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Johnson v. Terris

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

June 28, 2017

DANIEL JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
J.A. TERRIS, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING THE MOTIONS TO EXPEDITE (ECF Nos. 2 and 5) AND DENYING THE HABEAS CORPUS PETITION (ECF No. 1)

          PAUL D. BORMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter has come before the Court on federal inmate Daniel Johnson's pro se habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and Johnson's motions for an expedited ruling on his petition. The petition and motions challenge a prison disciplinary proceeding, which resulted in Johnson's expulsion from a Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (“RDAP” or “the program”), which is administered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Johnson maintains that he did not constructively possess the contraband that led to his expulsion from the RDAP and that he is entitled to immediate release from custody for successful completion of the RDAP. The Government argues in an answer to the petition that Johnson is not entitled to relief because he has not successfully completed the RDAP. Johnson replies that the Bureau's decision to expel him from the RDAP was arbitrary and capricious. The Court agrees with the Government that Johnson is not entitled to habeas relief. Therefore, the petition will be denied.

         I. Background

         Johnson has been convicted of: (1) conspiracy to distribute Schedule III and IV controlled substances, 21 U.S.C. § 846; (2) possession with intent to distribute and distribution of a Schedule IV controlled substance, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(2); and (3) conspiracy to launder money, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) and (a)(2)(A). On March 26, 2013, a federal district judge in the Northern District of California sentenced Johnson to thirty-six months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. (Response to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Ex. 1, page 2.)

         On December 17, 2015, while Johnson was serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan, he began participating in the RDAP. He was given a provisional early release date of November 7, 2016, for successful completion of the program. (Response to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Ex. 8.) On June 17, 2016, however, unit officer Erik Anderson conducted a search of the cell where Johnson and another inmate resided. When Anderson moved the light fixture above the sink, he found toilet tissue stuffed around the rim of the fixture. Inside the toilet tissue were seven packets of paper, and inside each packet was a green leafy substance that had the consistency of K-2, which is synthetic marijuana. (Response to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Ex. 5, pages 1 and 3.)

         In an incident report written on the same day, Anderson charged Johnson with “Possession of Anything not Authorized.” Johnson was given a copy of Anderson's incident report and advised of his rights during the disciplinary process. He stated in response to the charge:

I don't know anything about anything in my light. Somebody changed it last week. Take fingerprints.

(Id., pages 1-2.)

         Investigator C. Clark referred the matter to the unit discipline committee (“UDC”) after determining that the charge was valid. (Id., page 2.) At a hearing before the UDC, Johnson stated that the contraband did not belong to him. (Id., page 5.) The UDC, however, gave greater weight to Anderson's statement and concluded that Johnson committed the prohibited act. As punishment, the UDC restricted Johnson's commissary privileges for thirty days (id., pages 5 and 6), and on June 27, 2016, Johnson was expelled from the RDAP. (Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Ex. 6.) Johnson was reinstated to the RDAP on November 7, 2016, and prison officials now anticipate that he will complete the unit-based segment of the RDAP on August 7, 2017. (Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Ex. 7.)

         On April 4, 2017, Johnson filed his habeas petition. His ground for relief is that he did not constructively possess the contraband in question and, thus, there is no support for the incident report or for his subsequent expulsion from the RDAP. In his pending motions, Johnson seeks an expedited ruling on his habeas petition or a preliminary injunction directing the Government to release him immediately. He alleges that he is entitled to a year of sentencing credit for successfully completing the requirements of the RDAP. He further alleges that, if the Court finds merit in his claim, but fails to adjudicate the claim expeditiously, he will have served more time in custody than the law requires. In other words, he claims that, if he prevails in this action, he will not benefit from the sought-after relief, as his release date will have passed. For the following reasons, Johnson's motions for an expedited ruling on his petition are granted, but the petition is denied.

         II. Discussion

         A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         Federal prisoners ordinarily must exhaust administrative remedies for their claims before filing a § 2241 habeas corpus petition. Luedtke v. Berkebile, 704 F.3d 465, 466 (6th Cir. 2013). The Federal Bureau of Prisons has an administrative-remedy program which allows federal inmates to seek formal review of issues relating to any aspect of their confinement. 28 C.F.R. § 542.10(a).

         The exhaustion requirement, however, “is not statutorily required, ” Fazzini v. Northeast Ohio Corr. Ctr., 473 F.3d 229, 235 (6th Cir. 2006), and, if a petitioner fails to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a § 2241 petition, a District Court may excuse the faulty exhaustion and reach the merits of the petitioner's claims. Ridley v. Smith, ...


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