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Anthony Russo v. New Jersey State Parole Board

June 15, 2012

ANTHONY RUSSO, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY STATE PAROLE BOARD, RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the New Jersey State Parole Board.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 31, 2012

Before Judges Fuentes, J. N. Harris, and Koblitz.

This is an appeal from a denial of parole. Former death-row inmate Anthony Russo, now approaching his seventy-third birthday, is currently serving a complicated tripartite sentence: (1) a commuted life sentence for a 1961 murder; (2) a consecutive sentence of fifty years (with a twenty-year parole disqualifier) for a 1986 conviction of first-degree distribution of controlled dangerous substances;*fn1 and (3) a consecutive sentence of another three years for a 2003 third-degree escape. He appeals from the June 29, 2011 final decision of the New Jersey State Parole Board (the Board) denying him parole and imposing a thirty-four-month future eligibility term (FET). We affirm.

I.

A.

Russo's involvement in the New Jersey criminal justice system can be traced as far back as December 1959, when he was arrested for simple assault in Belleville. In March 1961, Russo was charged with the capital murder of an off-duty police officer during an attempted robbery in Newark. He was convicted and sentenced to death. On January 17, 1972, the death sentence was commuted,*fn2 and parole was subsequently granted in August 1975.

While on parole, Russo was charged with, and convicted of, several offenses committed in 1981. He was re-incarcerated, but paroled again in April 1984.

During this second period of parole, Russo was charged and ultimately convicted by a jury of several drug-related offenses, resulting in an aggregate sentence of fifty years incarceration with twenty years of parole ineligibility, consecutive to the life term earlier imposed.

In March 2003, Russo escaped from the custody of the Department of Corrections. He was convicted of this crime in December 2003 and sentenced to a three-year term to be served consecutive to the sentences he was already serving.

Since 1992, while incarcerated, Russo was found guilty thirteen times of committing prohibited acts, including four asterisk charges. See N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a) ("Prohibited acts preceded by an asterisk (*) are considered the most serious and result in the most sever sanctions."). The last disciplinary action against Russo was in September 2006.

B.

Russo's most recent parole application was denied on June 29, 2011.*fn3 The Board concurred with the assessment of its Adult Panel, finding that "a preponderance of the evidence indicated that there was a reasonable expectation Mr. Russo would violate conditions of parole if released ...


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