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State v. Knight

September 28, 2007

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT KNIGHT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 98-04-1303.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 11, 2007

Before Judges Axelrad and Messano.

Defendant Robert Knight appeals from the August 12, 2005, order denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). He raises three issues for our consideration.

POINT I DEFENDANT'S PCR COUNSEL RENDERED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE. (Not Raised Below.)

POINT II THE PCR COURT ERRED IN BARRING DEFENDANT'S ILLEGAL SENTENCE CLAIM.

POINT III THE PCR COURT FAILED TO RULE ON THE ILLEGAL SENTENCE ISSUE RAISED IN DEFENDANT'S PRO SE BRIEF.

After consideration of these contentions in light of the record and applicable legal standards, we affirm.

In March 1998, defendant was charged by the Camden County grand jury in Indictment 1303-04-98 with various crimes including attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. In July 1998, he was indicted again and charged in Indictment 2948-08-98 with seventeen counts of various crimes including three counts of robbery, two counts of burglary, two counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of terroristic threats.

While those indictments were pending, defendant proceeded to trial on a third indictment, 3411-12-97, was convicted of various crimes, and, on March 24, 2000, was sentenced to twenty-seven years imprisonment with twenty years of parole ineligibility. He then entered guilty pleas to attempted murder, on Indictment 1303-04-98, and first-degree robbery, on Indictment 2948-08-98, pursuant to a plea agreement by which the State agreed to recommend concurrent sentences and an aggregate maximum of fifty years imprisonment including twenty-one years of parole ineligibilty.

The transcript from those proceedings reveals that defendant indicated that he 1) wished to plead guilty to both offenses; 2) had enough time to discuss the charges with his attorney; 3) was satisfied with counsel's representation; 4) understood he was giving up certain rights; 5) was not being coerced in anyway into pleading guilty; and 6) understood that by pleading guilty he was avoiding a possible sentence of fifty years imprisonment without parole. On April 7, 2000, defendant was sentenced in accordance with the plea agreement and those sentences were ordered to be served concurrently with the sentence on Indictment 3411-12-97.*fn1 On December 11, 2002, we denied defendant's direct appeal in which he claimed the sentence was excessive. His petition for certification to the Supreme Court was denied. 175 N.J. 549 (2003).

Defendant's PCR petition, filed July 19, 2005, under Indictments 1303-04-98 and 2948-08-98, argued that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, that appellate counsel was also ineffective, that his sentence should have been below the presumptive term, and that his sentence was illegal. In his pro se brief in support of the petition, defendant further argued that the extended term sentence imposed upon him was based upon an earlier Graves Act*fn2 conviction and that the sentence in that case was illegal.

Defendant appeared before Judge Samuel D. Natal on August 12, 2005, for a hearing. Although the PCR petition was unsupported by any affidavits, certifications, expert reports, or other evidence, Judge Natal permitted defendant to testify in his own behalf. Defendant could recall little of the prior plea proceedings, but did testify ...


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