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New Jersey Parole Officials Pay $50,000 for Delayed Release

On February 3, 2005, a New Jersey man settled his federal lawsuit against state parole officialswhom he claimed were responsible for his remaining in prison 11 months beyond his approved parole datefor $50,000.

Vincent Pannone was imprisoned on May 7, 1999, for theft by deception and credit card fraud. He received concurrent sentences of 5 years and 18 months respectively. On April 19, 2000, while at the South Woods State Prison, Pannone became eligible for parole.

Desiring to be paroled to his wife's house in Brooklyn, New York, Pannone submitted the relevant documents for approval in December 1999. In March 2000, after being incorrectly informed by New York that Pannone had no detainers, the New Jersey parole board set a conditional release date of June 21, 2001. Per procedure, Pannone's parole package" was to then be forwarded to New Jersey's Office of Interstate Services (OIS) and then on to New York for approval.

However, the package was not forwarded to OIS, and because New Jersey regulations prohibit releasing a prisoner to parole when the plan has not been approved by the intended supervisory agency, a hold was placed on Pannone's release. As a result, his June 21, 2000, parole date came and went.

The package was finally forwarded to OIS on November 22, 2000; it was sent to New York a week later. On December 7, 2000, New York declined to investigate Pannone's parole plan because he had a warrant there for parole violation.

This required New Jersey to approve an alternate parole plan. On March 20, 2001, the New Jersey board amended Pannone's parole plan authorizing him to be released to New York authorities on May 2, 2001. New York subsequently took custody of Pannone on May 23, 200111 months after his original release date of June 21, 2000.

Pannone sued parole officials Steven Stites, Lisa Diaz, Linda Everett, and Zenaida Kirkland under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging they violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by delaying his release. The defendants moved for summary judgment.

In an unpublished opinion dated December 16, 2004, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey denied summary judgment to 3 of the 4 defendantsStites, Diaz, and Everett. Examining the Eighth Amendment claim, Judge Robert Kluger first concluded that no penological justification existed for the defendant's failure to timely forward Pannone's parole plan to the OIS after March 23, 2000, thus delaying approval of a secondary plan, and ultimately, his release. Second, genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether defendants were deliberately indifferent.

Regarding Pannone's Fourteenth Amendment claim, the defendants asserted that board policy required them to place a hold on Pannone's release after New York denied his parole plan. The judge noted, however that their argument missed the point because Pannone had attacked the defendants' fail[ure] or refus[al] to complete the out of state parole package without any penological or other justification and failure] to submit the package to OIS in accordance with the custom and practice so that Pannone could be released on his scheduled date.

Following Judge Kluger's denial of summary judgment to 3 of the 4 parole officials, defendants agreed to pay Pannone $20,000 in damages and $30,000 in attorney fees, for a total settlement of $50,000. See: Pannone v. Stites, USDC D NJ, Case No. 02-2162 (RBK)(unpublished). The settlement and ruling in this case are on PLN's website. Pannone was represented by Hackensack attorney Steve Latimer.

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Related legal case

Pannone v. Stites

The settlement is in the brief bank of the website.