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Curry v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections

September 25, 2009

AHKEEM CURRY, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 1, 2009

Before Judges Messano and Alvarez.

Ahkeem Curry, a Northern State Prison inmate, appeals from the final administrative decision issued by respondent, New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC), on April 30, 2008. The decision affirmed the adjudication but modified the sanctions imposed for disciplinary infractions .401 and .402.*fn1 We affirm.

The incident leading to the charges occurred on April 2, 2008, when Curry was housed in Bayside State Prison. He and four other inmates were observed in the prison "package area," at approximately 8:10 a.m. Inmates are excluded from the package area unless specifically authorized by the Shipping and Receiving Officer. By that hour, the inmates were already expected at their assigned work stations. In fact, they were due at their work sites by 8:00 a.m. When Sergeant Cossaboon attempted to question the inmates, all of them, including Curry, attempted to leave. Curry was charged with .401, "participating in an unauthorized meeting or gathering," and .402, "being in an unauthorized area." Id.

At the subsequent hearing conducted by Hearing Officer (HO) Ruggiero on April 28, 2008, Curry entered a guilty plea to prohibited act .402, claiming he stopped only briefly to give another inmate a light. He disputed the .401 charge, however, claiming it was based on a misperception of the officers who witnessed the incident. The HO concluded that Curry's explanation was not factually supported and that the .401 charge was sufficiently substantiated. He noted Curry's entry of the guilty plea to the .402 charge. On each offense the HO imposed fifteen days of detention, ninety days of administrative segregation, and sixty days of loss of commutation time, to be served consecutively.

Curry requested and was granted the assistance of counsel substitute, as is clear from the documents included in respondent's appendix entitled "Adjudication of Disciplinary Charge". The adjudications reflect that Curry declined both the opportunity to call witnesses on his own behalf and the chance to have the investigating officers gather statements from witnesses on his behalf. Curry also declined the opportunity to confront adverse witnesses.

In his statement of facts, Curry now claims that he was simply on his way to work when he and ten other inmates were stopped. Six men were released but he and four others were "inexplicably" charged. He raises the following points on appeal:

POINT 1

THIS DEFENDANT WASN'T GIVEN LEGAL ASSISTANCE FROM THE PARALEGALS. COUNSEL SUBSTITUTE SHALL BE PERMITTED REASONABLE TIME TO SPEAK TO THE INMATE AND SHALL BE GIVEN AT LEAST 24 HOURS TO PREPARE A DEFENSE FOR INMATE. NEVER CONDUCTED.

POINT 2

THIS DEFENDANT WAS NOT GIVEN THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE USE OF THE LAW LIBRARY REFERENCE MATERIALS TO ASSIST THIS DEFENDANT IN RESOLVING ...


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