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State v. Friant

November 6, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MICHAEL S. FRIANT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Salem County, Indictment No. 01-08-0402.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 29, 2008

Before Judges Cuff and Fisher.

In this appeal, we affirm the denial of defendant's petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) because he failed to provide a sufficient factual basis for any of his contentions.

Defendant pled guilty to second-degree sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c), on January 4, 2002. He acknowledged during the plea hearing that he understood, among other things, the nature and content of the plea agreement and that, by pleading guilty, he would be required to register pursuant to Megan's Law. Defendant also provided a sufficient factual basis for his guilty plea.

Defendant moved on April 1, 2002 to vacate his plea. His new attorney argued that defendant did not knowingly and voluntarily enter a guilty plea, alluding to defendant's "hesitan[cy]" in responding to questions put to him at the plea hearing. After reviewing a videotape of the plea hearing, the judge found that defendant knowingly and voluntarily entered the guilty plea and denied the application for reasons thoroughly explained in his oral decision. The judge acknowledged that defendant was at times "reticent" in responding during the plea hearing, but the judge found that his reticence was due only to the gravity of the situation and was not a product of a lack of understanding or an unwillingness to plead guilty.

On June 4, 2002, in accordance with the plea agreement, defendant was sentenced as a third-degree offender to a three-year prison term. Defendant appealed and, with the exception of the vacating of an unwarranted financial penalty, we affirmed.

Defendant filed a PCR petition on October 18, 2005. On April 27, 2007, after hearing the argument of counsel, the judge denied relief. Defendant appealed, raising the following arguments:

I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE PETITION SINCE DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA WAS NOT KNOWING AND VOLUNTARY.

A. DEFENDANT WAS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MEDICATION DURING THE PLEA.

B. DEFENDANT WAS MISINFORMED DURING PLEA DISCUSSIONS.

II. THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE DEFENDANT RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL BECAUSE COUNSEL FAILED TO INTERVIEW CRUCIAL WITNESSES.

III. THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE DEFENDANT RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL ...


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