On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Indictment No. 02-08-1073.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 1, 2007
Before Judges Lintner and Graves.
Defendant Jeffrey Mondell appeals from an order entered on January 18, 2007, denying his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. After reviewing the record and the applicable law in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
This is the second time we have considered this matter. In an unpublished opinion dated February 14, 2005, we noted:
On August 14, 2002, an Ocean County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging defendant, Jeffrey Mondell, and his wife, co-defendant Anne-Marie Mondell, with one count of second-degree conspiracy, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 (Count One) and four counts of first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (Counts Two, Four, Six, and Eight). Defendant was also charged with three counts of second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (Counts Three, Five, Seven, and Nine), one count of third-degree unlawful possession of an assault firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5f (Count Ten), and three counts of first-degree attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3 (Counts Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen).
On January 13, 2003, defendant pled guilty to four counts of first-degree robbery, three counts of first-degree attempted murder, and one count of third-degree possession of an assault firearm. On February 28, 2003, defendant was sentenced pursuant to the plea agreement to an aggregate term of thirty-eight years subject to an eighty-five percent period of parole ineligibility. Defendant appeals and we affirm, without prejudice to defendant's right to move before the Law Division to withdraw his plea upon presentation of proofs that his guilty plea was not entered voluntarily or knowingly as a result of being under the influence of mind altering drugs.
Defendant's guilty plea arises from a series of robberies that took place on March 13, May 8, June 3, and June 11, 2002, in Ocean County. On June 11, 2002, Little Egg Harbor police officers were dispatched to Mystic Pharmacy on Radio Road in Mystic Island in response to a report of an armed robbery. By the time the officers arrived at the scene, the suspects had already fled. Various witnesses at the scene described the suspects as a white female and male, in a black Ford Taurus. Shortly thereafter, Officers Steve Bogart and Michael Pritch observed a vehicle that matched the description of the suspects' vehicle. The vehicle was being driven by co-defendant and defendant was lying in the back seat. After pulling the vehicle over, the officers exited the patrol car, drew their weapons, positioned themselves behind the car doors, and ordered the occupants to turn off the ignition and throw the keys out the window. Meanwhile, backup units arrived.
As co-defendant exited the vehicle, she was ordered to get down on the ground. Instead of exiting the vehicle, defendant started firing gunshots at the officers from the driver's side rear window. The officers returned fire. After several rounds were fired, defendant stopped shooting. Co-defendant then ran to the vehicle and shouted, "I think he's hurt." The officers approached the vehicle, and saw defendant lying on the seat bleeding from his shoulder. Defendant and co-defendant were taken into custody and the officers searched the vehicle and found a fully loaded Colt AR-15 assault rifle, along with a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun.
At his plea hearing, defendant admitted to committing the robberies on March 13, May 8, June 3, and June 11, 2002. He also admitted that on all four occasions he was masked, armed with a handgun, and, at gunpoint, demanded prescription drugs from the employees. He agreed that after the employees filled a bag with pills he fled the scene in a car driven by his wife. Defendant also agreed that when stopped by the police on June 11, 2002, he was armed with a handgun and fired three shots at the police officers. Defendant conceded that it was his intention to fire at the police officers and he was aware at the time that his action constituted a substantial step towards killing the police officers. Finally, defendant admitted that the assault rifle found in the car was acquired by him in Ohio, and that he brought it with the intention of possibly using it during the robbery on June 11, 2002.
[State v. Mondell, No. A-4587-02T1 (App. Div. Feb. 14, 2005) (slip op. at 1-5).]
We also noted in our earlier opinion that defendant had claimed, "for the first time on appeal, that his plea was not voluntarily and knowingly entered" because he was under the influence of Trazodone, an antidepressant, while confined to the Ocean County jail awaiting trial. Id. at 6. We found no evidence to support defendant's claims; nevertheless, because his allegations had not been presented to the Law Division judge, we affirmed defendant's convictions and sentence, without prejudice to his right to move before the Law Division to withdraw his guilty pleas. Id. at 8.
Defendant's subsequent motion to withdraw his guilty pleas based on the claim they were not knowing and voluntary because he was under the influence of Trazodone, was heard by the trial court on January 12, 2007. At the hearing, Dr. Kenneth J. Weiss, a psychiatrist, testified as an expert witness for defendant, and Dr. Surinder ...