On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Indictment No. 97-08-1202.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 25, 2009
Before Judges C.L. Miniman and Baxter.
Defendant, Rasheed Shavezz Coe, appeals from an April 12, 2007 order that denied his motion to withdraw his guilty plea and vacate his February 1, 2007 conviction. Defendant's motion was based on his claim that the 1997 indictment should have been dismissed because the State failed to honor his request under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD), N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-1 to -15, for transfer to New Jersey to resolve drug distribution charges that were pending against him in Hudson County. We agree with Judge Callahan's conclusion that defendant's May 25, 1999 letter to the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office did not trigger the provisions of the IAD. Consequently, we affirm the denial of defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
On May 25, 1999, while defendant was imprisoned in Pennsylvania where he was serving a sentence for manslaughter, he wrote a letter to the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office. In that letter, defendant advised the prosecutor of his status as an inmate in Pennsylvania. He further explained, "I also have a possession of CDS pending with a violation of parole in Hudson County. I would willingly accept a guilty plea, if you could please run the sentence concurrent with the time I'm presently serving." At the end of the letter, he asked the prosecutor to respond to his offer.
The only response he received was on June 2, 1999, when the prosecutor lifted the Hudson County detainer that had been lodged against defendant in Pennsylvania. Defendant made no other inquiries, nor did he ever send a copy of his letter to anyone else. Although the prosecutor's office lifted its detainer on June 2, 1999, such action had no bearing on a parole violation warrant, which had also been lodged as a detainer by the New Jersey Parole Board on December 22, 1998. On August 30, 2006, when defendant completed serving his Pennsylvania sentence, he was returned to the custody of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
A few months later, on November 9, 2006, defendant pled guilty to count one of the Hudson County indictment, which charged him with third-degree possession of CDS, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10. On February 1, 2007, pursuant to the negotiated plea agreement, the judge sentenced defendant to a three-year term of imprisonment to run concurrently with a five-year term of imprisonment on an unrelated violation of probation.
On March 1, 2007, one month after he had been sentenced, defendant filed the motion that is the subject of this appeal. In that motion, defendant sought to withdraw his guilty plea and dismiss the underlying indictment on the grounds that his May 25, 1999 letter to the prosecutor triggered the provisions of the IAD. He asserted that the prosecutor's office was therefore obliged to transport him to New Jersey no later than 180 days after it received his May 1999 letter, and that its failure to do so required the dismissal of the indictment. After extensive oral argument, Judge Kevin Callahan rendered a comprehensive oral opinion on April 12, 2007, in which he denied defendant's motion.
In particular, Judge Callahan found that defendant's May 25, 1999 correspondence to the prosecutor's office was merely an "informal letter" that did not even mention or cite the IAD. The judge commented that defendant "[n]ever mentioned [the IAD]. I have doubt [that defendant] even knew of the existence of the IAD." Finding that the IAD was not triggered, much less violated, Judge Callahan denied defendant's motion.
On appeal, defendant raises a single claim:
THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO WITHDRAW HIS GUILTY PLEA AND DISMISS THE INDICTMENT WITH PREDJUDICE BECAUSE THE STATE FAILED TO COMPLY WITH THE ...