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Haigler v. Chappius

United States District Court, W.D. New York

November 8, 2017

ROBERT HAIGLER, Petitioner,
v.
P. CHAPPIUS, JR., Respondent.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL A. TELESCA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Pro se petitioner Robert Haigler(“petitioner” or “Haigler”) seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. After a disciplinary hearing, petitioner, who was then confined at the Attica Correctional Facility, was found guilty of violating certain rules governing inmate behavior, and was initially penalized with six months confinement in the Special Housing Unit (the “SHU”), six months loss of visitation, packages, telephone, and commissary privileges, and three months loss of good time. Following a proceeding brought pursuant to Article 78 of New York's Civil Practice Law and Rules (“Article 78"), the Appellate Division, Third Department (the “Appellate Division”) affirmed the guilty determination as to certain of the charges but annulled the determination as to other charges, and remitted the matter to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”) for redetermination of the penalty. In accordance with the Appellate Division's order, DOCCS redetermined petitioner's penalty, and imposed three months of confinement in the SHU; four months and 26 days loss of packages, commissary, and telephone privileges; two months loss of good time; and six months loss of visitation.

         In the instant petition, petitioner alleges various due process violations in connection with the disciplinary hearing underlying the aforementioned punishment. In particular, he alleges that DOCCS failed to expunge and improperly relied on a misbehavior report from January 2013, did not timely commence the disciplinary hearings, failed to authenticate fellow inmate Gregory Williams' refusal to testify, refused to permit him to call certain witnesses, refused to disclose certain phone records, and violated New York State regulations by delaying in issuing the misbehavior report. Petitioner also alleges that the evidence at the hearing did not support the charges and that DOCCS' disciplinary determination was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. For the reasons discussed at length below, the Court determines that petitioner is not entitled to relief and therefore denies the petition.

         II. Factual Background and Procedural History

         Petitioner is currently serving an aggregate term of 20 years in prison, having been convicted of three counts of robbery in the first degree and sentenced as a second felony offender. On January 30, 2013, while he was incarcerated at the Attica Correctional Facility (“Attica”), petitioner was served with a misbehavior reported dated January 29, 2013, in which it was alleged that petitioner had violated rules of inmate behavior governing drugs, smuggling, third-party phone calls, exchanging personal identification numbers (“PINs”), and visitation. DOCCS Investigator J. Spengler, the report's author, stated that an ongoing investigation had revealed that petitioner was misusing the inmate phone system, including by making three-way calls and exchanging PINS, to conspire with four individuals (Dejah Burnette, Jamel Ragster, Barbara Ward, and Precious Bailey) to purchase, obtain, provide, package, and smuggle drugs into Attica. Investigator Spengler further reported that the investigation had been conducted by DOCCS' Inspector General's Office and that the allegations against petitioner were supported by confidential information.

         On January 30, 2013, DOCCS Captain Coveny, the hearing officer, commenced a Tier III disciplinary hearing related to the misbehavior report. Captain Coveny subsequently adjourned the hearing, to permit petitioner time to prepare a defense. Additional extensions of time were granted on February 5th, 6th, and 9th.

         The hearing reconvened on February 12, 2013, at which time the hearing officer advised petitioner of his rights and obligations and read the misbehavior report into the record. Petitioner pled not guilty to the charges against him.

         Captain Coveny informed petitioner that the investigation into his activities had commenced on December 11, 2012, and was finalized on January 28, 2013. Petitioner testified that none of his visitors had been found with contraband and that he believed the matter had been resolved by an earlier order barring visits for petitioner. Investigator Spengler provided both confidential and non-confidential testimony. She stated that, during the course of her investigation, she had reviewed confidential documentation establishing that petitioner had used inmate Charles Cherry's PIN to place telephone calls. Investigator Spengler further testified that she had monitored petitioner's phone calls and discovered that he was conspiring to smuggle drugs into Attica. Petitioner asked Investigator Spengler whether she had personally seen any contraband introduced into the facility. Captain Coveny interrupted Investigator Spengler's answer to this question, to which petitioner objected. Captain Coveny explained that he believed Investigator Spengler was referring to an early, expunged misbehavior report, and that he was trying to protect petitioner's rights.

         Petitioner requested that the charges be dismissed based on Investigator Spengler's reference to the expunged misbehavior report. Captain Coveny informed petitioner that the expunged misbehavior report was not part of the record and that his determination would be based only on the record before him.

         Petitioner requested that Inmate Gregory Williams testify on his behalf. However, Mr. Williams had signed a refusal form indicating that he did not want to be involved in the hearing. Petitioner told the hearing officer that Mr. Williams had verbally agreed to testify, and the hearing officer agreed to speak with Mr. Williams. The record shows that Mr. Williams did not testify at petitioner's hearing. Mr. Cherry did testify, and denied giving his PIN to petitioner.

         Petitioner also requested permission to call the four individuals mentioned in the misbehavior report as his alleged co-conspirators. The hearing officer determined that it would be unnecessarily duplicative to allow petitioner to call all of these individuals, but stated that he would allow petitioner to call one of them. Petitioner initially elected to call his mother, but after further consideration he ultimately withdrew his request to have any of these individuals testify.

         Petitioner requested a copy of Mr. Cherry's phone log. The hearing officer told petitioner he would review the phone log and determine whether it was confidential. He further explained that if he determined that the phone log was not confidential (and thus disclosable), he would provide petitioner with a copy when the hearing reconvened the following day. The hearing officer ultimately did not provide petitioner with a copy of Mr. Cherry's phone log, finding that doing so would endanger the security of the facility.

         On February 13, 2013, Captain Coveny issued a disposition finding petitioner guilty of having violated the rules related to drugs, smuggling, third-party phone calls, exchanging PINs, and visitation. He imposed a penalty of six months confinement in the SHU, six months loss of packages, telephone, and commissary privileges, six months loss of visitation, and three months loss of good time. On administrative review, the determination was affirmed, but the penalty was discretionarily changed to four months and 26 days confinement in the SHU, four months and 26 days loss of packages, telephone, and commissary privileges, six months loss of visitation, and three months loss of good time.

         Petitioner challenged the determination in an Article 78 proceeding originally commenced in New York State Supreme Court, Franklin County, and subsequently transferred to the Appellate Division. On July 24, 2014, the Appellate Division entered a Memorandum and Judgement affirming the guilty disposition as to the charges of making third-party phone calls and exchanging PINs, but annulling it as to the other charges. The Appellate Division directed DOCCS to expunge all references to the annulled charges in petitioner's institutional file and to redetermine the appropriate penalty for the remaining charges. Petitioner sought leave to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals, which was denied on October 28, 2014.

         On August 1, 2014, DOCCS reviewed the matter and imposed a penalty of three months confinement in the SHU, four months and 26 days loss of packages, telephone, and commissary privileges, two months loss of good time, and six months loss of visitation. The penalty was affirmed on administrative appeal.

         Petitioner filed the instant petition on August 31, 2015. As set forth above, he makes various allegations regarding the propriety of DOCCS' handling of the misbehavior report and conduct of the disciplinary hearing. Specifically, he contends that his rights to due process were violated because DOCCS failed to expunge and improperly relied on a misbehavior report from January 2013, did not timely commence the disciplinary hearings, failed to authenticate Mr. Williams' refusal to testify, refused to permit him to call his alleged co-conspirators as witnesses, refused to disclose Mr. Cherry's phone log, and violated New York State regulations in issuing the misbehavior report. Petitioner further claims that the evidence at the hearing did not ...


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