On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 92-10-1407.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: April 16, 2008
Before Judges Cuff and Simonelli.
Defendant Kareem William is serving an aggregate fifteen-year term of imprisonment with a seven and one-half year period of parole ineligibility following his plea of guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault while armed, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(4); one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault while armed, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1; 2C:14-2a(4); one count of armed robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; one count of armed burglary, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2; and one count of aggravated assault on a police officer, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(5). He has been declared a sexually violent predator and has been involuntarily committed under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA).*fn1 Defendant appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. We affirm.
Defendant entered his guilty plea in 1993. In his petition, defendant argues that his plea was not knowing and voluntary because he was not informed that he could be subject to involuntary civil commitment in accordance with the SVPA. He also contends that his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel because he did not inform defendant of this possible outcome.
Judge Meehan dismissed the petition. In doing so, he noted that the relief sought by defendant was akin to a motion to retract his guilty plea rather than post-conviction relief and he was not entitled to any relief. Alternatively, the judge suggested defendant could contest the order of commitment.
On appeal, defendant raises the following arguments:
POINT I- THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE PETITION SINCE DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA WAS NOT KNOWING AND VOLUNTARY. DEFENDANT HAD NEVER BEEN ADVISED THAT HE COULD BE SUBJECT TO CIVIL COMMITMENT UNDER THE PROVISION OF THE SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR ACT.
POINT II- THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE LIMITED RETROACTIVE APPLICATION OF THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION IN STATE V. BELLAMY, 178 N.J. 127 (2003) IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
POINT III-THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE DEFENDANT RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL DURING THE PLEA BARGAINING STAGE.
POINT IV- THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE THE FIVE-YEAR TIME BAR SHOULD NOT BE APPLIED TO BAR DEFENDANT'S CLAIMS. POINT V- THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT GRANTING DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING AND THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST THEREFORE BE REVERSED.
We agree with the assessment of Judge Meehan that the relief sought by defendant is akin to a motion to withdraw a guilty plea. A plea may be withdrawn after sentence "to correct a manifest injustice." R. 3:21-1. The decision to allow withdrawal of a guilty plea is committed to the discretion of the trial judge. State v. Herman, 47 N.J. 73, 76 (1966).
In exercising its discretion the court must weigh the policy considerations which favor the finality of judicial procedures against those which dictate that no man be deprived of his liberty except upon conviction after a fair trial or after the entry of a plea of guilty under circumstances showing ...