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LeCompte v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


February 5, 2008

DERICK LECOMPTE, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.

On appeal from Final Agency Decision of the Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 16, 2008

Before Judges Cuff and Lihotz.

Appellant, Derick LeCompte, a New Jersey State Prison inmate, appeals from a final decision of the Department of Corrections (DOC) adjudicating him guilty of committing prohibited act *.704, "perpetrating frauds, deceptions, confidence games, riots or escape plots," N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a), and imposing sanctions of fifteen days detention with credit for time served, 365 days loss of commutation credit, and 365 days administrative segregation.

Appellant raises the following arguments on appeal:

POINT I.

THE DECISION OF THE HEARING OFFICER IS NOT BASED ON SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.

POINT II.

THE HEARING OFFICER VIOLATED PRISONER'S DUE PROCESS.

POINT III.

FAILURE TO INTERVIEW, QUESTION OR GRANT POLYGRAPH EXAMINATION.

POINT IV.

FAILURE TO CONDUCT A PROPER INVESTIGATION.

POINT V.

VARIOUS FORMS AND DOCUMENTS WERE FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

POINT VI.

THE BASIS OF THE *.704 CHARGE IS ALLEGED MONEY LAUNDERING.

POINT VII.

DISTINCTION OF THE TWO ORGANIZATIONS.

POINT VIII.

ADJUDICATIONS BY HEARING OFFICER ARE INCONSISTENT.

POINT IX.

THERE WAS NO ATTEMPT TO CONCEAL THE FACT OF INCARCERATION.

POINT X.

ALL MONEY TRANSACTIONS BETWEEN LECOMPTE AND LAPLANTE ARE LEGAL.

POINT XI.

ALLEGATIONS ARE NOT A REFLECTION OF LECOMPTE'S OR LAPLANTE'S CHARACTERS.

After consideration of the record, the arguments presented in the briefs and the applicable law we reject appellant's arguments and affirm.

Investigator Dolce of the Special Investigations Division discovered that several inmates created a not-for-profit, faith-based corporation known as Baseemah's Ray of Hope, Inc. (BRH). The inmates were assisted by other individuals who were not confined. The entity was created without obtaining prior approval. After a search of appellant's cell, Dolce found over 200 documents regarding the creation of BRH. The documents included: a receipt for filing a certificate of incorporation for a non-profit corporation, bylaws for BRH, a public records filing and a receipt for the filing fee for a new business entity, an application and a filing fee receipt for a corporate name reservation, a certificate granting the name reservation to BRH, instructions from the Attorney General's Office regarding charitable registration and registration with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Federal Tax Forms referencing an employer identification number for BRH, a request for federal determination of qualification for exempt organization status, a copyright registration for a corporate logo, a receipt for a post office box rental, employment agreements, advertising that included a website address, and copies of correspondence sent by BRH to several corporations soliciting donations to the nonprofit organization.

Many of these documents were signed by appellant as secretary or Board member, his mother as the corporation's registered agent and another inmate Gary Harris, listed as the president and CEO. Correspondence by BRH stated Harris and appellant could be contacted through the P.O. Box. Dolce concluded this was designed to conceal their inmate status.

Harris was interviewed by Dolce. He revealed the names of three other inmates involved in BRH, one of whom was appellant. Harris explained that the money received from donations would be deposited in a BRH account and then transferred into accounts for appellant, Harris and the other two inmates involved in the scheme. Dolce's report accompanied by copies of the documents seized and Harris's written statement were presented at appellant's disciplinary hearing.

Because this was an asterisk offense, appellant was provided a counsel substitute. Appellant disputed Dolce's theory that the documents evidenced a scheme to launder money.

At the hearing, appellant maintained BRH was his mother's corporation formed to help a female friend. He asserts there was no attempt to defraud anyone and he received no monetary benefit. Additionally, appellant suggested the documents related to a non-profit corporation that was dissolved in 2005. He stated he kept the paperwork as an educational resource. The record reflects appellant did not request to confront witnesses as now suggested.

The Assistant Superintendent of the DOC affirmed the guilty adjudication of the Hearing Officer.

We will not interfere with an agency's decision unless it is arbitrary, capricious or unsupported by substantial credible evidence in the record. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980). Many of appellant's arguments challenge the weight of the evidence presented. We have reviewed the record and we are satisfied that the reports relied upon by the Hearing Officer and the Associate Superintendent, which included the documents seized from appellant's cell and Harris's statement, provided the required "substantial" evidence to support the disciplinary violation against appellant. See McDonald v. Pinchak, 139 N.J. 188, 195-96 (1995); N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.15(a); R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D). We are further satisfied from our review of the record that the disciplinary proceedings were conducted in accordance with all applicable due process requirements. See Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 523 (1975) (listing the limited due process protections afforded prisoners prior to being subjected to disciplinary sanctions). Appellant's argument that he was deprived of his due process rights lacks sufficient merit to warrant further discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). Further, the denial of appellant's untimely request for a polygraph examination, made three months after the hearing and his guilty adjudication, was not an arbitrary exercise of discretion. See Johnson v. N.J. Dep't of Corrs., 298 N.J. Super. 79, 83 (App. Div. 1997) (polygraph not necessarily required when inmate denies the disciplinary charge against him). Finally, we decline to address the remaining arguments raised for the first time on appeal. Nieder v. Royal Indem. Ins. Co., 62 N.J. 229, 234 (1973).

Affirmed.

20080205

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