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Barnes v. Sherrer

August 19, 2009


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Essex County, Docket No. SC-146-07.

Per curiam.


Submitted January 9, 2008

Remanded June 24, 2008

Resubmitted October 16, 2008

Before Judges Payne, Sapp-Peterson and Messano.

Plaintiff, Tyronne Barnes, presently an inmate at Northern State Prison, appealed from a Law Division decision dated May 7, 2007, dismissing his complaint filed in the New Jersey Superior Court, Essex County, Law Division, Special Civil Part, seeking damages for alleged lost property as set forth in an August 16, 2005 lost property claim. In his complaint and subsequent appeal, Barnes alleged that on May 15, 2005, a disciplinary charge was entered against him. At that time, he was placed in detention, and a prison officer was directed to pack and inventory Barnes's personal property. Barnes further alleged that the property had been misappropriated by a prison official, Lt. Pierrer Emmanuel, and as a result, he had lost a Magnavox color T.V., a Cambridge radio, a Sony Walkman stereo, Andis beard trimmers, and his entire file of legal diskettes.

We were unable to discern from the one-sided record presented to us on appeal*fn1 what had occurred in connection with Barnes's property. We therefore remanded the matter with instructions that Barnes's claim be investigated, and that the investigation include "(1) a full evaluation of all evidence in Barnes's possession that substantiates his claim of possession of the allegedly lost items; (2) an investigation of the alleged transfer of the property to Lt. Emmanuel and his disposition of that property; and (3) if Barnes's prior ownership is substantiated, an investigation of the cause of the loss of the property Barnes has claimed took place." 401 N.J. Super. at 180.

That investigation has been concluded. It disclosed, among other things, that on November 2, 2006, another panel of our court decided Barnes's appeal from disciplinary charges of violation of *.352, counterfeiting, forging, or unauthorized production of an official document. See N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1 (prohibited acts). See also Barnes v. Dept. of Corrections, No. A-3493-05T2 (App. Div. November 2, 2006). In that case, arising out of the same facts that underlie the present matter, Barnes had been charged with altering the receipt utilized by him to establish his ownership of the television, radio and Walkman that he alleged had been stolen from him or otherwise misplaced. Investigation determined that the receipt in its original form reflected the purchase of Louisiana Hot Sauce, strawberry jelly, graham crackers, instant oatmeal, Vienna finger cookies, and sardines. As a consequence, the disciplinary charges were upheld.

Investigation in the present matter has further disclosed that Barnes failed to demonstrate that he was authorized to have possession of the alleged missing property, including the television, Walkman and radio. A property index card, completed at the time of Barnes's transfer to Northern State Prison in 2005, indicated that Barnes possessed a television, radio and Walkman, but not the ones he alleged were lost. The manufacturers were different. During the investigation, Barnes was unable to explain this discrepancy or provide competent proof that the allegedly lost items had been purchased after his arrival at Northern State. Although Barnes claimed, for the first time, that the items had been purchased and transferred to him by a third-party, he could provide no proof of that fact, nor of any authorization for their possession.

Additionally, the current investigation disclosed that Barnes was unable to provide proof that he had an Andis beard trimmer in his possession in 2005 or that legal diskettes were missing. Particularly, the property index card prepared upon the transfer of Barnes to Northern State Prison in 2005 contained no reference to the beard trimmer, and the inmate inventory sheet of June 2005, upon which Barnes noted the loss of the television, radio and Walkman, contained no claim for the loss of either the beard trimmer or the diskettes.*fn2

As a final matter, the investigation disclosed no evidence of conversion by Lt. Emanuel. Barnes has not disputed the results of the thorough investigation conducted by the Department of Corrections (DOC) in this matter.

Because the investigation conducted by the DOC has resulted in unrefuted proof that Barnes's underlying claim of lost property was groundless, we dismiss his appeal. We find any further discussion of Barnes's arguments to have insufficient merit to ...

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