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Snyder v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections

September 22, 2009

RONNIE SNYDER, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.



On appeal from a Final Agency Decision of the Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted August 12, 2009

Before Judges Rodríguez and LeWinn.

Ronnie Snyder, an inmate at New Jersey State Prison, appeals from a final agency decision of the Department of Corrections (DOC), imposing disciplinary sanctions upon him for committing prohibited act *.004, fighting with another person, and *.306, conduct which disrupts or interferes with the orderly running of the correctional institution. N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a). We affirm.

These are the material facts. On August 16, 2008, Senior Correction Officers T. Wilson and E. Smith saw inmates Snyder and Miller throwing punches at each other's heads and upper bodies. A Code 33, alerting other officers to an emergency or call, was called. The Code 33 caused the 2A gym movement to be cancelled for the evening.

The following day, both inmates were served with the same disciplinary charges. Sergeant N. Tyson conducted an investigation regarding the infractions. Snyder pled not guilty to the infraction, stating with regard to the *.004 charge that, "I was defending myself." Snyder did not make a statement with regard to the *.306 charge.

A disciplinary hearing officer granted Snyder's request for the assistance of a counsel substitute. At the hearing, Snyder pled not guilty to the charges, stating, "I don't get in trouble. [Miller] wanted to fight." Snyder's counsel substitute also stated that "the other guy took a swing at Snyder. He [Snyder] only defended himself. He has the right to defend himself."

Snyder did not make any statements regarding the *.306 charge. He did not request any witnesses for either charge. He declined the hearing officer's offer to confront adverse witnesses. The hearing officer found Snyder guilty of committing prohibited act *.004 and noted:

SCO Wilson reports Snyder and Miller fought, exchanging punches. Snyder pleads not guilty, claiming self-defense. It is noted that both combatants claim they acted in self-defense. Staff observations clearly show the two inmates fought. I can see no reason to doubt their observations. Charge upheld.

With regard to the *.306 charge, the hearing officer found the following:

Sgt. Berry reports that Snyder's actions [fighting] caused an institutional disruption. Due to the [Inmates'] actions, the 2A gym movement was cancelled. Inmate pleaded not guilty. Staff reports clearly show the inmate did disrupt an institutional function. Charge upheld.

The hearing officer recommended the following sanctions: fifteen days detention, with credit for time served; 180 days administrative segregation; and 180 days loss of commutation time. The hearing officer explained that the sanctions were necessary "to deter fights -- inmates' actions caused a disruption in the institution."

Snyder appealed. Assistant Superintendent James Drumm upheld the findings of the hearing officer and imposed the ...


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