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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Charles Cocklin #237667 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Charles Cocklin #237667

South Carolina Department of Corrections





In the above-captioned matter, Appellant Charles Cocklin appeals the decision of Respondent South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC or Department) to revoke eighty-five days of his “good-time” credit and temporarily suspend certain of his prison privileges as punishment for striking a Department employee in violation of DOC Disciplinary Code § 1.03. Having reviewed the record, the applicable law, and the briefs filed by the parties in this matter, I conclude that the decision of the Department must be affirmed.


On the evening of September 1, 2003, Appellant and a Department corrections officer, Lieutenant Michael Elka, became involved in an altercation at the entrance to the A-Wing of the Stono Building at the Lieber Correctional Institution. As the altercation escalated, Lieutenant Elka sprayed Appellant in the face with MK4 chemical munitions. In the ensuing commotion, Appellant swung both of his hands at Lieutenant Elka, hitting him in the forehead. The incident was witnessed by three other corrections officers, Officers Larson Wilson, Thelma Jones, and Mary Jones. Lieutenant Elka and Officer Wilson both filed incident reports describing the altercation; each report states that Appellant struck Lieutenant Elka in the forehead with both hands after receiving the chemical spray. The other officers did not file incident reports. As a result of this incident, Appellant was charged with violating DOC Disciplinary Code § 1.03, Striking an Employee With or Without a Weapon.

Appellant was notified of the charge against him on September 2, 2003, and a hearing on the charge was held before a DOC Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) on September 4, 2003. At the hearing, the incident reports of Lieutenant Elka and Officer Wilson were read into the record and Lieutenant Elka was present by telephone to confirm the facts of his incident report. Appellant, who was represented by counsel substitute, also testified at the hearing. In his testimony, Appellant contended that he was provoked by Lieutenant Elka into the altercation, but further admitted that, after he was gassed, he did “swing out,” although he was unsure whether he made contact with Lieutenant Elka. See Hr’g Tr. at 6. Appellant also sought to call Officer Thelma Jones as a witness on his behalf, but the DHO denied the motion made by Appellant’s counsel at the start of the hearing for a continuance in order to secure testimony from Officer Jones.

At the close of the hearing, the DHO found Appellant guilty of the charge against him and prepared a written report containing his findings. As punishment for the offense, the DHO revoked 85 days of Appellant’s good-time credit, suspended his canteen and telephone privileges for 30 days, and suspended his visitation privileges for 120 days. Appellant appealed his disciplinary conviction to the Department and then to this Court. On appeal, Appellant primarily contends that he was denied a fair disciplinary hearing because the DHO refused to allow him a continuance to secure the testimony of Officer Jones.


This appeal is before this Court pursuant to Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000), Sullivan v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 355 S.C. 437, 586 S.E.2d 124 (2003), and Slezak v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 361 S.C. 327, 605 S.E.2d 506 (2004). Having carefully reviewed the record in this matter under the due process standards set out in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974), Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000), and their progeny, I find that Appellant’s disciplinary conviction must be affirmed. While the DHO’s unexplained refusal to allow Appellant a continuance to call Officer Jones as a witness raises certain due process concerns, see, e.g., Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 371, 527 S.E.2d at 751 (noting that an inmate faced with losing good-time credit “should be allowed to call witnesses . . .provided there is no undue hazard to institutional safety or correctional goals”), this refusal, even if error, is patently harmless as the disciplinary hearing was otherwise procedurally sound and as the evidence in the record, including the reports filed by two officers and Appellant’s own testimony, fully supports the DHO’s conclusion that Appellant struck Lieutenant Elka in the forehead during their altercation. Accordingly, Appellant’s disciplinary conviction must stand.


For the reasons set forth above,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Appellant’s September 4, 2003 disciplinary conviction for striking a Department employee is AFFIRMED.





Administrative Law Judge

Post Office Box 11667

Columbia, South Carolina 29211-1667


June 13, 2005

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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