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Alcorn v. Daniels

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 27, 2019

JASON ALCORN, # 13530-045, Petitioner,
v.
CHARLIE DANIELS, Warden, Terre Haute, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Federal prisoner Jason Alcorn filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to challenge the imposition of disciplinary sanctions against him; specifically the loss of 41 days of good conduct credit against his sentence. (Doc. 1). Respondent filed a Response to the Petition (Doc. 10), and Alcorn replied (Doc. 12). For the following reasons, the Petition will be denied.

         Relevant Facts and Procedural History

         Alcorn was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas of using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924 and 1201. (Doc. 10, p. 1; Doc. 10-2, p. 2). On April 15, 2002, he was sentenced to 360-months and is currently incarcerated at the FCI-Greenville. As of the date of the Respondent’s Response, Alcorn’s projected release date was calculated to be December 19, 2026. (Doc. 10, p. 1; Doc. 10-2, pp. 1-2). His sentence is set to fully expire on August 31, 2030. (Doc. 10, p. 1; Doc. 10-2, p. 4). The disciplinary incident that gave rise to this action occurred while Alcorn was incarcerated at the FCI-Terre Haute, Indiana. Therefore, Alcorn named the warden of that institution as the Respondent herein.[1]

         On the morning of November 26, 2014, Officer J. Horn searched the common area of cell block C-1 and found a pair of shoes in which a hypodermic needle was concealed. (Doc. 1, pp. 3, 21; Doc. 10, pp. 3-4). The area was under video surveillance, which showed that Alcorn had carried the shoes into the room and set them down by a table. Horn prepared an incident report charging Alcorn with possession of drug paraphernalia (a Code 113 violation). Id. The report was allegedly delivered to Alcorn by Lt. C. Wingerd at 8:00pm on the same day. (Doc. 10, p. 3; Doc. 10-3, pp. 1-2). However, Alcorn disputes that the incident report was given to him at that time and claims he did not receive it until his Unit Disciplinary Committee (“UDC”) hearing on December 3, 2014, 7 days after the incident. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 15; Doc. 10, p. 3; Doc. 12, pp. 1-2).

         Alcorn requested a staff representative (C.O. Reberger) to assist him at the next stage of the disciplinary proceedings – the hearing before a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”). (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 11; Doc. 10, p. 3). Alcorn requested that Reberger have the surveillance video saved so it could be reviewed, but it had already been destroyed. (Doc. 1, p. 6; Doc. 10, p. 6; Doc. 12, p. 2). Alcorn also claims he gave Reberger a list of witnesses and questions for each in preparation for his DHO hearing, but Respondent disputes that Alcorn requested any witnesses. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 19; Doc. 10, p. 3; Doc. 12, pp. 3, 6). The DHO hearing was held on April 29, 2015. Alcorn was found guilty and sanctioned with the loss of 41 days of good conduct time and 90 days of restrictions on visitors and MP3 player use. (Doc. 1, p. 8; Doc. 10, pp. 3-4; Doc. 10-4).[2]

         Grounds for Habeas Relief

         Alcorn alleges that while the video showed him bringing the shoes into the common area and setting them down by a table, the needle was not discovered inside the shoes until hours later. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). In the meantime, many other inmates had access to the shoes and could have hidden the needle inside them. He claims that if the entire video had been reviewed, it would have showed another person placing the item in the shoes. Id. Alcorn also challenges Wingerd’s documentation of giving Alcorn the incident report on November 26, 2014, based on Wingerd’s later admission that Alcorn may have been asleep at the time and he may have filled out the report without speaking to Alcorn. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 11, 22; Doc. 12, pp. 2, 5).

         Finally, Alcorn makes the following allegations relative to the final hearing: the DHO interrupted his explanation of his inability to promptly request the video evidence and the rules on preservation of evidence, to say that Alcorn was going to be found guilty. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 12). When Alcorn protested that he had not been able to call his witnesses, the DHO threatened him with a monetary sanction if he insisted on calling them. Reberger then told Alcorn to “just go before it gets worse, ” which Alcorn did in order to avoid another violation for disobeying an order. (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 12). The DHO report stated incorrectly that Alcorn did not request witnesses. (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13; Doc. 12, pp. 3, 6).

         Based on the above allegations, Alcorn asserts that he was denied due process on the following bases:

(1) He was placed in the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”) on November 26, 2014, without being given an incident report or a detention order which would have informed him of the charge against him, and was thus denied the opportunity to have the video evidence saved;
(2) His belated receipt of the incident report at the UDC hearing came too late for him to request preservation of the video evidence;
(3) The DHO denied his request to access the video evidence based on untimeliness (which was caused by the lack of ...

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