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Barkley v. New Jersey Department of Corrections


May 5, 2008


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

Per curiam.


Submitted April 23, 2008

Before Judges Cuff and Lihotz.

In this prison disciplinary appeal, appellant Rashaun Barkley, along with Major Tillery who are both incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison's management control unit, appeals from an adjudication of guilt of prohibited act *.002, assaulting any person, in violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1. The Hearing Officer (H.O.) assigned to the matter reviewed all evidence and entered an adjudication of guilty. The H.O. imposed a sanction of fifteen days detention with credit for time served, 180 days loss of commutation credit, 180 days administrative segregation and 120 days loss of recreation privileges. The recommendation was upheld after review by the Assistant Superintendent of the Department of Corrections (DOC). We affirm.

The scope of our review is limited. Williams v. Dep't of Corr., 330 N.J. Super. 197, 203 (App. Div. 2000). An adjudication of an infraction must be supported by substantial credible evidence. Blackwell v. Dep't of Corr., 348 N.J. Super. 117, 123 (App. Div. 2002); Williams, supra, 330 N.J. Super. at 203-04; see also N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.15(a). A DOC decision on prisoner discipline matters will be disturbed only upon a finding that its ruling is arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable or unsupported by substantial credible evidence in the record. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 657 (1999); Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980). Substantial evidence is "such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." In re Application of Hackensack Water Co., 41 N.J. Super. 408, 418 (App. Div. 1956).

Here, Barkley admitted he and Tillery attacked Willie White while in the recreation yard. White, who had a history of mental illness, allegedly accused Barkley and Tillery of entering his cell. Barkley asserts he acted in self-defense.

On appeal, Barkley argues the outcome of the hearing was "predetermined" and the record created by the H.O. was inaccurate. Specifically, he suggests the H.O. recorded his plea as "guilty," although it was "not guilty with an explanation"; attributed statements to him that were exactly the same statements attributed to Tillery; failed to record his claim of self-defense; and declined to investigate the extent of White's mental condition. Additionally, Barkley seeks review of the videotape of the altercation, which he believes will support his position that he was attacked, and he does not accept the H.O.'s representation that a tape does not exist.

The hearing officer found that Barkley and Tillery engaged in an unprovoked assault on White. This finding is supported not only by the statement of Corrections Officer Wisher, who witnessed Tillery and Barkley corner White and then begin "punching and stomping on him," but also by Tillery's admission that he attacked before White acted because White was unpredictable. Therefore, we conclude that the adjudication of guilt is supported by substantial evidence in the record and must be affirmed. DeCamp v. N.J. Dep't of Corrs., 386 N.J. Super. 631, 636 (App. Div. 2006).

Barkley's challenge that he was denied access to the videotape is specious. The H.O. adjourned the first hearing to obtain any available videotape; no surveillance coverage of the incident existed.

We have reviewed Barkley's remaining arguments and considered the submissions of both parties in light of the record and the applicable law. We conclude the remaining issues raised by Barkley are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E)



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