On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Indictment No. 96-05-0440.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Wefing, Parker and Yannotti.
Defendant Darius Ingram appeals from an order entered on August 21, 2007, which denied his motion to vacate an allegedly illegal sentence. We affirm.
Defendant was charged under Burlington County Indictment No. 96-05-0440 with second-degree conspiracy, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2; first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1a(1); second-degree eluding, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b; fourth-degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a(1); fourth-degree aggravated assault upon a law enforcement officer, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(5)(a); and second-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(6). Defendant was tried to a jury, which found him guilty of second-degree conspiracy, first-degree robbery and second-degree eluding. He was acquitted of resisting arrest and two counts of aggravated assault.
The State filed a motion seeking to have defendant sentenced under the "Persistent Offender Accountability Act," N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.1a, which is commonly known as the "Three Strikes Law." The court granted the motion, finding that defendant qualified for sentencing under N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.1a because he had been previously convicted of first-degree robbery on two prior occasions. Defendant pled guilty to first-degree robbery, as charged in Essex County Indictment No. 90-05-2563, and had been sentenced to a seven-year term of incarceration. Defendant also pled guilty to first-degree robbery, as charged in Essex County Indictment No. 91-01-0186, and had been sentenced to twelve years of incarceration.
The court therefore merged the conspiracy conviction with the conviction for first-degree robbery, and sentenced defendant to imprisonment for life without parole. In addition, the court imposed a concurrent ten-year term of imprisonment for the second-degree eluding conviction. Defendant appealed his convictions and the sentences imposed. We affirmed. State v. Ingram, No. A-841-97 (App. Div. Oct. 26, 1999). Defendant's petition for certification was denied. State v. Ingram, 163 N.J. 78 (2000).
Defendant thereafter filed his first petition for post-conviction relief (PCR), which was denied by order entered by the trial court on October 5, 2000. We affirmed the trial court's order. State v. Ingram, No. A-1733-00 (App. Div. March 25, 2002). The Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for certification. State v. Ingram, 174 N.J. 42 (2002).
On January 24, 2003 defendant filed a motion in Essex County to vacate his plea to first-degree robbery, as charged in Essex County Indictment No. 91-01-0186, and to correct the allegedly illegal sentence imposed as a result of that plea. Defendant argued, among other things, that, when he entered his plea, he had not provided an adequate factual basis to support a conviction of first-degree robbery. Defendant also argued that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel when he entered the plea.
The trial court rejected defendant's contentions and entered an order dated January 24, 2003, denying his motion. Defendant appealed and the appeal was heard on our Excessive Sentencing Calendar. We entered an order on July 8, 2003, which affirmed the order denying defendant's motions but stated that it was "without prejudice to [defendant's] right to file a petition for post conviction relief."
On March 23, 2005 defendant filed a PCR petition in Essex County stating that his plea to first-degree robbery, as charged in Essex County Indictment No. 91-01-0186, was in violation of his due process rights. In addition, defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. On November 18, 2005, the trial court filed a written opinion in which it concluded that defendant's contentions were procedurally barred because they had either not been raised in a timely manner, had been previously adjudicated on the merits, or could have been raised in defendant's direct appeal.
The trial court in Essex County nevertheless considered defendant's claims on the merits. The court found that defendant provided an adequate factual basis for his plea to the charge of first-degree robbery and had not been denied the effective assistance of counsel. The Essex County court entered an order dated November 18, 2005, denying defendant's motions and his petition for PCR. Defendant appealed.
While defendant's appeal from the November 18, 2005 order entered in Essex County was pending, he filed a motion in Burlington County, which he called a motion to correct an "illegal" sentence. Defendant asserted that the "three strikes" sentence imposed following his conviction of first-degree robbery in Burlington County was "illegal" because he did not provide an adequate ...