On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Union County.
Matthews, Pressler and Petrella. The opinion of the court was delivered by Petrella, J.A.D.
Defendant appeals on the basis that the sentence imposed pursuant to a negotiated plea is excessive, notwithstanding it was within the terms of the plea negotiation in which it was agreed that the prosecutor would recommend that the aggregate custodial sentence not exceed 25 years.
Defendant raises the argument for the first time on this appeal that the judge's imposition of a minimum time before parole eligibility frustrated his reasonable expectation as to the sentence.
The Union County grand jury had returned five indictments against defendant. The charges against him related in large part to sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl, and included rape, carnal abuse (seven counts), impairing the morals of a child (two counts), aggravated sexual assault (six counts), extortion, transporting a female across state lines for the purpose of prostitution, receiving money from a female engaged in prostitution, welfare fraud (two counts), breaking and entry with intent to
steal, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession of a weapon, namely "nun-chuk" sticks.*fn1
Pursuant to the plea agreement defendant entered a retraxit plea of guilty to forcible carnal abuse (N.J.S.A. 2A:138-1), carnal abuse of a minor (N.J.S.A. 2A:138-1), aggravated sexual assault -- forcible sexual intercourse while aided and abetted by another (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)), extortion by threatening to injure members of the victim's family (N.J.S.A. 2A:105-4), transporting the child victim across state lines for the purposes of prostitution (N.J.S.A. 2A:133-12), breaking and entering with intent to steal (N.J.S.A. 2A:94-1) and welfare fraud (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4). Some of the offenses occurred before the effective date of the New Jersey Penal Code (N.J.S.A. 2C:1-1 et seq.) and hence those counts referred to Title 2A of the Revised Statutes.
As part of the plea agreement the prosecutor agreed to recommend that the terms of incarceration imposed upon the indictments involving the various sex-related offenses not exceed an aggregate of 25 years, and that the terms of incarceration imposed upon the breaking and entry charge and the welfare fraud charge would run concurrently. The prosecutor also agreed to recommend that all remaining counts embraced in the five separate indictments be dismissed. This resulted in 17 counts being dismissed. In addition, the prosecutor promised that he would refrain from prosecuting defendant for jumping bail and for resisting arrest when he was apprehended. Judge Beglin accepted the pleas after obtaining a factual basis for the offenses. He ordered defendant to be evaluated at the Diagnostic Center at Avenel to determine whether he fell within the purview of the Sex Offender's Act. N.J.S.A. 2C:47-1 et seq. It was determined that he did not.
Defendant was sentenced to an aggregate term of 24 to 25 years. On the aggravated sexual assault count (a crime of the
first degree, see N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6a(1)) the judge ordered that defendant serve at least ten years in prison before he became eligible for parole. N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6b allows imposition of a minimum time before parole eligibility. On this appeal defendant for the first time challenges the sentence as excessive and contrary to his understanding of the plea agreement. He argues that because minimum parole eligibility time was not discussed and was not expressly part of the plea negotiations, it frustrated his reasonable expectation with respect to eventual parole eligibility. The record does not disclose that any application was made to the trial judge for reconsideration of the sentence on that basis.
It is apparent, due to the nature of the offenses, the time periods involved and the age of the young girl who was abused, as well as the plea agreement terms, that ...