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Hunter v. Tilton

May 20, 2010

WESLEY WADE HUNTER, PETITIONER,
v.
JAMES TILTON, ET AL., RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner, Wesley Hunter, is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a second amended petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. With this petition, Petitioner does not challenge his underlying conviction and sentence. Rather, he challenges the results of a prison disciplinary hearing held on March 7, 2006 in which he was convicted of Distribution of Controlled Substance in an Institution/Facility or Contract Health Facility, in violation of CAL. CODE Regs. tit. 15, §3323(c)(7) (2006) (current version at CAL. CODE Regs. tit. 15, §3323(c)(6) (2010)).

II. ISSUES

Petitioner claims that:

A. Insufficient evidence supports his prison disciplinary conviction for Distribution of a Controlled Substance in an Institution; and

B. He was not afforded the minimum procedural protections guaranteed by the Due Process Clause during his prison disciplinary proceedings.

Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, it is recommended that this petition for habeas corpus relief be denied.

III. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 2, 2005, the Investigative Services Unit ("ISU") at California State Prison, Los Angeles County (CSP-LAC) received an anonymous note indicating that the occupants of Facility D, Housing Unit 3, Cell 216, Petitioner and his cell mate, Andre Underwood, were in possession of a contraband cellular telephone. Ex. C at 20-22.*fn1 The anonymous note indicated that Petitioner used the cellular telephone to facilitate drug trafficking activities. Id. Upon inspection of Cell 216 and a clothed-body search of its occupants, correctional officers discovered a functioning Virgin Mobile Kyocera cellular telephone tucked into the left sock of Inmate Underwood. Id. Based on this finding, ISU confiscated all property within the cell for further investigation. Id. Petitioner and Inmate Underwood received medical evaluations and were then re-housed in Administrative Segregation. Id. A subsequent search warrant issued to Virgin Mobile revealed Petitioner to be the service subscriber for the cellular telephone. Id. at 21. The address of record for the subscription was identical to that of William Eugene Hunter, Petitioner's brother and approved visitor at CSPLAC, and Katrina Hunter, who was identified by Virgin Mobile as the source of the subscription's payments. Id. at 21.

On September 6, 2005, ISU conducted a search of each inmate's confiscated property. Id. at 23-28. Amongst Petitioner's property, correctional officers discovered a cellular telephone charger and an envelope containing one hundred dollars in United States currency tucked between the pages of a Bible. Id. In addition, correctional officers discovered nine individually packaged bindles, all containing a green leafy substance, inside the left front pocket of a pair of grey sweatpants belonging to Petitioner. Id. at 16. Both an initial field test and a subsequent laboratory test confirmed that the bindles contained marijuana. Id. at 29, 32.

The search of Inmate Underwood's property revealed an eleven page handwritten letter signed by Inmate Underwood. Ex. A at 6. The letter was addressed to a suspected Mafia Crip gang member and contained detailed plans involving Petitioner, Inmate Underwood and the trafficking of controlled substances within California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") Institutions, including, inter alia, CSP-LAC. Id. The letter described "how other Mafia Crip leaders and members, both incarcerated and civilian[,] can and should profit from the sale of narcotics...inside the CDCR and on the streets." Id. Moreover, the letter described the plans of "98 Main Street Mafia Crips" leaders "to establish and control" other illegal activities in CSP-LAC, CDCR Institutions, and the greater Los Angeles Area.*fn2 Id. at 7. In addition to the letter, correctional officers discovered two notes. The first note contained the names, addresses, CDC numbers, and last known locations of various Mafia Crips members. Id. The second note contained the bylaws of the Mafia Crips and three pay sheets recording money owed to Inmate Underwood. Id.

In addition to the above evidence gathered from the cell occupied by Petitioner and Inmate Underwood, a confidential informant admitted to purchasing both marijuana and tar heroin from Inmate Underwood. The informant identified Petitioner as the cellmate of Inmate Underwood. Ex. B at 13.

On November 9, 2005, Petitioner was issued a Rules Violation Report ("RVR") charging him with Distribution of a Controlled Substance in an Institution, in violation of CAL. CODE Regs. tit. 15, § 3323(c)(7). Ex. A. The CDCR also referred the RVR to the District Attorney for prosecution.*fn3 Id. at 4. On November 21, 2005, Petitioner timely received his copies of the RVR and all other relevant documents, including the Serious Rules Violation Report, Continuation of Rules Violation Report, Confidential Information Disclosure Forms from Sources One and Two, and the Crime Incident Report. Id. On that same date, Petitioner requested that his disciplinary hearing on the RVR be postponed pending the outcome of the referred prosecution; however, he withdrew this request on March 3, 2006. Id.

Petitoner's disciplinary hearing was held on March 7, 2006. The hearing was conducted by the Senior Hearing Officer ("SHO"), who informed Petitioner that he had been charged with Distribution of a Controlled Substance, in violation of CAL. CODE Regs. tit. 15, ยง 3016(c). Id. Petitioner acknowledged understanding both the charge and the evidence being presented against him. Id. According to the RVR, Petitioner entered a guilty plea and stated, "It was mine. My cellie (UNDERWOOD, C63387) had no knowledge of the drugs." Id. at 5. Though Petitioner was informed, both prior to and during the hearing, of his right to request witnesses to testify in his defense, he chose to call no witnesses. Id. The SHO found Petitioner guilty at the conclusion of the hearing. Id. The finding of guilt was based on several incident reports filed by correctional officers reciting the above facts, the laboratory results confirming the substance in the nine bindles to be marijuana, and Petitioner's guilty plea. Id. at 5-8. Accordingly, Petitioner was assessed a six month loss of "good time" credits, sixty days loss of yard, dayroom and telephone privileges, and one year loss of visiting privileges ...


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