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Castro v. Spearman

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 15, 2014

ANDRES CASTRO, Petitioner,
v.
E. SPEARMAN, warden, Respondent.

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Andres Castro filed this pro se action for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge a prison disciplinary decision that resulted in a forfeiture of time credits. The court reviewed the petition and found cognizable a claim that Castro's due process rights were violated in that the disciplinary decision was not supported by sufficient evidence. Respondent has filed an answer and Castro has filed a traverse. For the reasons explained below, the petition will be denied.

BACKGROUND

A CDC-115 rule violation report was written by correctional officer ("C/O") Meade charging Castro with "masturbation without exposure" on May 5, 2012 Docket # 4-1 at 19. C/O Meade wrote that, at approximately 11:15 a.m. on May 4, 2012, while she was assigned as a central tower officer and observing yard recall (i.e., the time when inmates are returned to their housing units):

I observed Inmate CASTRO, P-68358, EW-314L, standing outside the inmate phone line. Inmate CASTRO was standing away from the other inmates waiting near the fence. As the inmate[s] on the yard were forming a line for yard recall, a large group was formed that Inmate CASTRO took advantage of to shield his action from the view of the yard officers. Inmate CASTRO positioned himself in front of the phone lines and then looked up towards me. He then grabbed his genitals with his left hand and began to masturbating over his pants, on what appeared to be an erect penis. Inmate CASTRO was squeezing and pulling in a repetitive and lateral movement to his genitals on the outside of his pants. I believe Inmate CASTRO's intention was for me to observe him masturbating. I conducted (sic) the yard officer via institutional radio to identify Inmate CASTRO by using his state I.D. At 1345 hours, I then contacted Sergeant Ramirez.

Id.

An investigative employee was appointed for the CDC-115. The investigative employee interviewed Castro twice; Castro told the investigator that he had not seen the reporting officer, he "never look[ed] up at towers, '" did not make a gesture towards or over his genitals, and did not grab his genitals but instead had "just put [his] hand on the side of [his] pants.'" Id. at 22-23. The investigative employee interviewed inmate Hurtado, who said he "was not with [Castro] on the yard.'" Id. at 23. The investigative employee also interviewed inmate Torres, who stated that he was with Castro but had not seen him doing anything before going into the building. Id. The investigative employee also took a statement from C/O Meade, who had reported the offense. C/O Meade stated that "Castro was fondling himself at yard recall while looking up at me in the tower. Then I had yard staff identify him for me by using his State Identification Card.'" Id.

A disciplinary hearing was held on May 31, 2012, at which Castro pled not guilty. Docket # 4-1 at 20. According to the hearing officer's report, Castro stated: "I did not do anything. I was at the table trying to sell greeting cards when they announced yard recall. I took approximately five to ten minutes to get my cards together. Then I got in line for yard-recall. It took a lot longer that day. Inmate HURTADO was with me in line waiting to go in. He and I was (sic) playing around, then we all went in.'" Id. The hearing officer also had before him the investigative employee's reports of the statements from the several persons interviewed.

The hearing officer found Castro guilty of "masturbation without exposure, " based on the description of the offense in the rule violation report, the reporting employee's statement to the investigative employee, and the mental health assessment form which documented that there were no mental health factors that contributed to the misconduct or precluded an understanding of the disciplinary process. Id. at 20-21.[1] The discipline imposed on Castro for this offense was (a) a loss of 60 days of time credits and (b) a loss of all privileges for 180 days because it was his second offense. Id. at 19.

Castro filed unsuccessful inmate appeals about the disciplinary decision. He also filed unsuccessful state court habeas petitions challenging the disciplinary decision.

Castro then filed this action. Respondent has filed an answer and Castro has filed a traverse.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

This court has subject matter jurisdiction over this habeas action for relief brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This action is in the proper venue because the petition concerns the execution of a sentence for a prisoner incarcerated in Monterey County, ...


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