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Snipes v. New Jersey State Parole Board

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


August 10, 2009

RICHARD SNIPES, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY STATE PAROLE BOARD, RESPONDENT.

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

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted July 15, 2009

Before Judges R. B. Coleman and Graves.

Richard Snipes appeals from a final administrative decision of the New Jersey State Parole Board dated June 26, 2008, denying him parole and establishing an eighteen-month future eligibility term (FET). On December 14, 2000, a jury convicted Snipes of first-degree carjacking, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2, and other charges. He was sentenced to an eighteen- year prison term, with six years of parole ineligibility.

Following a hearing on January 28, 2008, a two-member Parole Panel determined there was a reasonable expectation that Snipes would violate the conditions of parole if he was released at that time. The Panel based its decision on the following factors: an extensive and repetitive prior criminal record; incarceration resulted from multiple convictions; prior opportunities for community supervision (probation or parole) were violated and community supervision failed to deter criminal behavior; prior incarceration did not deter criminal behavior; insufficient problem resolution, including lack of insight into criminal behavior and minimization of conduct; the lack of an adequate parole plan to assist in the successful reintegration into the community; and a total score of twenty-nine on a risk assessment evaluation, placing him at medium risk for recidivism.

The Panel also found the following mitigating factors: Snipes was infraction free; he participated in programs specific to behavior; his institutional reports were average to above average; and he attempted to enroll and participate in programs even though he was not admitted. In addition, when the Panel reconsidered its decision on May 28, 2008, it noted that Snipes had participated in institutional programs, he achieved and maintained minimum custody status, his institutional adjustment was favorable, and his commutation time was restored.

In affirming the Panel's decision, the Parole Board stated:

The full Board found that the Panel did not violate your due process rights. The Panel carefully and thoroughly reviewed all the reports contained in your file and based its decision on the totality of the information in the administrative record. You were given the opportunity to meet with the Panel and to provide information. The Panel based its decision on the factors set forth in the statutory requirements and N.J.A.C. 10A:71-3.11. Therefore, your appeal based on the contention that your due process rights were violated lacks merit.

The full Board found upon a review of the tape recording of the hearing, there is no evidence to support your allegation of improper conduct by any Board members. You were asked appropriate questions in a professional manner and the Panel afforded you a significant opportunity to speak on several points. The Board further found that the Panel asked you appropriate questions and listened to your answers. This is evidenced by the follow-up questions posed by the Panel. Of concern to the Panel is that you did not blame the crime on your addiction but on your financial problems and inability to pay your rent. The Panel stated that you could have gone to a bank for a loan instead of robbing someone. The Board found that your motives for the carjacking and robbery illustrate your inability to understand your behavior and the consequences of your actions, especially toward the victim. For these reasons, the Board found no merit to your argument that the Panel violated the Board's Code of Professional Conduct or demonstrated personal interest or demonstrated prejudice or bias in your case.

Regarding your request for parole to the Halfway Back Program, the full Board found that at the time the Panel reviewed your case, the Panel determined that based upon the facts in your case, the appropriate decision was to deny parole. Furthermore, this is not an appealable issue as it fails to meet the criteria for appeal to the full Board pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10A:71-4.2.

Based upon consideration of the facts cited above, the full Board has determined that the Adult Panel has considered the aggregate of information pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10A:71-3.11 and fully documented and supported its decision for denying parole pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10A:71-3.18(f). Also, the full Board found that the Adult Panel's decision is based upon a determination that a preponderance of the evidence indicates that there is a reasonable expectation that you would violate the conditions of parole if released on parole at this time.

In his pro se brief, Snipes presents the following arguments:

POINT I.

BOARD PANEL'S REASONS FOR DENYING PAROLE BECAUSE OF APPELLANT'S PRIOR CRIMINAL RECORD WAS ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS.

POINT II.

A BOARD MEMBER MS. RUBY WASHINGTON FAILED TO COMPLY WITH THE BOARD'S PROFESSIONAL CODE OF CONDUCT.

POINT III.

THE BOARD PANEL FAILED TO CONSIDER SIGNIFICANT INFORMATION [DURING] CONSIDERATION OF A PAROLE HEARING.

POINT IV.

INFORMATION USED AT PETITIONER'S PANEL HEARING VIOLATED PETITIONER'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS.

We reject these arguments and affirm the decision to deny parole and establish an eighteen-month FET substantially for the reasons expressed by the full Parole Board in its written decision on June 26, 2008.

"[A] parole board's decision concerns a prediction as to an inmate's future behavior, a prognostication necessarily fraught with subjectivity." Trantino v. N.J. State Parole Bd., 166 N.J. 113, 201 (2001). Consequently, when the Board reviews an inmate's record and establishes a release date, it "has broad but not unlimited discretionary powers." Monks v. N.J. State Parole Bd., 58 N.J. 238, 242 (1971). "Administrative actions, such as parole decisions, must be upheld where the findings could reasonably have been reached on the credible evidence in the record." McGowan v. N.J. State Parole Bd., 347 N.J. Super. 544, 563 (App. Div. 2002). Measured by this standard, we discern no basis to disturb the Parole Board's determination.

Affirmed.

20090810

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