United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
Jackie Lee Chambers, a federal inmate housed in the Eastern District of Virginia and proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, claiming that he was not afforded due process during an administrative inmate disciplinary proceeding. As relief, petitioner seeks expungement of the incident report charging him with a disciplinary infraction and an order directing the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") from retaliating against petitioner. Respondent filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on September 8, 2015, and petitioner has responded. Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment must be granted, and final judgment will be entered in his favor. Petitioner's pending motions will be denied, as moot.
On April 4, 2007, after being convicted of Possession with the Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base, Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, Making False, Fictitious and Fraudulent Statements, and being a Felon in Possession of Firearms, petitioner was sentenced to a 324-month term of imprisonment following by eight (8) years supervised release by the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. See United States v. Chambers, Case No. 5:06-cr-151-C (W.D. Okla.). On December 5, 2008, petitioner's sentence was reduced to a 262-month term of imprisonment. Id. On December 15, 2011, petitioner's sentence was further reduced to 168 months. Id.
The disciplinary proceedings that gave rise to the instant petition occurred while petitioner was housed at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia ("FCI Jesup"). On November 5, 2014, petitioner was transferred to the Federal Correctional Complex in Petersburg, Virginia ("FCC Petersburg"). Dkt. No. 11, Schelder Decl. at U 5. He has remained at FCC Petersburg since that time. Id. According to the BOP Inmate Locator accessed online, petitioner's projected release date is August 20, 2018.
On August 27, 2014, petitioner was issued an incident report charging him with a violation of BOP disciplinary code 196, use of mail for an illegal purpose. Id. at 16; Pet. at 1.The incident report noted that on August 27, 2014, BOP staff reviewed correspondence mailed by petitioner to the petitioner's sentencing judge, the Honorable Robin J. Cauthron, United States District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma. Id. Judge Cauthron forwarded the correspondence to the BOP via the United States Marshals Service. Id. BOP staff reviewed the correspondence, which revealed that petitioner had mailed a fraudulent financing statement in the form of a bonded promissory note payable by the United States Treasury to Judge Cauthron in an effort to discharge the fines associated with his criminal case. Id.; see also Dkt. No. 1, Art.1 at 20. Petitioner had authored a letter, which stated:
"Please find enclosed Bonded Promissory Note No. 701229200000230015150 issued for the purpose of terminating/discharging all debts, obligations, and or liabilities (past, present or future) lodged against JACKIE LEE CHAMBERS . . .
Account/Case No. 5:06-cr-00151, and any/all accounts subsequent to/or deriving therefore."
Id; see also Dkt. No. 1, Att. 1 at 19.
The incident report was delivered to petitioner on August 28, 2014, one day after it was written. Specifically, BOP Lieutenant R. Clemons personally delivered the incident report to petitioner. Dkt. No. 11, Clemons Decl. at ¶ 4. Lieutenant Clemons acknowledged that he made an error in recording the month on the report as "September, " when in fact he meant to write "August." Id. Furthermore, Lt. Clemons states in Section 24 of the incident report that on "August 28, 2014, at approximately 9:30 a.m., inmate Chambers, Jackie #16305-064 was advised of his rights and given a copy of the incident report, and stated that he understood his rights." Id. at ¶5.
On September 4, 2014, petitioner appeared before the Unit Disciplinary Committee ("UDC") to answer for the charges against him. Dkt. No. 11, Schleder Decl. at ¶ 8. Based upon the seriousness of the offense, the UDC referred the matter to the institution's Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") for further proceedings. Id. On the same day, petitioner was given written notice that he would appear before the DHO. Id at ¶ 9. Along with notice of the hearing, petitioner received notice of his rights at the upcoming hearing, including the right to: (1) have a written copy of the charge against him at least 24 hours prior to appearing before the DHO; (2) have a staff representative; (3) call witnesses and present documentary evidence on his behalf; (4) present a statement or remain silent; (5) be present at the hearing; (6) be advised of the DHO's decision; (7) appeal the DHO's decision. Id. at ¶10. He acknowledged having received notice of the hearing and of his rights by signing the notice form. Id. at ¶ 9-10. Petitioner indicated that he did not wish to have a staff representative present at his hearing and that he did not wish to have any witnesses testify on his behalf. Id. at ¶ 9.
On September 18, 2014, petitioner appeared before the DHO. Id. at ¶ 11. Petitioner again waived his right to a staff representative and did not request any witnesses. Id. At the DHO hearing, petitioner confirmed that he had received his copy of the incident report. Id. at ¶ 12. Also during the hearing, the DHO determined that the charge of Code 219A, attempting to steal, was more closely supported by the evidence. Id. Thus, the DHO lowered the charge from Code 196, use of mail for an illegal purpose, to Code 219A. Id. Petitioner told the DHO that he was attempting to get his record clean by having his debt to society paid and that the promissory note he submitted to Judge Cauthron was backed by his personal account held by the government. Id. at 13. Petitioner argued that he should be absolved from any legal liability based upon a disclaimer on the note. Id.
The DHO considered petitioner's verbal and written statements, and he subsequently outlined specific evidence to support the findings in his report. Id. The DHO also considered documentary evidence,  including a copy of the correspondence petitioner had mailed to Judge Cauthron. Id. at ¶14. The promissory note, which petitioner had signed and dated, was to be paid to the order of Jacob Lew, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, for credit to his criminal case in the amount of $5, 805, 000.00. Id. Petitioner's only defense was that he wrote "void where prohibited by law" at the bottom of the promissory note, and he claims that relieved him of any wrongdoing. Id.
After considering all the evidence, the DHO concluded:
Your claim that there is not an order to pay, merely a promise to pay, was also found to be a weak attempt to avoid consequences for this. The fact is, the tenor of the letter, as well as your promissory note is demanding, and also gives the impression that if they do not comply with your submission in a timely manner they will legally accept your submission regardless. You clearly listed a huge sum of money to be paid to a specific list of people in the District Court to relieve you of your supposed debt. By basing this sum of money on a non-existent ...