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Cook v. Spaulding

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 15, 2020

STEPHEN SPAULDING, Warden, Respondent.



         I. Introduction

         In December 2005, the pro se petitioner, Vivian Troy Cook, was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee of conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine hydrochloride in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1) & (b)(1)(A) and was sentenced to 211 months of imprisonment. (Docket No. 1 at 2; Docket No. 13-2 at 2). The petitioner argues he is being improperly detained beyond his release date because his good conduct time (“GCT”)[2] was not properly calculated and an improperly placed detainer pushed his release date back. Alternatively, the petitioner argues he should have been released under the First Step Act because as an elderly prisoner he is entitled to a reduced sentence. The respondent moved to dismiss the habeas petition on the grounds that the petitioner's release date was properly calculated and the petitioner did not exhaust his administrative remedies prior to coming to court.

         Currently before the court is the respondent's Motion to Dismiss Petition. (Docket No. 12). On December 9, 2019, the motion became ripe for consideration after the petitioner failed to file a response. See L.R. 7.1(b)(2). Because the petitioner failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and for the reasons detailed more fully herein, the “Respondent's Motion to Dismiss Petition” (Docket No. 12) is ALLOWED.

         II. Standard of Review

         Motions to dismiss under 12(b)(6) test the sufficiency of the pleadings. Thus, when confronted with such a motion, the court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Cooperman v. Individual, Inc., 171 F.3d 43, 46 (1st Cir. 1999). Dismissal is only appropriate if the complaint, so viewed, fails to allege “a plausible entitlement to relief.” Rodriguez-Ortiz v. Margo Caribe, Inc., 490 F.3d 92, 95 (1st Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 559, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1967, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). In evaluating whether the complaint states a plausible claim the court must determine whether the factual allegations are sufficient to support “‘the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Garcia-Catalan v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011)) (additional citation omitted). “‘If the factual allegations in the complaint are too meager, vague, or conclusory to remove the possibility of relief from the realm of mere conjecture, the complaint is open to dismissal.'” Morales-Cruz v. Uni. of Puerto Rico, 676 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir. 2012) (quoting SEC v. Tambone, 597 F.3d 436, 442 (1st Cir. 2010)).

         Filings by pro se litigants are to be “liberally construed.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 292, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976). However, pro se plaintiffs are still “required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim.” Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980) (citation omitted).

         III. Factual and Procedural Background

         Following his conviction in 2005, the petitioner began his 211-month sentence. (Docket No. 1 at 2). It's not entirely clear when, but the petitioner contends that his case manager at FMC Devens, “K. Gower, ” gave him a “computation of sentence document” which showed that when his good conduct time is factored into his sentence “he should have been released Aug. 12, 2019.” (Id. at 1-2). The petitioner also states that because of his confinement to a wheelchair coupled with his advanced age he qualifies for a reduced sentence under the First Step Act. (Id. at 2-3).

         In an addendum to the complaint, the petitioner states that on October 24, 2019, the petitioner learned that a “detainer had been placed on [petitioner] that was resolved in 2005.” (Docket No. 10 at 1). As a result, petitioner's release date was “once again . . . [pushed] out another 90 days to February 2020.” (Id.). The petitioner asked his case manager to call and verify that the disputed retainer was removed, but the case manager refused. (Id. at 2). The petitioner contends this is the seventh time his projected release date has changed. (Id.).

         The respondent offers additional context by way of the petitioner's prison records relating to the calculation of his sentence. (See Docket No. 13). A court ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion can consider “documents the authenticity of which are not disputed by the parties[.]” Watterson v. Page, 987 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1993). The petitioner did not respond to the Motion to Dismiss and has not otherwise disputed the records or the information within. Since the records are not in dispute, and are integral to the issues raised in the petition, they may be considered in connection with the motion to dismiss. See also Alt. Energy, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co., 267 F.3d 30, 33-35 (1st Cir. 2001) (holding a document whose authenticity is not in dispute and is linked to the complaint may be considered by the court while ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion).

         Specifically, the petitioner's “Administrative Remedy Generalized Retrieval History” shows the he has not filed an administrative challenge contesting his sentence computation release date. (Docket No. 13 at 3; Docket No. 13-3 at 2; Docket No. 13-4 at 22-23). The petitioner has, however, filed numerous other administrative challenges over the course of his incarceration. (Docket No. 13-4 at 22-23).

         IV. Discussion

         A. Administra ...

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