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State v. Gilbert

March 25, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JEFFREY K. GILBERT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Indictment No. 92-04-0310.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: February 27, 2008

Before Judges Axelrad, Sapp-Peterson and Messano.

Defendant Jeffrey Gilbert appeals from a November 14, 2005 order denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR), in which he alleged excusable neglect for his untimely filing, a violation of his constitutional right to choice of counsel, entry of an involuntary and unknowing guilty plea, ineffective assistance of trial counsel, and sentencing errors. We affirm substantially for the reasons articulated by Judge Almeida in his comprehensive letter opinion of October 28, 2005.

Between the summer of 1991 and the spring of l993, defendant was named in four indictments and two accusations issued in four counties. In a total of twenty-one counts, defendant was accused of: passing three checks totaling $3,754.95, making two fraudulent jewelry purchases, fraudulently obtaining a $3,500 personal loan, making attempts to fraudulently purchase a cell phone and an automobile, procuring three fraudulent driver's licenses, and hindering apprehension or prosecution. At defendant's request, the cases were consolidated for trial in the Burlington County Superior Court. Defendant was represented by Anne Manning of the Public Defender's office.

On June 14, 1993, the prosecutor, defendant and his public defender appeared before Judge Gaydos for a status conference, during which defendant sought additional time to consider the plea offer and obtain private counsel. The court denied the request, and after being informed by defendant that he was rejecting the plea offer, the judge scheduled the Burlington County matters for trial the following week, with the other cases to be returned to their respective counties.

Some time the same day, defendant accepted the plea offer and signed the plea forms. On June 17, 1993, defendant pled guilty to fourteen of the twenty-one counts*fn1 pursuant to the negotiated plea agreement. During the extensive plea colloquy, the then thirty-year-old defendant, who had a master's degree, recited at length his understanding of the terms and consequences of the plea, his "absolute[]" satisfaction with his trial counsel, and a factual basis for each of the charges for which he was convicted. Judge Gaydos made an express finding respecting these items. On June 17, 1993, defendant was sentenced to a five-year jail term concurrent on all charges pursuant to the negotiated plea agreement. Defendant's sole comments to the court upon sentencing was:

I have reviewed the documents, everything that Miss Manning had said before the Court today is in order. And before sentence is imposed, I just want to take this opportunity to thank [the Prosecutor] on behalf of the State, Miss Manning, and of course the Court itself for acquiescing to my request to have these matters consolidated and heard before this Court.

At the conclusion of the proceeding, defendant acknowledged his understanding of the sentence and the court informed defendant of his right to appeal, stating:

THE COURT: If you are not satisfied with what I have done, you have a right to appeal. If you want to appeal I suggest you discuss this with Your [] attorney since it is rather complex and there is a time limit of 45 days. Do you understand that?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

THE COURT: Likewise, if you are indigent or constitutionally or otherwise entitled to a free attorney, one will be appointed ...


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