August 14, 2008
ALFRED YOBBI, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY STATE PAROLE BOARD, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from the New Jersey State Parole Board.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 1, 2008
Before Judges Skillman and LeWinn.
Appellant Alfred Yobbi is an inmate currently confined at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Delmont, New Jersey, where he is serving a four-year sentence for conspiracy, theft by deception, and theft of services. He appeals from the March 23, 2007 decision of New Jersey State Parole Board (the Board) that rescinded his October 23, 2006 parole date and imposed a future parole eligibility period of twenty months. We affirm.
On September 2, 2005, a Board hearing officer conducted an initial parole hearing and referred Yobbi's case to a two-member panel for a full hearing. On September 2, 2005, a two-member Board panel conducted Yobbi's hearing and granted him parole as of January 17, 2006. The notice of parole release indicated that Yobbi was to be released to a North Carolina parole plan.
On September 23, 2005, the Department of Corrections (the Department) placed Yobbi at the Bo Robinson Halfway House. On November 22, 2005, the Department transferred Yobbi to Volunteers of America's Fletcher House in Camden, New Jersey. This placement was not parole; rather it was the Department's community halfway house placement.
On January 9, 2006, Yobbi's parole release was placed on hold because his parole plan to North Carolina had been rejected. On January 17, 2006, the Board panel amended its notice of parole release to provide that Yobbi would be sent to the Newark Kintock Halfway Back Program for ninety to 180 days, and then to the Alternate Sanctions Program. This release was to take place February 2, 2006. However, on January 27, 2006, the release date was placed on hold in order to change the placement to Volunteers of America's Fletcher House, where Yobbi was already living. Such a change needed Board approval.
On February 9, 2006, the Board panel issued an amended notice of parole release to continue Yobbi at Fletcher House, until transferred to the Alternative Sanctions Program. The panel noted that the release date was extended to August 23, 2006, in order to have Yobbi complete the Fletcher House program. After completing the program, Yobbi was to report to a Day Reporting Center.
On May 13, 2006, Yobbi left Fletcher House for his job site and did not return that evening. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and Yobbi remained at large until he was arrested in Maryland on June 23, 2006. After his return to the custody of the Department, Yobbi pled guilty to escape, a disciplinary infraction, on July 5, 2006.
Accordingly, on July 11, 2006, the Board adjudicated Jobbi guilty of the disciplinary infraction of escape and notified him that his August 23, 2006 parole date was placed on hold pending a rescission hearing scheduled for July 26, 2006. On that date, Yobbi waived his right to appear at the rescission hearing and allowed the Board panel to render its decision in his absence.
Based on the Board hearing officer's recommendations, on October 19, 2006, the Board panel rescinded Yobbi's parole date and imposed a future eligibility term of twenty months. A formal notice of decision was issued on October 30, 2006.
On December 10, 2006, Yobbi administratively appealed the decision to the full Board. On March 23, 2007, the full Board affirmed the panel's decision. On May 2, 2007, Yobbi wrote a letter to Peter Barnes, Chairman of the State Parole Board, claiming that the Board erred because he was on parole, not Departmental placement, at the time of the escape. On May 8, 2007, Richard Turback, Assistant Chief of the Board's Revocation Unit, responded on behalf of Chairman Barnes. Turback advised Yobbi that he was on community placement, not parole, at the time of his escape.
Based on the foregoing, appellant's argument that he was on parole status as of May 13, 2006, is patently without merit. At that time, appellant resided in a community halfway house under the jurisdiction of the Department. As of that date, appellant had never been released on parole. Appellant does not dispute that he left Fletcher House without permission and that he remained a fugitive until his arrest in Maryland over a month later.
We also reject as without merit appellant's argument that the procedures applied to him were deficient. Appellant was provided with notice of his rescission hearing. Prior to that hearing, he voluntarily chose to waive his appearance.
We find no support in the record for appellant's contentions that (1) he believed he was on parole; or (2) he was deprived of his right to a rescission hearing.
Finally, we agree with the Board that the appropriate sanctions were applied. Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10A:71-5.8(d), when the Board rescinds a parole date, it must establish a future eligibility term as set forth in the schedule for parole denial. Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10A:71-3.21(a)(3), an inmate serving a sentence for theft, or for a term of four years, must serve an additional twenty months prior to a new parole date.
"Courts have only a limited role to play in reviewing the actions of other branches of government. In light of the executive function of administrative agencies, judicial capacity to review administrative actions is severely limited." George Harms Const. Co. v. N.J. Tpk. Auth., 137 N.J. 8, 27 (1994).
Our function is to determine whether the administrative action was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. We will only decide whether the findings could reasonably have been reached on the credible evidence in the record, considering the proofs as a whole. . . . We accord to the agency's exercise of its statutorily-delegated responsibilities a strong presumption of reasonableness. The burden of showing the agency's action was arbitrary, unreasonable or capricious rests upon the appellant.
[Bowden v. Bayside State Prison, 268 N.J. Super. 301, 304 (App. Div. 1993), certif. denied, 135 N.J. 469 (1994) (citations omitted).]
Pursuant to these standards, we decline to "disturb" the Board's decision. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997).
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