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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Galen Wheeler #128061 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Galen Wheeler #128061

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Court (ALC or Court) pursuant to the appeal of Galen Wheeler, an inmate incarcerated with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (Department). Wheeler filed a grievance with the Department objecting to the Department’s calculation of his sentence and received the Department’s final decision on January 27, 2005. On February 8, 2005, the Appellant filed this appeal with the Court.


On February 4, 1985, Wheeler was sentenced to twenty-five (25) years for Armed Robbery (85-GS-06-17) and twenty (20) years suspended to fifteen (15) years for ABWIK (85-GS-06-18) to run consecutively. On January 15, 1987, Wheeler was sentenced to ten (10) years for ABHAN (86-GS-40-3102) with the sentence running “consecutive to any prior sentence” per the sentencing sheet. On September 16, 1987, Wheeler was sentenced to ten (10) years for ABHAN (87-GS-40-1263) with the sentence running “consecutive to any prior sentence” per the sentencing sheet. On August 7, 1990, Wheeler was sentenced to five (5) years for Smuggling/Possession of Contraband By a State Prisoner (90-GS-23-5256) with the sentence running “consecutive to the sentence now being served” per the sentencing sheet. On that same date, Wheeler was sentenced to five (5) years for ABWIK (90-GS-23-5257) with the sentence running “concurrent with 90-GS-23-5256)” per the sentencing sheet. Finally, on November 16, 1992, Wheeler was sentenced to five (5) years for ABHAN (92-GS-35-218) with the sentence to run “consecutive” per the sentencing sheet.


The Court’s jurisdiction to hear this matter was originally derived from the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). The Supreme Court limited the ALC’s jurisdiction in inmate appeals to state created liberty interests typically involving: (1) cases in which an inmate contends that prison officials have erroneously calculated his/her sentence, sentence-related credits, or custody status; and (2) cases in which an inmate has received punishment in a major disciplinary hearing as a result of a serious rule violation. Id. Because this appeal challenges the Department’s calculation of Wheeler’s sentence, there is no question but that Wheeler is entitled to review.

When reviewing the Department’s decisions in inmate grievance matters, the ALC sits in an appellate capacity. Id. at 756. Consequently, the review in these inmate grievance cases is limited to the Record presented. An Administrative Law Judge may not substitute his judgment for that of an agency “as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact.” S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(6) (Supp. 2004). Furthermore, an Administrative Law Judge may not reverse or modify an agency’s decision unless substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because the decision is clearly erroneous in view of the substantial evidence on the whole Record, arbitrary or affected by an error of law. See S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(6); See also Marietta Garage, Inc. v. South Carolina Dept. of Public Safety, 337 S.C. 133, 522 S.E.2d 605 (Ct. App. 1999); South Carolina Dept. of Labor, Licensing and Regulation v. Girgis, 332 S.C. 162, 503 S.E.2d 490 (Ct. App. 1998).


Appellant argues that the Department failed to comply with the Court’s sentence on his Smuggling/Possession conviction. Appellant claims that the Smuggling/Possession sentence should run consecutively to his twenty-five (25) year sentence for Armed Robbery because that was the sentence he was serving when he was sentenced for that crime. The Department has run the Smuggling/Possession charge consecutive to the total sentence of sixty (60) years that the Appellant was serving at the time he was sentenced (25 for Armed Robbery + 15 for ABWIK + 10 for ABHAN + 10 for ABHAN = 60 years).

In Polk v. Manning, 224 S.C. 467, 79 S.E.2d 875, 876 (1954), the South Carolina Supreme Court held that:

In determining whether several sentences are to run consecutively or concurrently, they should reasonably be construed in accordance with the intent of the trial court, if the language used makes the intent clear. But the elimination of every conceivable doubt is not requisite to their validity or enforcement. The elimination of every possible doubt cannot be demanded.

