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Robbins v. New Jersey State Parole Board

December 5, 2008


On appeal from a Final Decision of the New Jersey State Parole Board.

Per curiam.


Submitted November 6, 2008

Before Judges Cuff and Baxter.

Ronald Robbins appeals from a February 22, 2007 decision of the State Parole Board (Board) that denied parole and established a one hundred fifty-six month future eligibility term (FET). We affirm.


On April 14, 1983, defendant was sentenced to a term of seventy-five years imprisonment after being found guilty by a jury of one count of second-degree aggravated assault, two counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree kidnapping, one count of second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and one count of first-degree aggravated sexual assault.*fn1 The jury found Robbins guilty of kidnapping two teenagers who were parked in a car, assaulting the male and locking him into the trunk of a stolen car, and threatening the female with a gun before sexually assaulting her.

On April 19, 1998, Robbins threw a bucket of scalding water, soup and Pine Sol through the bars of his cell, which severely burned a corrections officer. After being found guilty by a jury on two counts of aggravated assault, Robbins was sentenced on March 10, 2000, to a five-year term of imprisonment with a two-and-one-half year parole ineligibility term. The Judgment of Conviction (JOC) did not specify whether the sentence was to run consecutively or currently to the 1983 sentence that Robbins was already serving.

Robbins became eligible for parole for the first time on June 4, 2004. On July 24, 2004, after a hearing, a two-member Board panel voted to deny parole, and referred the matter to a three-member panel to establish an extended FET. That panel, after considering the full record, imposed a twenty-year FET. Both panels concluded that Robbins was likely to commit a new offense if released.

However, on November 29, 2005, we described Robbins's aggravated assault conviction as running consecutively to the 1983 sentence he was already serving. State v. Robbins, No. A-1038-04 (App. Div. November 29, 2005). Consequently, on March 9, 2006, the Board notified Robbins that because of the change in judgment, his parole eligibility had become subject to the new parole standards that became effective on August 19, 1997, which require the Board to deny parole upon proof of a reasonable expectation that the inmate will violate conditions of parole if released.*fn2

Therefore, because Robbins was serving a sentence for a crime committed after August 19, 1997, the Board's March 9, 2006 letter notified Robbins that on December 14, 2005, both panels had reconsidered his parole eligibility in light of the new parole standard. Specifically, both the two-and three-member panels issued amended decisions that applied the new standard, finding that there was a reasonable expectation that Robbins would violate conditions of parole if released.

In its amended December 14, 2005 decision, the two-member panel considered its earlier interview of Robbins, the pre-parole report, Robbins's entire case file and a confidential psychological report. The panel based its decision to deny parole on the following factors: an "extensive" and "repetitive" prior criminal record; his incarceration for a "multi-crime conviction"; the failure of prior opportunities on probation and parole to deter criminal behavior; a history of probation and parole violations; institutional infractions that were "numerous, persistent, [and] serious in nature" that resulted in "loss of commutation time [and] confinement in detention"; "insufficient problem resolution" including "lack of insight into criminal behavior," and denial of any criminal conduct; "commission of a crime while incarcerated"; and completion of only "minimal programming" to address substance abuse and a "serious criminal history."

The panel specifically commented that Robbins's "institutional adjustment is seriously horrible[;] [he] lost 4,940 days [of] commutation time." The panel identified a lone mitigating factor, Robbins's participation in institutional programs had resulted in the restoration of 898 of the 4,940 days lost commutation time. After voting to deny Robbins parole, the two-member panel referred his matter to a three-member panel to establish a FET in excess of the administrative guidelines.*fn3

The three-member panel, recognizing that a FET was no longer reduced by commutation credits, decided to impose a thirteen-year eligibility term, which, in light of the change in calculation ...

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