On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 01-11-4597.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 26, 2007
Before Judges S.L. Reisner and Baxter.
Defendant Yavuz Kara appeals from a November 27, 2006 order of the trial court denying defendant's motion for post-conviction relief seeking to vacate his guilty plea. We affirm.
On January 25, 2002, defendant pled guilty to third degree endangering the welfare of a child*fn1, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4a, and third degree aggravated criminal sexual contact, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3a, for molesting his step-daughter. He was sentenced to three years probation. Defendant was deported to Turkey in July 2004.
In 2006, defendant filed an application to withdraw his plea claiming that he did not understand the potential immigration consequences of his guilty plea, although he admittedly circled "yes" on the plea form in answer to the question: "Do you understand that if you are not a United States Citizen or national, you may be deported by virtue of your plea of guilty?"
After a plenary hearing at which defendant and his former attorney, Anthony Alfano, testified, Judge Ravin denied the motion.*fn2 In a comprehensive written opinion issued on November 27, 2006, he found that defendant was not a credible witness. In particular, defendant's testimony that he did not understand the immigration consequences of his plea was not believable. On the other hand, Judge Ravin concluded that defendant's former trial counsel was credible in testifying that "he had several conversations with the defendant regarding his immigration status both before and after the plea of guilty was entered" and "that he informed the defendant that there was no guarantee that he would not be deported." Defendant admitted that his trial attorney "discussed the immigration consequences of his plea prior to entering that plea" and also referred defendant to an immigration lawyer. Relying on State v. Chung, 210 N.J. Super. 427 (App. Div. 1986), Judge Ravin concluded that defendant was not given erroneous information concerning the immigration consequences of his guilty plea and hence there was no basis on which to vacate the guilty plea.
Defendant raises the following argument on this appeal:
POINT I: THE TRIAL COURT BELOW COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR (DEF. A-5 TO DEF. A-10) IN DECLINING TO VACATE THE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S GUILTY PLEA AS THE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT WAS EFFECTIVELY DENIED HIS CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHT TO COUNSEL, HAVING BEEN ...