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O'Neal v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections

July 19, 2010

LOUIS O'NEAL, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.



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

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 19, 2010

Before Judges Miniman and Waugh.

Defendant Louis O'Neal appeals from a final agency decision of the Department of Corrections (DOC) imposing disciplinary sanctions for committing certain prohibited acts in violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a). We affirm.

I.

We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record.

O'Neal is currently an inmate at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. However, at the time of the events underlying the discipline that is the subject of this appeal, O'Neal was incarcerated at South Woods State Prison (SWSP) in Bridgeton. He is serving a mandatory minimum term of two years and six months for one count of armed burglary, a maximum term of thirty years for one count of murder, and a maximum term of life in prison for another count of murder.

On April 1, 2009, at approximately 2:20 p.m. Senior Corrections Officer C. Tripp was pat frisking inmates who were leaving the clothing shop at SWSP. According to Tripp, the inmates were talking very loudly in the hallway, so he instructed them to stop talking. Tripp charged that O'Neal, in a loud voice, answered that he could talk if he wanted to and that he had forty to life so he would do what he wanted to do.

At that point, according to Tripp, he asked Corrections Officer J.L. Murray to escort O'Neal from the back of the line to the holding cell. O'Neal was charged with striking Tripp in the upper chest area as Murray was escorting him past Tripp. He was also charged with continuing to remain combative by refusing to be placed in cuffs and grabbing Tripp in the genital area after Tripp "took him to the floor." A team of corrections officers escorted O'Neal to detention.

Because of the incident, the pat frisk movement was terminated and all other incoming movements were delayed. As a result of the incident, three corrections officers were sent to the emergency room for medical attention.

O'Neal was charged with committing prohibited act *.002, "assaulting any person," and prohibited act *.306, "conduct which disrupts or interferes with the security or orderly running of the correctional facility." N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a).

On April 2, 2009, at 3:45 p.m., Sergeant C. Ennals served both charges on O'Neal. Ennals, who had conducted the investigation, referred the charges to a hearing officer for further action. O'Neal pled not guilty to both charges. His request for the assistance of a counsel substitute was granted. His request for a polygraph test was denied because the issue of credibility was deferred to the hearing.

The hearing began on April 3, 2009, but was postponed because O'Neal requested confrontation with Officers Tripp and Murray. The hearing was again postponed on April 6, April 9, April 11, and April 13. On April 17, Murray testified through a ...


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