June 27, 2007
CHRISTOPHER EIB #426639/SBI627184B, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY STATE PAROLE BOARD, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT.
On appeal from the New Jersey State Parole Board.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 25, 2007
Before Judges Parker and Messano.
Petitioner Christopher Eib appeals from a final decision of the Parole Board (Board) rendered on May 31, 2006. He is currently serving an aggregate term of twelve years for aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault of a victim under thirteen, and endangering the welfare of a child. The victims were members of petitioner's family. Petitioner's prior record included three convictions for possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) and one for possession of CDS with intent to distribute.
Petitioner first became eligible for parole after serving four years and eleven months of his sentence. An initial hearing was held on August 12, 2005, after which the matter was referred to a two-member panel because of the serious nature of the offense, the fact that petitioner was incarcerated for multiple crimes, denied committing the crimes and was sentenced to community supervision for life.
The two-member panel conducted the hearing on August 15, 2005 and, after interviewing petitioner, denied parole and set a sixteen-month future eligibility term (FET). The panel based its decision on the fact that petitioner's criminal history demonstrated increasingly more serious offenses, he was convicted of multiple offenses, he failed prior probationary sentences, he lacked insight into his criminal behavior and denied committing the crimes. The Board did note that petitioner had been free of infractions during incarceration. The lack of infractions, however, did not outweigh the other factors.
Petitioner appealed and the full Board affirmed the two-member panel's denial of parole and the sixteen-month FET.
Petitioner appealed and argues:
THE PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE DID NOT SUPPORT FINDING BY THE STATE PAROLE BOARD THAT APPELLANT WAS SUBSTANTIALLY LIKELY TO COMMIT ANOTHER OFFENSE AND THUS DENIAL OF APPLICATION FOR PAROLE WAS ARBITRARY AND UNREASONABLE
APPELLANT CHRISTOPHER EIB WAS DENIED AN UNFAIR HEARING BY THE NEW JERSEY STATE PAROLE BOARD WITH INADEQUATE INFORMATION IN HIS RECORD
We have carefully considered the record in light of petitioner's arguments and the applicable law and we are satisfied that his arguments lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). Nevertheless, we add the following comments.
Our scope of review of administrative decisions is narrowly circumscribed. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999). Our role is to determine "'whether the findings made could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence present in the record' considering 'the proofs as a whole'" and "with due regard to the opportunity of the one who heard the witnesses to judge of their credibility." Ibid. (quoting Close v. Kordulak Bros., 44 N.J. 589, 599 (1965)). We "may not 'engage in an independent assessment of the evidence.'" Ibid. (quoting State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 471 (1999)). We will accord a strong presumption of reasonableness to the decision of an administrative agency, Smith v. Ricci, 89 N.J. 514, 525 (1982), and we give great deference to administrative decisions. State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 159 (1964). We do not, however, simply rubber stamp the agency's decision. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980). An administrative decision will be reversed only when it is found to be "arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable or it is not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole." Ibid.
With respect to petitioner's claim that the Board did not determine that he was at risk to reoffend, the Board correctly noted in its May 31, 2006 final decision, that petitioner's suggested test is not the standard for parole review. The Board provided a number of reasons for denial of parole which are entitled to deference on appeal. See Ibid.
With respect to petitioner's claim that he was denied a fair hearing, the record indicates that he had the opportunity to present his claims and was interviewed by both the two-member panel and the Board on reconsideration. The confidential appendix contains the information pertinent to the interviews.
Petitioner has not provided any evidence to indicate that the Board's decision was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. See Ibid. Based upon our scope of review, we affirm.
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