See also United States v. Daugherty, 269 U.S. 360, 46 S.Ct. 156 (1926). Here, at the time Appellant was sentenced on the Smuggling charge, he had already been sentenced previously, on different dates for Armed Robbery, ABWIK, ABHAN and ABHAN. The judge sentenced Appellant on the Smuggling charge to five (5) years “consecutive to the sentence now being served.” However, the language of the judge’s sentence does not specify that he intended that the Smuggling charge be “tucked in” after the Armed Robbery conviction and before the sentences for ABWIK, ABHAN and ABHAN. Rather, a reasonable reading of the sentence is that the judge intended that Appellant’s sentence on the Smuggling conviction begin running after the other sentences he was serving as a result of his previous convictions. In other words, it is simply more reasonable to assume that the sentencing judge on the Smuggling charge simply took notice that Appellant was already serving time as an inmate and simply wanted the Smuggling sentence to start after those sentences were satisfied.

Furthermore, in Polk, supra., the Court also addressed similar facts to those at issue in this case. There, Bill Polk was sentenced to three consecutive sentences of three (3) years, three (3) years and four (4) years respectively, on April 13, 1942. Later, on June 8, 1942, he was sentenced to ten (10) years “to become effective after service of the sentence he is now serving in York County.” Id. at 876. Like Appellant, Polk argued that the ten (10) year sentence imposed on June 8, 1942 began to run at the expiration of the first of the three sentences imposed on April 13, 1942. Id. Additionally, like Appellant, though Polk was serving several sentences, the judge set forth that Polk’s prison term was to run consecutive to the “sentence” he was serving rather than referencing the sentences - plural - that he was serving. The Polk Court held that the use of the singular term “sentence” did not imply the specific sentence Appellant was currently serving but rather that his sentence was to begin upon the termination of the last sentence he was convicted to serve. See also State v. Molbert, 310 So.2d 585 (La. 1975) (A generally recognized rule holds that a subsequent consecutive sentence does not begin until the date of termination of the next prior sentence.); State ex rel. Lillemoe v. Tahash, 280 Minn. 176, 159 N.W.2d 99 (Minn. 1968) (A consecutive term does not begin to run until the expiration of the term of the prior sentence, as each sentence must be served separately.). In other words, as set forth in Mims v. State, 273 S.C. 740, 259 S.E.2d 602 (1979), for the purpose of determining parole eligibility, consecutive sentences must be aggregated. Aggregate means “to collect or gather into a mass or whole.” Merriam-Webster Online (2005), available at http://

Appellant based his argument upon a Maryland Court of Appeals opinion in Robinson v. Lee, 317 Md. 371, 564 A.2d 395 (Md. 1989). In that case, the sentencing judge used the phrase “consecutive with sentence now serving” in sentencing inmate Lee to fifteen (15) years for Robbery. At the time of sentencing, Lee had previously been sentenced on several occasions for several different crimes and those sentences were all running consecutively. Corrections officials calculated the fifteen (15) year sentence as beginning when Lee had finished serving all of his other consecutive sentences. The court disagreed and held that the fifteen (15) year sentence was consecutive only to the first of the prior consecutive offenses, focusing on the term “now” as dispositive. In other words, at the time the fifteen (15) year sentence was imposed, the inmate had not completed the time on the first of the consecutive sentences so that sentence was the one the inmate was “now serving.”

However, I disagree with the Maryland Court’s interpretation of the implication of the term “now serving.” I further find that use of the South Carolina Supreme Court’s elucidation of the term “sentence” in Polk, as applying to both one or more sentences, renders the interpretation of “now” irrelevant. Moreover, Appellant significantly relies upon the fact that the judge who previously sentenced him used the phrase, “consecutive to any prior sentence.” Nevertheless, since the Smuggling sentence was issued by a different judge, the discrepancy in the language appears to be merely the product of a variation in syntax between two judges as opposed to a difference in intended result.

Appellant also contests the Department’s construction of his sentence for ABHAN imposed on November 16, 1992. He claims that because the sentencing sheet uses the word “consecutive” but does not indicate to what charge the sentence is consecutive, that he should again be given the benefit of having the sentence run concurrent with the sentence he is “now serving.” For all the reasons previously cited and because Wheeler cannot even avail himself of the “now serving” language he used for his other conviction, this contention is rejected.

Consequently, I find that the Department correctly calculated Appellant’s sentence.


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Final Decision of the Department is AFFIRMED and the appeal of Appellant Wheeler is DENIED.




Ralph King Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge



July 13, 2005

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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