On appeal from a Final Decision of the New Jersey State Parole Board.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Telephonically Argued February 3, 2009
Before Judges C.L. Miniman and Baxter.
Ronen Shimoni appeals from a February 28, 2008 decision of the State Parole Board (Board) that denied him parole and established a thirty-two month future eligibility term (FET). We affirm.
On February 28, 2005, Shimoni entered a plea of guilty to first-degree robbery, and was sentenced to a fourteen-year term of imprisonment, of which four years was ordered to be served without parole eligibility. The crime in question occurred on June 25, 1994. The record establishes that after committing the robbery, Shimoni left the country, traveling to both Israel and then to Canada. Not until October 23, 2003, was Shimoni arrested in Canada on the New Jersey fugitive warrant. He was extradited to New Jersey in February 2005.
Shimoni became eligible for parole for the first time on October 14, 2007. After conducting a parole hearing on September 26, 2007, a two-member Board panel concluded that "a substantial likelihood exists that [Shimoni] would commit a new crime if released on parole at this time." The panel's determination was based upon three factors. The first was "insufficient problem resolution." In support of that factor, the Board pointed to a substance abuse problem that Shimoni had not sufficiently addressed, as well as "other," next to which the Board wrote "s[ubject] claims robbery occurred b/c he had lost his money gambling ($15,000)."
The second factor the Board identified as justifying the denial of parole was Shimoni's score of "22" on a LSI-R risk assessment evaluation. The third factor was "OTHER," next to which the Board wrote "Pros[ecutor] obj[ects]/offense com't in '94, sentenced 4/05. S[ubject] extradited from Canada."
The Board found the existence of five mitigating factors, noting that Shimoni has no prior criminal record, has been infraction-free, has participated in institutional programs, has received average to above-average institutional reports and has attempted to enroll in programs but was not admitted.
The panel denied Shimoni parole and established a thirty-six month FET. Shimoni appealed that decision to the full Board, which on February 28, 2008, affirmed the denial of parole but reduced the FET to thirty-two months.
On appeal, Shimoni maintains the Board's decision must be reversed because it is not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record that demonstrates there is a substantial likelihood that Shimoni would commit a further crime if released on parole.
Our scope of review is a narrow one, and we review Shimoni's contentions in accordance with that standard. We must affirm unless the Board's decision was arbitrary, unreasonable, unsupported by credible evidence in the record or contrary to law. Trantino v. N.J. State Parole Bd., 166 N.J. 113, 172 (2001) (Trantino VI). As the Court observed, we review the Board's determination that "'there is a substantial likelihood that an inmate will commit another crime if released.'" Ibid. (quoting Trantino v. N.J. State Parole Bd., 154 N.J. 19, 24 (1998) (Trantino IV) (citation omitted)). Accordingly, a reviewing court is obligated to "'determine whether [that] factual finding could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence in the whole record.'" Id. at 24. (quoting State Parole Bd. v. Cestari, 224 N.J. Super. 534, 547 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 111 N.J. 649 (1988)). The Board "'has ...