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State v. Mensah

June 27, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
EDMUND MENSAH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 01-08-0962.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 21, 2008

Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Messano.

Defendant Edmund Mensah appeals from the January 23, 2006, order that denied his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). He raises the following argument for our consideration:

POINT ONE

THE LOWER COURT SHOULD HAVE GRANTED THE DEFENDANT'S POST-CONVICTION RELIEF PETITION BASED ON INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL, BECAUSE THE DEFENDANT'S PLEA COUNSEL COMMITTED SERIOUS ERRORS BY MISINFORMING THE DEFENDANT ABOUT THE DEPORTATION CONSEQUENCES OF A GUILTY PLEA; BY FAILING TO INSURE THAT THE PLEA JUDGE CONDUCTED A PROPER PLEA HEARING; AND [BY] FAILING TO EXPLAIN TO THE DEFENDANT THAT, AT A TRIAL, THE STATE WOULD HAVE THE SIGNIFICANT BURDEN OF ESTABLISHING THAT THE DEFENDANT KNEW HIS POST[-]DATED CHECK WOULD NOT BE HONORED.

Having considered these contentions in light of the record and applicable legal standards, we affirm.

I.

On August 2, 2001, defendant, represented by Hassen Abdellah, Esq., entered a plea of guilty to a single-count Union County accusation charging him with issuing a bad check, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-5. In what we concede was a highly unusual procedure, defendant and two other defendants all appeared before the trial judge at the same time, each represented by their respective counsel. The judge posed certain predicate questions to all three defendants at once, noting, "You have to answer out loud because there's a tape. I need to hear your voices." She then asked, "Are you all citizens of the United States?" The transcript reveals a single, "Yes," as the answer and does not indicate whether it was one or all defendants who responded.

The judge explained the various rights that all defendants were waiving by entering guilty pleas, and then she directed her remarks to defendant.

Judge: Mr. Mensah, did you on April 2nd in the Township of Union issue a check for $4,270 that you knew was not good?

Defendant: Yes.

On December 7, 2001, defendant appeared before another judge for sentencing, once again represented by Abdellah. The victim of the crime, Richard E. Marczak, appeared and provided an impact statement to the judge in which he alleged that defendant had "given [him] four other bad checks." He also advised the judge that defendant owed him "$11,000 in back rent." The judge noted that the plea agreement provided for restitution as part of defendant's probation, and then ...


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