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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Dennis Crowe, #247065 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Dennis Crowe, #247065

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Dennis Crowe, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department"). On August 2, 2000, Crowe was disciplined as a result of convictions for the following offenses:

1) Use, Possession , or Distilling and/or Brewing of any Alcoholic Beverages (SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.01); 2) striking an Employee With or Without a Weapon (SCDC Disciplinary Code 1.03; and 3) Use of Obscene, Vulgar or Profane Language or Gestures (SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.05). As a result of his convictions, Crowe lost 120 days of good-time credit for violating (SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.01) and 180 days of good time credit for violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 1.03. No sanction was imposed on Crowe for violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.05. Crowe filed a grievance with the Department on August 7, 2000 and received the Department's final decision on October 10, 2000. On November 9, 2000, Crowe filed this appeal. In his Notice of Appeal, Crowe alleges that he pleaded guilty to the 2.01 charge because his counsel substitute told him that if he did, the 1.03 charge would be dropped.


On July 26, 2000, Sergeant Williams was informed that some inmates in Dorm P-1, Room 117, had some "buck." Upon entering the room where Crowe and two other inmates were lounging about, Sergeant Williams smelled homemade wine and saw cups on the table and in the locker. Sergeant Williams then radioed for help. Sergeant Gideon responded to the call for assistance and ordered Crowe, who was lying on a bunk, to get up and get his shoes on. Crowe got out of bed, he was unstable on his feet. Crowe then got in the face of one of the responding officers and denied being drunk. At some point, Crowe was handcuffed. While Crowe was in handcuffs, Sergeant Gideon used chemical munitions on him. Crowe then spit two times, hitting Sergeant Gideon in the face. Crowe also used profane and vulgar language to Sergeant Gideon.

After the incident, Sergeant Gideon completed an Incident Report and submitted it to his supervisor. Crowe received written notice of the charges on July 27, 2000. The hearing was held on August 2, 2000, before a Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO"). During the hearing, Crowe was represented by counsel substitute, who was given the opportunity to present evidence and to cross-examine Sergeant Gideon. In addition, Crowe was permitted to testify in his own defense. Crowe testified that he had had one cup of wine but was not drunk. He then testified that he was not resisting arrest when Sergeant Gideon maced him. Crowe also stated that he was not trying to spit on Sergeant Gideon; he was merely trying to clear the mace out of his mouth. Finally, Crowe testified that the mace caused him to have an asthma attack. At the conclusion of the hearing, the DHO informed Crowe that he accepted Crowe's guilty plea on the charge of SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.01 and he had been found guilty of the charges SCDC Disciplinary Code 1.03 and SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.05. No sanctions were imposed on the conviction relating to SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.05. After the hearing, the DHO completed a Major Disciplinary Report and Hearing Records ("Hearing Records"), which documented the DHO's findings and the basis for the findings..

Crowe filed a grievance on August 3, 2000, appealing his convictions On September 5, 2000, the Warden denied his grievance, finding credible evidence of Crowe's guilt. On September 14, 2000, Crowe appealed the warden's decision on the 2.01 charge on the ground of the lack of evidence and the incorrect information given him by counsel substitute and the 1.03 because Sergeant. Gideon provoked him and struck him while he was restrained. Crowe also believes the investigation was conducted with extreme prejudice toward him. The Department denied his grievance, finding that the evidence presented was sufficient to support his convictions and that the sanction imposed was appropriate. This appeal followed. III. ANALYSIS

The Division's jurisdiction to hear this matter is derived entirely from the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). On September 5, 2001, the Division issued an En Banc Order in McNeil v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP (September 5, 2001), interpreting the breadth of its jurisdiction pursuant to Al-Shabazz. The decision holds that the Division's appellate jurisdiction in inmate appeals is limited to two types of cases: (1) cases in which an inmate contends that prison officials have erroneously calculated his sentence, sentence-related credits, or custody status; and (2) cases in which the Department has taken an inmate's created liberty interest as punishment in a major disciplinary hearing.

In his Brief, Inmate Crowe alleges that the DHO abused her discretion based on "procedural errors." Inmate Crowe lost 300 days of good time after he was convicted of prison disciplinary infractions. As such, I find that this tribunal has jurisdiction to hear Inmate Crowe's appeal.

The statutory right to sentence-related credits is a protected liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 369-370, 527 S.E.2d at 750. An inmate facing the loss of sentence related credits is entitled to minimal due process to ensure that the state-created right is not arbitrarily abrogated. Id. While due process is "flexible and calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands," Stono River Envtl. Protection Ass'n v. S.C. Dept. Of Health and Envtl. Control, 305 S.C. 90, 94, 406 S.E.2d 30, 341 (1991), certain elements must be satisfied in order for procedural due process requirements to be met, including adequate advance notice of the charges, adequate opportunity for a hearing in which the inmate can present witnesses and documentary evidence, and an impartial hearing officer who prepares a written statement of all the evidence presented and the reasons for his decision. Al-Shabazz, 527 S.E.2d at 751, citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-72, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 2978-82 (1974).

As in all cases subject to appellate review by the Division, the standard of 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 unless the agency's determination is affected by error of law or is clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence in the whole record. S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(6) (Supp. 1999); Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756; Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 276 S.E.2d 304 (1981). Moreover, to afford "meaningful judicial review," the Administrative Law Judge must "adequately explain" his decision by "documenting the findings of fact" and basing his decision on "reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record." Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756.

I find that Crowe was afforded all process due him pursuant to Al-Shabazz. The Record indicates that Crowe was given written notice of the charges in excess of 24 hours prior to his hearing before an impartial hearing officer. In addition, although not constitutionally required, Crowe was afforded counsel substitute to assist him in his defense. Further, he was given the opportunity to offer evidence and witnesses. The DHO prepared written reports detailing the evidence she relied upon and the penalty assessed in finding Crowe guilty of the disciplinary infractions. Finally, Crowe was permitted to appeal the DHO's decision through the inmate grievance process.

Moreover, despite Crowe's allegation that he was coerced into pleading guilty, I find that substantial evidence in the whole of the Record supports the convictions even without his guilty plea. As to the conviction of 2.01, Inmate Crowe admitted that he drank "buck," Sergeant William's report stated the Crowe was in bed but would not to respond to her calling, and the presence of cups on the table and in the locker smelling of "buck." As to the finding of guilt of 1.03, there is Sergeant Gideon's report and testimony that Inmate Crowe spit in his face. Therefore, I cannot find that the decision of Respondent was clearly erroneous, or arbitrary or capricious or an abuse of discretion, in view of the substantial evidence on the whole record.

Accordingly, the Department's final decision is affirmed.


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the appeal of Crowe is DISMISSED and the Final Decision of the Department is AFFIRMED;





November 7, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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