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State v. Morris

April 14, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
VINCENT MORRIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 01-12-3022.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued March 24, 2009

Before Judges Parker, Yannotti and LeWinn.

Defendant Vincent Morris appeals from an order entered by the trial court on July 18, 2008, denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.

Defendant and Christo Vardakis (Vardakis) were charged under Bergen County Indictment No. 01-12-3022 with two counts of second-degree usury in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:21-19a. Defendant's first trial resulted in a mistrial, after the jury could not reach a verdict. At defendant's second trial, the State presented evidence that defendant made loans to James Siderias (James) and Konstantine Siderias (Gus) at rates of interest exceeding the rates permitted by law.

In October 1999, defendant loaned James $50,000 at an interest rate of three percent per week. In January 2000, defendant loaned Gus $20,000 at four percent per week. James and Gus executed notes which stated that the interest rates on the loans were twenty-one percent but the State presented evidence which established that the notes did not reflect the actual agreed-upon interest rates.

In 2000 and 2001, defendant made additional loans to the Siderias brothers. In April 2000, defendant loaned Gus another $15,000 at four percent per week, and in June 2000, defendant loaned Gus $10,000 at the same rate. Defendant later agreed to reduce the rate on these loans to three percent per week. In June 2000, James reduced his indebtedness to defendant but in November 2000, borrowed an additional $15,000 from defendant at a rate of three percent per week. In March and May 2001, defendant made additional loans to Gus totaling $25,000, at a rate of three percent per week.

In July 2001, Gus discussed the loans and interest payments with his lawyer in the presence of his attorney's spouse, who happened to be a detective in the Office of the Bergen County Prosecutor. An investigation ensued and defendant's conversations with James and Gus regarding the loans were recorded, including conversations that occurred in Vardakis' office. In September 2001, the detectives approached Vardakis. Initially, Vardakis denied any involvement in the making of the loans, but he later admitted that he was defendant's partner in some of the loans.*fn1

Defendant was found guilty on both charges. He was sentenced to two concurrent six-year terms of incarceration and ordered to pay certain fines and penalties. Defendant appealed and challenged his convictions by raising the following issues:

I. THE TRIAL COURT'S CRITICISM OF DEFENSE COUNSEL IN FRONT OF THE JURY REQUIRES A NEW TRIAL.

II. TRIAL COUNSEL'S INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL REQUIRES A NEW TRIAL.

III. DEFENDANT WAS DENIED THE RIGHT TO TESTIFY IN HIS OWN BEHALF.

We rejected these contentions and affirmed. State v. Morris, No. A-0160-03 ...


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