va. 2013). In his plea agreement, Shah
admitted that he threatened numerous victims with the death
of their family members unless they wired millions of dollars
into offshore bank accounts. See Id. at R. 85 at
9-10. Shah also admitted that he used the Internet and
created false identities and aliases in order to carry out
his crimes. See Id. The trial court sentenced
Shah to a total of 87 months in prison. See Id. at
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) eventually placed Shah at FMC -
Lexington and, while he was at the prison, officials
determined that he breached the security of the Unicor
computer system. According to a prison incident report:
Unicor staff notified SIS [special investigative services]
they had encountered an inmate who breached their computer
security. SIS was then advised Central Office had contacted
them in regards to suspicious activity on a server utilized
by Central Accounts Payable inmates. As a result of the
information received, Central Accounts IT Specialist L. Long
and the Systems Administrator Linda Burch reviewed numerous
logs and files and determined ‘bsmart' had logged
into the Central server. During a review of inmates who could
have accessed the server, Ms. Burch and Ms. Long determined
inmate Shah was the inmate who logged into the system. During
an initial interview by the Supervisory Operating Accountant,
inmate Shah admitted to accessing several unauthorized
servers and to conducting searches in order to gain internet
access. Due to inmate Shah's breach of security, staff in
Central Office and FMC, Lexington, Unicor staff had to review
all of their servers and security protocols, change numerous
staff passwords, spend numerous hours to ensure inmate Shah
had not obtained any personal identifying information of
staff or accessed the internet. Inmate Shah's breach of
the computer system greatly interfered with several staff
member's ability to concentrate on their normal duty
assignments. It should be noted this investigation involved
the FBI and AUSA, but was determined not to rise to the level
of a criminal act which could be prosecuted.
[R. 1-2 at 11]. Ultimately, a prison official completed the
incident report and charged Shah with a Code 198 offense,
interfering with a staff member in the performance of duties.
[R. 1-2 at 11].
disciplinary hearing was held two weeks later. [R. 1-2 at
5-10]. According to the discipline hearing officer (DHO),
Shah admitted the allegations against him by saying,
“Yeah, it's true. Yes, I gained access to that
system knowing I shouldn't, and gained
information.” [R. 1-2 at 5]. The DHO also indicated
that Shah “did not submit any documentary
evidence” at the hearing and “voluntarily waived
all witnesses.” [R. 1-2 at 5-6].
concluded that Shah engaged in prohibited conduct and
explained that he was relying on Shah's own statements as
well as several documents, including the prison incident
report, memoranda from prison officials, handwritten
interview notes and statements, and computer-generated search
histories and related information. [R. 1-2 at 6-9]. The DHO
summarized this evidence at length and found that it
established that Shah committed a Code 299 offense by
“disrupting the secure and orderly running of the
institution” in a way that was most like a Code 219
offense, which covers “[s]tealing; theft (including
data obtained through the unauthorized use of a
communications device, or through unauthorized access to . .
. automated equipment on which data is stored).” [R.
1-2 at 9]. Therefore, the DHO ordered that Shah lose 27 days
of good conduct time and forfeit 45 days of non-vested good
conduct time. The DHO also imposed other sanctions on Shah,
including time in disciplinary segregation and the loss of
e-mail and commissary privileges. [R. 1-2 at 9].
appealed the DHO's decision administratively within the
BOP. Shah also filed an initial § 2241 petition with
this Court. That matter was before Judge Reeves and, since it
was apparent from the face of Shah's petition that he had
not yet fully exhausted his administrative remedies, Judge
Reeves dismissed the petition without prejudice. See Shah
v. Quintana, No. 5:16-cv-472-DCR (E.D. Ky. Jan. 9,
2017). The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth
Circuit affirmed that decision. See Shah v.
Quintana, No. 17-5053 (6th Cir. July 17, 2017).
however, filed another copy of his § 2241 petition once
he fully exhausted his administrative remedies. [R. 1]. That
petition is now before this Court for screening pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2243. Shah sets forth numerous claims and
asks the Court to enter an order vacating his disciplinary
conviction and restoring his good time credits. [R. 1-1 at
15-21]. More recently, Shah filed a motion asking the Court
to reassign his latest petition to Judge Reeves. [R. 13].
initial matter, the Court will deny Shah's motion to
reassign this case. To be sure, Judge Reeves handled and
dismissed Shah's initial § 2241 petition without
prejudice. However, that matter only involved the fact that
Shah had not fully exhausted his administrative remedies;
Judge Reeves did not address the substance of Shah's
petition. Thus, there would not be a substantial savings of
judicial time and resources by reassigning this matter.
See Local Rule 40.1. Since Shah has not articulated
another reason that would justify reassigning his case, the
Court will deny his motion.
then to the merits of Shah's petition, the principal
question before this Court is whether there was “some
evidence” in the record to support the DHO's
decision in this case. 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, the Court merely 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).
was certainly some evidence to support the DHO's decision
in this case. After all, prison officials conducted an
extensive investigation into the events in question and
provided the DHO with numerous documents indicating that Shah
engaged in the prohibited conduct. The DHO then summarized
this evidence in his report and specifically relied on it in
deciding that Shah committed a Code 299 offense. [R. 1-2 at
6-9]. Thus, the very low threshold set forth in Hill
has been satisfied.
however, suggests there was no evidence to support
the DHO's decision [R. 1-1 at 15]. But that suggestion is
off base, especially since Shah essentially admitted in his
previous and current § 2241 petitions that he engaged in
the conduct alleged by prison officials. In fact, Shah
repeatedly explained precisely how he used his prison work
computer to create an account with the username
“bsmart” and also access the internet and
multiple servers. [R. 1-1 at 2-9]. At one point, Shah even
admitted that he gained access to “BOP serves, DOJ
servers, certain U.S. Department of Treasury servers . . .,
all U.S. Attorneys' email accounts . . ., DOJPURS account
usernames and passwords with Chase Bank, GSA WebPay account
login information for Unicor employees, etc.” [R. 1-1
at 7]. The Sixth Circuit highlighted this language from
Shah's previous petition in its own recent decision and,
in doing so, recognized that “Code 299, applying ...