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New York State Prisoner’s Administrative Charges Dismissed

by Derek Gilna

On March 16, 2017, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court dismissed all administrative charges against state prisoner Lawrence George Wilson, who was accused of violating prison disciplinary rules under CPLR article 78. Wilson had been charged with “bribery, solicitation, possessing personal identifying information, violating facility correspondence procedures, and receiving compensation for providing legal assistance,” according to the ruling.

“During the course of an investigation, correction officials conducted a mail watch of petitioner’s outgoing correspondence, monitored his telephone calls and subpoenaed certain bank records ... suggesting the petitioner was involved in the operation of two limited liability corporations,” the appellate court wrote. However, the court said, there was one problem that compromised the investigation: state authorities had failed to follow their own procedures.

“NYCCR 720.3(e) provides that a mail watch involving the inspection of an inmate’s outgoing mail shall only be permitted upon ‘express written authorization from the facility superintendent.’” Such authorization was never obtained, the Appellate Division found, noting that Wilson had “requested a copy of the mail watch authorization four times during the course of the hearing, but it was never produced and is not part of the record.”

Without the appropriate authorization, the court continued, Wilson’s disciplinary conviction must be “annulled.” He had been found guilty of providing legal assistance based upon the monitoring of his phone calls, but that finding was also reversed due to the poor quality of the recordings. Further, the prisoner for whom Wilson allegedly performed legal work testified that no compensation had been provided.

“Accordingly we find that, under the circumstances presented, substantial evidence also does not support that part of the determination finding petitioner guilty of this rule violation.... [and] respondent Commissioner of Corrections and Community Supervision is directed to expunge all references to this matter from petitioner’s institutional record,” the appellate court concluded. See: Matter of Wilson v. Commissioner of NY State Dept. of Corr. and Community Supervision, 48 N.Y.S.3d 855, 148 A.D.3d 1368 (NY App. Div. 2017). 

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Related legal case

Matter of Wilson v. Commissioner of NY State Dept. of Corr. and Community Supervision