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Chestnut v. Lue

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

January 13, 2020

D. LUE, Acting Warden, Respondent.


          Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge.

         Raymond Edward Chestnut, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, alleging that he was denied due process during prison disciplinary proceedings arising from Incident Report (“IR”) 3222788.[1] For the reasons discussed below, the court concludes that respondent is entitled to summary judgment as to Chestnut's claims and that Chestnut's petition must be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Chestnut is a prolific filer of challenges to Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) disciplinary hearings, having filed over 430 Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”) Hearing Appeals since his incarceration in 2008. According to respondent, Chestnut also has filed almost one hundred § 2241 petitions in federal courts since 2013. That includes a number of § 2241 petitions in this court challenging various of his disciplinary convictions, primarily on due process grounds.

         Before reaching the merits of his petition, the court addresses Chestnut's motions to amend or supplement his petition; all remaining motions either will be denied or will be denied as moot.[2] Respondent opposes all of the motions to amend or supplement. Respondent contends that Chestnut has exhibited bad faith in his attempts to amend and that he is attempting to add new claims based on newly created or altered documents that were not part of the original DHO record.

         Although ultimately the court determines that some of respondent's arguments in opposition to Chestnut's motion to amend have merit, the court nonetheless will grant Chestnut's most recent motion to amend, and will consider the claims he raises therein on their merits. The court does so both for judicial economy's sake and because, in light of the denial of Chestnut's petition, allowing amendment does not prejudice respondent. Accordingly, the court will grant Chestnut's third motion to amend (Dkt. No. 33) and will treat the third amended petition (Dkt. No. 33-1) as the operative petition.[3] Chestnut's other motions to amend and to supplement (Dkt. Nos. 18, 24) will be denied as moot. Additionally, the court will consider respondent's arguments in his opposition briefs to the motions to amend (Dkt. Nos. 21, 35) as supporting the previously-filed motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 14).

         B. Chestnut's Claims and Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment

         In his third amended petition, Chestnut asserts three claims, but the second of those has two-sub-parts. First, he contends that he was not provided written notice of the charged misconduct before the DHO hearing, only oral notice of the charges.

         His second claim is that the hearing officer was biased against him, rather than neutral and detached. That claim of bias is predicated on two other-and really separate-allegations. Specifically, Chestnut first claims that the DHO failed to allow him an opportunity to present documentary evidence. His third amended petition then contains a written statement that he says he wanted to present, but was not permitted to submit. In that “written statement, ” he states that he did not receive written notice of the charges, that the incident was fabricated, and that there are witnesses that can testify on his behalf, although he does not know their names.

         In the second part of his second claim, Chestnut alleges that the DHO was biased when he did not call, consider, and acknowledge Chestnut's alleged pre-hearing request for witnesses Darrian Summers and Officer Long to testify.

         Third and lastly, his amended petition claims that there was inadequate evidence to sustain his conviction.

         Respondent has moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, and Chestnut has responded. One of the initial defenses by respondent was that Chestnut had failed to properly exhaust his claims before filing suit. In recent supplemental briefing requested by the court, however, respondent acknowledges that Chestnut has since exhausted his remedies as to this disciplinary proceeding. (Dkt. No. 48 at 1.) Rather than analyzing whether Chestnut's failure to exhaust prior to filing is a ground for dismissal, this court will treat his claims in this case as exhausted for purposes of this opinion. Instead, the court concludes that Chestnut is not entitled to relief because he can not show a violation of his due process rights.

         C. Factual Background as to IR 3222788[4]

         The events giving rise to IR 3222788 occurred at about 8:22 p.m. on February 10, 2019, while Chestnut was incarcerated at FCI Petersburg. As described in the Incident Report, Correctional Officer J. Long was assisting in escorting Chestnut from the law library to cell 102. Chestnut apparently believed he would be getting a cell mate, and stated, “I'm going to get y'all! Get that guy out of my f**king cell! I will show you why! When I say something, you do it.” Chestnut submitted to hand restraints but continued to complain about getting a cell mate. During the escort, Chestnut stated “F**k y'all, ” and attempted to pull away from Long and the two other officers escorting him. He then “dead weighted” his body weight, went limp in a sitting motion with his legs out in front of him, and shouted “I'll get y'all!” He continued to resist after he was placed on the floor and ordered to stop resisting, and he spit and continued to shout, “I am going to get you!”

         The disciplinary hearing occurred on March 22, 2019, at FCC Butner, where Chestnut was then housed. The relevant details of the hearing are discussed in context below. The DHO ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support the charge of assault, code 224, but did find that Chestnut's conduct qualified as threatening bodily harm, code 203. The DHO also found that Chestnut committed the offense of refusing orders, code 307. The DHO dismissed the charge of insolence, code 312.

         The only offense that affected Chestnut's good conduct time was the offense of threatening bodily harm. Specifically, for that offense, the DHO sanctioned Chestnut with: (1) disallowance of 27 days of good conduct time; (2) forfeiture of 27 days of non-vested good conduct time; and (3) 15 ...

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