Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. John R. Hess, Trial Judge.
Rogers, Chief Judge, and Wagner, Associate Judge, and Pryor, Senior Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rogers
Appellant Thomas D. Vaughn appeals from a judgment of the trial court sustaining a determination by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (the "Department") that he will derive no further benefit under the D.C. Youth Rehabilitation Amendment Act of 1985. Appellant contends that the trial Judge erroneously refused to let him demonstrate that the Department had violated its own rules and regulations during appellant's disciplinary hearings which formed the basis for the Director's no-benefit determination. We reverse and remand to the trial court to make findings on whether the procedural violations occurred in the separate disciplinary proceedings under 28 DCMR § 500.1 et seq., and if so, to determine whether a remand to the Department is required because the violation would prevent the Department from relying on the disciplinary report as a basis for a "no-further-benefit" determination.
After being convicted of two drug-related offenses, appellant was sentenced under the District of Columbia Youth Rehabilitation Amendment Act of 1985 (YRA), D.C. Code § 24-803 (B)(1989), and confined at Youth Center I in Lorton, Virginia. *fn1 While there, he was the subject of a number of disciplinary reports for a variety of infractions, including assaults on a corrections officer and an inmate, and he spent six months in the maximum security unit as a result of his disruptive behavior.
As a result, on October 5, 1989 , the Acting Director of the D.C. Department of Corrections determined that appellant would receive no further benefit from continued treatment under the YRA, and proposed, pursuant to D.C. Code § 24-805 (a), that he be transferred to an adult facility. The Acting Director's determination was based upon appellant's aggressive and disruptive behavior while in confinement, as described in the disciplinary reports, his unwillingness to address his drug problem by participating in and completing various programs, including rehabilitation and therapy and vocations programs, and the unlikelihood of his being placed in less secure confinement than the Maximum Security Unit. Appellant appealed to the sentencing Judge, claiming that at his disciplinary hearings he had been denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, his right to notice, his right to an impartial hearing, findings based on substantial evidence, and written findings on specific acts constituting misconduct. *fn2
The trial Judge held a hearing, at which the parties were allowed to present evidence, and appellant testified. The Judge restricted appellant's counsel from exploring the factual basis underlying the disciplinary reports. The Judge indicated that he thought that he was only required to allow appellant to allocute, viewing the proceedings to be in the nature of a determination whether there should be a resentencing, but he observed that he had afforded appellant additional procedural rights in the interest of fairness. The Judge declined to "go behind" the findings in the disciplinary reports or to examine whether sufficient evidence supported the finding of a violation in each case, viewing his role as limited to being "assured that something is not being taken from arbitrarily."
The Corrections Department, through Ms. Renee Story, appellant's Youth Center case manager, testified generally about the Department's disciplinary procedures, *fn3 and, as custodian of the records, produced seven disciplinary reports on appellant. *fn4 Ms. Story also testified that the "no-further-benefit" determination was based on appellant's "assaultive behavior towards staff and other residents" as evidenced by the disciplinary and "incidental" reports and the behavior she had observed in the maximum security unit. On cross-examination she stated that a lot of prisoners have copies of the Lorton regulation booklet, containing the procedures for disciplinary hearings, although she did not know if appellant had received a copy.
Appellant testified that no Corrections Department officer ever appeared or testified against him at his disciplinary hearings, and he corroborated Ms. Story's testimony that when he made no comment on the alleged charges he was automatically found guilty. He claimed that he had asked for his lawyer but his lawyer was only involved in the two most recent disciplinary proceedings. He denied receiving the disciplinary procedures handbook referred to in the investigative reports. Regarding his appeals of charges in two disciplinary reports, he claimed that at one hearing he had presented five or six witnesses who denied he had assaulted a Corrections Department officer, and that the bodily injury charge (but not the assault charge itself) was dropped. His other appeal, after a rehearing, was unsuccessful. *fn5
The trial Judge concluded, on the basis of the seven disciplinary reports, that the Acting Director's determination of "no-further-benefit" should be sustained. Appellant had been given a hearing on all seven disciplinary reports, and the Judge concluded that it was unnecessary to go behind the findings by the Corrections Department. The Judge elaborated:
I wanted to be sure that it wasn't a case where somebody was upset with Mr. Vaughn and decided to get him out of the youth center, but when I look at these exhibits I see where reports are made by various correctional officers it is not by just one officer and I do not think that due process requires me to conduct any type of a de novo hearing to determine whether he did or did not commit these infractions, nor do I deem due process requires me to be listening to any tapes of those proceedings to determine whether or not the findings are supported by the evidence presented at those hearings.
What is sufficient perhaps is allocution alone, which has been accorded Mr. Vaughn. What we have done here is a little more. We have gotten the disciplinary reports in and the findings by the body which acted upon the hearing which was requested by Mr. Vaughn, and at least in seven instances there have been disciplinary reports which have been sustained involving some pretty serious disciplinary conduct on the part of the , and the type of conduct set forth in these reports would indicate that he is not the type of individual who should be at a youth center. . . .
The Judge ordered appellant to serve the remainder of his sentence for attempted possession with intent to ...