Melot v. Bergami

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Citation970 F.3d 596
Docket NumberNo. 19-50436,19-50436
Parties Billy R. MELOT, Petitioner—Appellant, v. Warden Thomas E. BERGAMI, Respondent—Appellee.
Decision Date18 August 2020

970 F.3d 596

Billy R. MELOT, Petitioner—Appellant,
Warden Thomas E. BERGAMI, Respondent—Appellee.

No. 19-50436

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

FILED August 18, 2020

Billy R. Melot, Pro Se

Before Davis, Jones, and Willett, Circuit Judges.

W. Eugene Davis, Circuit Judge:

Billy R. Melot, a federal prisoner proceeding pro se, appeals the district court's judgment summarily denying his 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Melot asserts that he was improperly denied release to home confinement under the First Step Act's pilot program for eligible elderly offenders, known as the Elderly Offender Home Detention Program.1 The district court determined that Melot is ineligible for the program because he was previously disciplined for attempted escape and because Melot failed to provide information regarding other requirements for eligibility under the program. Melot argues that the district court should have allowed him (1) to amend his petition to cure any deficiency and submit additional documents and (2) to proceed to show that his prior disciplinary hearing violated his due process rights. For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM.


In 2010, Melot was convicted by a jury of corruptly endeavoring to impede the administration of the Internal Revenue Code, willfully attempting to evade the payment of taxes, willfully failing to file tax returns, and making false statements to the Department of Agriculture.2 After remand for resentencing, the district court sentenced Melot to 168 months in prison.3 The district court ordered Melot to pay $18,493,098.51 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $226,526 in restitution to the Department of Agriculture.4

According to Melot's petition, in July 2015, he "was cited for a violation of [Bureau of Prison (BOP) ] disciplinary codes for having climbed an internal fence and being out of bounds when an officer ordered [him] to cease movement." Melot explained that in the subsequent disciplinary proceeding, "[his] actions were characterized as an ‘attempted escape’ and [he] was sanctioned under the BOP disciplinary rules and regulations." Specifically, he lost forty-two days of good conduct time and sixty days of both commissary and visiting privileges.

On January 31, 2019, Melot submitted a written request to Defendant, Prison Warden

970 F.3d 598

Thomas Bergami, for release to home confinement under the Elderly Offender Home Detention Program ("Program"), set forth in 34 U.S.C. § 60541(g). Under the statute, an offender must satisfy several requirements in order to be eligible for the Program. Pertinent to the issues on appeal, one of the eligibility requirements is that the offender "has not escaped, or attempted to escape, from a [BOP] institution."5 According to Melot, on March 25, 2019, Defendant denied his request for early release to home confinement under the Program based on Melot's internal BOP disciplinary proceeding in which he was sanctioned for attempted escape.

In his petition, Melot argued that, although characterized as an attempted escape, his 2015 actions "were not in the nature of a true escape attempt" and that was why the BOP never sought additional federal charges against him for attempted escape but chose to proceed only with an internal disciplinary action which resulted in "relatively minor sanctions." He asserted that Defendant and current BOP staff were unfamiliar with the July 2015 events such that they could not "make a reasoned judgment about [the actions’] severity." He further argued that the sanctions themselves and the BOP's decision not to seek additional federal charges constituted "strong evidence" that his actions did not rise to the level contemplated by the statute to render him ineligible for the Program. Melot maintained that he met all other eligibility requirements for the Program and that other inmates "similarly situated" were released early under the Program. He contended denial of his request for participation in the Program was a "clear violation of Equal Protection Rights."

The district court determined that Melot had "concede[d] that he was disciplined while incarcerated by the [BOP] for an attempted escape" and that consequently he did not qualify, and would never qualify, for release pursuant to the Program. The district court further noted that Melot did not provide information regarding other eligibility requirements. Specifically, he did not provide (1) a statement from the BOP that if released to home confinement, he would not be at substantial risk of engaging in criminal conduct and endangering others, (2) the address of his proposed home confinement, and (3) a guarantee that he would arrange for a landline phone (required for his monitoring) and for health insurance to meet his medical needs.

Citing Supreme Court precedent, the district court further stated that Melot had no constitutional right to confinement in any particular place, including home confinement. Furthermore, the district court acknowledged that the Attorney General—and by delegation the BOP—had the exclusive authority and discretion to designate the place of an inmate's confinement. Concluding that Melot's imprisonment was not unconstitutional, the district court determined that "it plainly appear[ed]" from Melot's petition that he was not entitled to § 2241 relief. The district court therefore denied Melot's petition and dismissed his case with prejudice. Melot timely appealed.



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    ...Courts have not been uniform in determining whether such a challenge can proceed by way of a § 2241 petition. Compare Melot v. Bergami, 970 F.3d 596, 599 (5th Cir. 2020) (concluding a challenge that would result in a move from traditional incarceration to home confinement would not be cogni......
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    ...or Attorney General's interpretation of the statute would make judicial review appropriate." Id. (italics added) (citing Melot v. Bergami, 970 F.3d 596, 599-600 (5th Cir. 2020)). But Cheek failed to mention that in Melot, 970 F.3d at 599, the court clearly stated that "Melot's claim involve......
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    ...authority to the federal courts to place an offender in the [p]rogram; that authority is given to the Attorney General.” Melot v. Bergami, 970 F.3d 596, 599-600 (5th Cir. 2020). Thus, assuming Defendant is referring to that program, the Court is without jurisdiction to grant the relief. Ass......
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    ...role" in reviewing a BOP decision. Cheek v. Warden of Fed. Med. Ctr., 835 Fed.Appx. 737, 740 (5th Cir. 2020) (citing Melot v. Bergami, 970 F.3d 596, 599-600 (5th Cir. 2020)). A challenge to the BOP's application of the statutes-and the possible abuse of its discretion-could make judicial re......
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