On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 19, 2012
Before Judges Espinosa and Guadagno.
Appellant Kenneth Ransome is an inmate at the New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) in Trenton currently serving a life term following a conviction for manslaughter. He appeals from a July 1, 2011 final administrative determination of the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) finding him guilty of three prohibited acts: two counts of *.704, perpetrating a fraud, and one count of *.803/*.215, attempting to commit or aiding another to commit possession with intent to distribute or sell prohibited substances. N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a). Ransome claims he was denied due process as a result of the lengthy delay in bringing these charges and that there was insufficient evidence to support the determinations.
The charges arose out of an extensive Special Investigation Division (SID) probe into a drug-smuggling operation at NJSP headed by another inmate, Anthony Kidd. The investigation revealed that Kidd used other inmates to solicit persons outside the prison to bring in drugs. The inmates would add the outsiders to their visitor's lists and the drugs were passed when the outsiders came to the prison to "visit" a cooperating inmate. In return, the outside conspirators would receive checks, cash them and give some of the proceeds to others who would deposit the funds back into Kidd's account.
The principal method of contacting the outsiders was through prison telephones. Numerous prison calls made by the inmates were intercepted and recorded.
The recordings revealed that appellant performed "legal" work for Kidd's group and was compensated in drugs. Also, during a period when Kidd was not authorized to use the telephone, Ransome used Kidd's Individual Personal Identification Number (IPIN) to place a three-way call to the Trenton Police Department. During this phone call, Ransome posed as Kidd and attempted to file complaints against members of the police department. On another occasion, Ransome used Kidd's IPIN to again call the Trenton Police Department, posing as Kidd's brother, and attempted to disrupt an administrative disciplinary sanction against Kidd.
On June 17, 2011, Ransome was charged with two counts of *.704 and one count of *.803/*.215. Ransome did not make a statement or identify any witnesses he wanted interviewed. The charges were referred to a hearing officer. Ransome requested and was appointed counsel substitute to assist him.
The hearing was originally scheduled for June 20, 2011, but was postponed to June 23, 2011 at Ransome's request. Two more postponements were needed to permit the hearing officer to meet with SID. The hearing took place on July 1, 2011. Ransome declined to make a statement and the only argument presented by his counsel substitute was a claim that NJSP was aware of the violations in 2008 and waiting until 2011 to bring the charges was a denial of Ransome's right to due process.
The hearing officer relied on the intercepted telephone conversations which confirmed that Ransome used Kidd's IPIN to make calls and found him guilty on the *.704 charges. The hearing officer also concluded that Ransome was guilty of the *.803/*.215 charge as he did "legal work" for Kidd's organization for which he was paid in drugs.
On the *.704 charges, Ransome was sanctioned 15 days detention, 90 days administrative segregation, and 265 days loss of telephone privileges. On the *.803/*.215 charge, Ransome received 15 days detention, 180 days loss of commutation time, 180 days urine monitoring, and permanent loss of contact visits.
On July 7, 2011, Ransome administratively appealed the hearing officer's decision. On July 22, 2011, Assistant Superintendent Anderson upheld the guilty findings and the sanctions.
On appeal, appellant asserts that the hearing officer abused her discretion in relying on evidence that dated back to 2006 in considering charges filed in 2011. He also ...