July 18, 2007
ABDUL ABDUL-GHAFFAR, 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NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION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 May 9, 2007
Before Judges Winkelstein and Fuentes.
Appellant Abdul Abdul-Ghaffar appeals from the decision of the State Parole Board setting a six-year future parole eligibility term (FET). Gaffar is serving a thirty-year sentence with a twelve-year period parole disqualifier. His convictions included attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a handgun, and distribution of illicit narcotics on school property. Ghaffar shot the victim of the attempted murder charge twice, once in the abdomen and once in the buttocks, as the victim attempted to flee. Ghaffar and the victim were rival drug dealers.
The full Parole Board accepted the six-year FTE recommendation of a three-member panel. The panel's principal concern involved Ghaffar's serious criminal history, which escalated after previous unsuccessful parole opportunities. Ghaffar has also violated the terms of probationary sentences, leaving the sentencing court with no other option but incarceration. Ghaffar has also been disciplined for violating prison rules.
A September 9, 2005 confidential addendum to the Parole Board's decision documents a January 2005 psychological evaluation in which Ghaffar was found to be predisposed toward violent behavior. Although the same report noted some "emerging insight" into his "criminogenic behavior," Ghaffar remains in high-risk category for recidivism.
Our standard of review of final decisions of the State Parole Board is well-settled.
"Parole Board decisions are highly individualized discretionary appraisals." Nevertheless, although the Board has broad discretionary powers, "its determinations are always judicially reviewable for arbitrariness." No stricter standard of review applies to the Parole Board than to any other administrative agency. Since the statute creates a presumption of release on the parole eligibility date, the decision not to release must be regarded as arbitrary if it is not supported by a preponderance of evidence in the record.
[Kosmin v. N.J. State Parole Bd., 363 N.J. Super. 28, 41-42 (App. Div. 2003) (internal citations omitted).]
In addition, "psychological evidence may support a determination of inadequate rehabilitation indicating a likelihood of recidivism." Williams v. N.J. State Parole Bd., 336 N.J. Super. 1, 8 (App. Div), certif. denied, 165 N.J. 523 (2000). Guided by these principles, we discern no legal basis to disturb the Parole Board's decision.
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