September 26, 2008
ANTHONY SPRUILL, 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NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION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 September 16, 2008
Before Judges Yannotti and LeWinn.
Anthony Spruill is an inmate at New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) currently serving a ten-year sentence with a three-year period of parole ineligibility, resulting from his convictions for certain drug-related offenses. Spruill appeals from a final determination of the New Jersey State Parole Board (the Board) dated July 26, 2007, which denied his application for parole and imposed a twenty-month future eligibility term.
Spruill's initial parole eligibility date was June 10, 2007. A two-member adult panel of the Board conducted a parole release hearing on February 13, 2007. After reviewing Spruill's record, the panel concluded that, if released, he would violate the conditions of parole; therefore, the panel denied release.
The panel cited numerous factors in support of its decision, including: (1) Spruill's prior opportunities for probation and/or parole had proved unsuccessful; (2) his extensive record showed that prior incarcerations had not deterred him from participating in ongoing criminal activity; (3) his current sentence is for a "multi-crime conviction"; (4) and Spruill lacked insight into his criminal behavior and tended to minimize his criminal conduct.
Notwithstanding Spruill's claim to the contrary, the panel also considered numerous mitigating factors such as: (1) his participation in institutional programs; (2) his average to above-average institutional reports; and (3) the fact that he had achieved and maintained minimum custody status. As part of its parole denial, the panel recommended that Spruill participate in institutional programs to address his criminal behavior.
On July 26, 2007, in response to Spruill's administrative appeal, the Board upheld the panel's decision. The Board concluded that the panel had documented, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there is a reasonable expectation that Spruill would violate the conditions of parole if released at that time, and affirmed the panel's decision.
In his pro se brief on appeal, Spruill makes the following contentions:
PAROLE DECISION IS CONTRARY TO WRITTEN BOARD POLICY OR PROCEDURE, CONTRARY TO N.J.S.A. 2C:43(2)[SIC] AND N.J.S.A. 30:4-123 51(3)[SIC].
PANEL USED THE SAME CRITERIA THAT WAS [SIC] USED BY SENTENCING COURT, SUCH AS ANY PRIOR RECORD, THE RISK OF FUTURE OFFENSES, THE NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF MY . . . OFFENSES, MY PRIOR VIOLATION OF PROBATION, AS WELL AS THE NEED TO DETER!
IT IS SUBMITTED THAT THE STATUTORY CRITERIA SET FORTH IN N.J.S.A. 30:4-123, 53 [SIC] AS ILLUMINATED BY TRANTINO HAS NOT BEEN MET IN ESTABLISHING THE (20) MONTH FUTURE ELIGIBILITY TERM IMPOSE[D] IN THE CASE.
Judicial review of the denial of parole is subject to the same standard as other administrative actions. Trantino v. N.J. State Parole Bd., 166 N.J. 113, 173 (2001). Our role is limited. Our function is to determine whether the administrative action was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1990). We will only assess whether the findings could reasonably have been reached on the credible evidence in the record, considering the proofs as a whole. Close v. Kordulak Bros., 44 N.J. 589-599 (1965). "Parole Board decisions are highly 'individualized discretionary appraisals'" Trantino, supra, 166 N.J. at 173 (quoting Beckworth v. NJ State Parole Bd., 62 N.J. 348, 359 (1973)). The burden of showing the agency's action was arbitrary, unreasonable or capricious rests upon the appellant. Barone v. Dept. of Human Serv., Div. of Med. Asst., 210 N.J. Super. 276, 285 (App. Div. 1986), aff'd, 107 N.J. 355 (1987).
Pursuant to this standard, we find sufficient credible evidence in the record to support the Board's conclusion that Spruill does not currently qualify for parole. We reject Spruill's argument that the Board impermissibly "double counted" his prior record. The fact that Spruill's sentencing judge took his prior record into consideration in weighing the aggravating/mitigating factors at the time of sentence, has no bearing upon the Board's obligation to make an independent multi-faceted determination of parole eligibility in each individual case. The Board made just such an "'individualized, discretionary appraisal'" in this case. Trantino, supra, 166 N.J. at 173.
We are satisfied that the findings and conclusions of the Board are supported by substantial credible evidence in the record, and we affirm substantially for the reasons stated by the Board.
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