October 17, 2008
TEFERI GELANEH, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY STATE PAROLE BOARD, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from a final decision of the New Jersey State Parole Board.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 6, 2008
Before Judges Reisner and Alvarez.
Teferi Gelaneh appeals from a September 20, 2007 decision of the Parole Board (Board) denying him parole and setting an eighteen-month future eligibility term (FET). We affirm.
After being arrested while in possession of approximately ten ounces of cocaine, Gelaneh entered into a plea agreement and was sentenced to six years in prison with a twenty-four month parole bar, for first-degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1), -5b(1). Gelaneh is an Ethiopian immigrant who is subject to deportation when he is released from prison. Following a hearing on December 8, 2006, the Adult Panel denied parole and recommended an eighteen-month FET. Gelaneh appealed that decision to the Board.
In its final determination, the Board rejected Gelaneh's claim that the panel's decision was based on anti-immigrant bias and agreed with the panel's conclusions that Gelaneh had minimized his conduct and had not sufficiently addressed his substance abuse problem. The Board also considered Gelaneh's prior criminal record and "prior opportunities on community supervision." They concluded he was likely to violate parole if released, despite his participation in several programs while in prison. See N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.53(a).
In his pro se brief, Gelaneh contends that the Board acted untimely on his appeal and failed to give him proper credit for being infraction-free for the past three years. He further argues that he was deemed by the prison psychologist to be a model prisoner, and he completed a variety of rehabilitative programs while incarcerated. Gelaneh's brief also cites his desire to move his family back to Ethiopia.
We review the Board's determination for abuse of discretion, and we will affirm the agency's decision so long as it is supported by substantial credible evidence. See Trantino v. New Jersey State Parole Bd., 166 N.J. 113, 172 (2001); New Jersey State Parole Bd. v. Cestari, 224 N.J. Super. 534, 547 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 111 N.J. 649 (1988). Based on our review of the record in light of this legal standard, we find no basis to disturb the Board's decision. Gelaneh's appellate arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion, beyond the following comments. See R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D) and (E).
The confidential psychologist's report, which has been provided to us, indicates that Gelaneh is at low risk to recidivate based on a structured risk assessment model. However, the report also notes that he is only "in the beginning phases of gaining insight into his behavior" and needs more reinforcement of what he needs to learn. Gelaneh's criminal record also supports the Board's decision. He has a prior drug conviction from 1998, for which he received probation. Nonetheless, he committed another serious drug offense, for which he is currently incarcerated. Contrary to his contentions, the Board did consider his participation in available programs in prison.
Moreover, the record does not support Gelaneh's claims that the Panel's or the Board's decisions were based on anti-immigrant bias. Merely asking whether the anti-drug laws in Ethiopia were similar to those in the United States is not evidence of bias. The Board also noted Gelaneh's immigration detainer, as it was required to do. See N.J.A.C. 10A:71-3.11(c). Such a notation is not evidence of bias.
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