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Woods v. Fox

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 18, 2018

CARLOS WOODS, Petitioner,
JACK FOX, Warden, Respondent.



         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Carlos Woods' pro se Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (#13). The named Respondent is Warden Jack Fox, but because this petition is brought against him in his official capacity as Warden of the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum, in Florence, Colorado, the Court will refer to the Respondent as the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”). The BOP's Response is found at (#24). Mr. Woods' Traverse is at (#25).

         Also before the Court are Mr. Woods' Motion Requesting Pro Bono Representation (#22) and Motion for Discovery (#23), to neither of which has the BOP filed a response.

         I. Jurisdiction

         The Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 and 1331.

         II. Summary of Relevant Material Facts

         Mr. Woods is currently in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) at the United States Penitentiary (“USP”), Administrative Maximum, in Florence, Colorado. However, his petition arises out of disciplinary proceedings brought against him following an altercation involving Mr. Woods while he was housed at the USP in Pollock, Louisiana.

         The altercation occurred in the common area of the A3 Housing Unit at USP Pollock. In brief summary, on February 28, 2016, Mr. Woods and other USP Pollock inmates played a role in an assault on another inmate, in the course of which the other inmate and Officer Dustin Cain were stabbed with one or more inmate-made weapons. Mr. Woods was initially charged with the prohibited acts of assault on staff and fighting.[1]

         Because the charges could have resulted in criminal prosecution, the investigative procedures customarily used at USP Pollock were not employed. Notably, Officer Cain prepared no report of the altercation. Instead, a Special Investigative Services (“SIS”) investigator interviewed Officer Cain and recorded notes of what Officer Cain said. In summary, these notes reflect that Officer Cain observed one inmate assaulting another, and that he intervened. While he attempted to restrain the first inmate, four other inmates, including Mr. Woods, entered the housing unit and piled onto both Officer Cain and the inmate he was restraining with the apparent intent of assaulting the inmate being restrained, thereby sandwiching Officer Cain between them. Both Officer Cain and the inmate beneath him were stabbed with one or more inmate-made weapons during the ensuing melee. “[B]eliev[ing]” that Mr. Woods had stabbed him, Officer Cain ordered him to drop “his weapon” and lie down on the ground. When Mr. Woods failed to comply, Officer Cain forced Mr. Woods to the ground and recovered “a weapon off of him.” Officer Cain suffered multiple stab wounds to his hand and forearm, and avoided more serious injury only because he was wearing a stab-resistant vest. Mr. Woods also received injuries to his face and head.

         The altercation was recorded on the prison's VICONET video system. An SIS investigator viewed and summarized the video record and prepared an incident report (the “original incident report”) based primarily on that summary and on the notes recorded from Officer Cain's interview. The original incident report charged Mr. Woods with the prohibited acts of “Assault on Staff” and “Fighting.”

         SIS referred the matter to the FBI, which elected not to bring criminal charges. The original incident report was then submitted to the Unit Disciplinary Committee (“UDC”) with a copy provided to Mr. Woods. The UDC determined that disciplinary proceedings were warranted, and Mr. Woods requested both that the VICONET video record of the altercation be reviewed and that certain inmate witnesses[2] be called to testify at his disciplinary hearing. The UDC referred the matter to a Discipline Hearing Officer (“DHO”).

         The DHO directed SIS to rewrite the incident report to include a more detailed description of “the weapon” allegedly recovered from Mr. Woods. In response, a third SIS investigator reviewed the VICONET video record and rewrote the incident report as directed by the DHO (the “revised incident report”).[3] The revised incident report charged Mr. Woods with the prohibited acts of “Assaulting Any Person, Serious Bodily Injury” and “Possession of a Weapon.” The revised incident report was submitted to the UDC with a copy provided to Mr. Woods.

         The UDC once again referred the charges to the DHO. Mr. Woods requested that he be assisted by a staff representative at the DHO hearing and iterated his previous requests that the video record be viewed and that Willie Mitchell and all inmates housed in the A3 Housing Unit be called as witnesses.

         Mr. Woods' disciplinary hearing occurred on July 20, 2016. Mr. Woods' case manager appeared at the hearing as Mr. Woods' staff representative. Mr. Woods stated that he had no documentary evidence to present, and once again requested that the video record be produced and reviewed and that his selected inmate witnesses be called. The DHO did not review the video record or produce it at the hearing, and did not address Mr. Woods' request that it be reviewed either at the hearing or in his subsequent report.

         There is a factual dispute as to whether Mr. Woods waived his right to have witnesses testify at the hearing. He asserts that he did not, but the DHO states that he advised Mr. Woods that potential witness Willie Mitchell had been transferred to another institution and was unavailable to appear, and that he gave Mr. Woods the option of either waiving his right to call Mr. Mitchell or deferring the hearing to obtain Mr. Mitchell's written statement. The DHO further testifies that when presented with those options, Mr. Woods declined to postpone the hearing and instead waived his right to call Mr. Mitchell. As to the A3 Housing Unit inmates, the DHO testifies that he offered Mr. Woods the opportunity to call at most two of those inmates, whereupon Mr. Woods orally waived his right to call any witnesses, but refused to sign a document so stating. The DHO signed a statement that Mr. Woods had waived his right to call any witnesses, which was witnessed by Mr. Woods' case manager.

         As discussed above, it is undisputed that Mr. Woods was never permitted to review the VICONET video record of the altercation, and that at the hearing the DHO did not consider it. It is also undisputed that Mr. Woods called no witnesses on his behalf. The only evidence pertinent to the charges at issue that the DHO considered at the hearing were the incident reports prepared by SIS investigators on the basis of those investigators' summaries of the video record and another investigator's notes of his interview of Officer Cain, and Mr. Woods' oral testimony that he “didn't do it” and “didn't have a knife.” The DHO determined on the basis of that evidence that Mr. Woods assaulted a person and possessed a weapon. After making that determination, the DHO prepared a report (the “DHO report”) stating the grounds for his decision and the evidence upon which he relied (#24-4), a copy of which he provided to Mr. Woods.

         The USP Pollock disciplinary board sanctioned Mr. Woods with the loss of 41 days of good conduct time, forfeiture of 41 days of non-vested good time, 30 days disciplinary segregation, and a period of lost commissary, email, and visiting privileges.

         Through the petition now before the court, Mr. Woods contends that his due process rights were violated in that (i) his staff representative failed to provide him with adequate assistance in connection with the disciplinary hearing, (ii) there was unusual delay in Mr. Woods' receipt of the original incident report and the original report was modified after having been provided to Mr. Woods, (iii) the DHO was not impartial, and (iv) Mr. Woods was not permitted to present the video record or to present the witness testimony he requested. Mr. Woods seeks an order expunging the incident ...

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