On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 87-11-1353.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Carchman and Sabatino.
Defendant George Limite appeals from an order of the Law Division denying his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for aggravated manslaughter and various related drug crimes. We affirm.
These are the relevant facts. Between May 1, 1983 and October 25, 1984, defendant and Elizabeth Hoy sold cocaine in Bergen and Passaic Counties. Defendant had a relationship with Hoy, and they had an arrangement where defendant would give her cocaine instead of money for living expenses. Defendant also would barter cocaine to associates in exchange for various favors including on occasionally giving cocaine in return for a ski trip, for car repairs, as well as providing drugs for Hoy's roommate and friends.
One of defendant's friends, Ann Mankus, became indebted to suppliers for drugs that she had purchased. In response, defendant "set up a deal" to assist her in repaying her debts by giving her a consignment of drugs for sale to a client. With this arrangement, Mankus could repay her suppliers, and defendant would make a substantial amount of money. When defendant discovered that Mankus was using the drugs that he gave her, he wanted to terminate "the deal." As defendant insisted that Mankus return the drugs, she pushed defendant.
He, in turn, struck Mankus, and she fell to the floor. As Mankus jumped back up with an object in her hand, defendant struck her in the face. He then strangled her, fracturing cartilage in her neck. Defendant and Hoy then wrapped Mankus' body in sheets and dumped her body in New York City.
On October 26, 1984, defendant, was arrested for the murder of Mankus. Thereafter, defendant was indicted for two counts of conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine), N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and N.J.S.A. 24:21-19(a)(1); one count of possession of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine), N.J.S.A. 24:21-20(a)(1); seven counts of distribution of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine), N.J.S.A. 24:21- 19(a)(1); and one count of murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) and (2).
On March 6, 1990, defendant entered into a plea agreement and pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine); six counts of distribution of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine); and one count of aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4. In exchange for the plea, the State agreed to recommend that it would amend the murder charge to a count of aggravated manslaughter and that defendant would receive a maximum thirty- year sentence for all the crimes in the guilty plea comprised of a twenty-year sentence on the aggravated manslaughter charge with ten years of parole ineligibility, to run consecutive to unrelated sentences defendant was serving at the time.
Defendant would also receive a ten-year sentence on all of the drug counts with four and a half years of parole ineligibility to run consecutive to the aggravated manslaughter charge. In sum, the State would recommend a maximum thirty-year sentence with a fourteen and a half-year stipulated parole ineligibility on the charges contained in the guilty plea to the sentence defendant was currently serving.
As a further condition of the plea, defendant agreed to give a statement regarding his involvement in the offenses and that this statement would be fully admissible in any further proceedings against him if defendant were to withdraw his guilty plea or the judge were to reject the State's recommendation.
Further, on March 6, 1990, the State set forth its plea agreement before Judge Kuechenmeister, consistent with the plea agreement. Defendant then gave a factual statement regarding the offenses relating to the guilty plea. Following a voir dire on the plea agreement, the judge found there was an ample factual basis for the entry of the guilty plea, that it was made voluntarily and not as a result of any threats or inducements and that defendant understood the nature of the consequences of the plea.
On April 12, 1990, consistent with the State's recommendation, Judge Kuechenmeister sentenced defendant to twenty years with ten years of parole ineligibility on the aggravated manslaughter charge, a consecutive ten-year term with four-and-a-half years parole ineligibility on the conspiracy to distribute charge, and a ten-year-term with four and a half years parole ineligibility on the distribution charges, to be served consecutively to the aggravated manslaughter charge and concurrent to the conspiracy charge. These sentences were all to be consecutive to the unrelated sentence defendant was already serving.
Fifteen years later, on November 7, 2005, defendant filed a motion to withdraw his plea pursuant to Rule 3:21-1. Judge Meehan reclassified the motion as a motion for post-conviction relief. On February 16, 2007, defendant filed an amended verified petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 3:22-1. Defendant claimed:
9. Mr. Limite seeks relief from the judgment entered on April 12 and 26, 1990 on the basis that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel in that:
(a) counsel deprived defendant-petitioner of the effective assistance of counsel by failing to afford defendant-petitioner the opportunity to resolve the murder charge brought against him by way of the original 1984 indictment with a mutually agreeable plea bargain. (Unfortunately, the efforts to obtain copies of the 1984 indictment have been unsuccessful due to the age of the case.) Rather, counsel moved to dismiss the indictment without discussing this strategy with Mr. Limite. After the indictment was dismissed, the State obtained superseding Indictment No. 87-11-1353 which included the same murder charge but also included additional drug charges;
(b) counsel deprived defendant-petitioner of the effective assistance of counsel by failing to convey the original plea offer of 20 years Department of Corrections with a mandatory minimum of 10 years extended by the State to defense counsel after the return of the superseding Indictment No. 87-11-1353. Mr. Limite was advised only of the offer of 14 and 1/2 to 30 years Department of Corrections which was made available later in the proceedings. It wasn't until sometime after the sentence that Mr. Limite learned of the initial plea offer. Defendant-petitioner asserts that he would have availed himself of the first plea offer had that offer been conveyed to him by counsel.
10. Mr. Limite seeks relief from the judgment entered on April 12 and 26, 1990 on the basis that his entry into the plea agreement was involuntary.
11. Mr. Limite seeks relief from the judgment entered on April 12 and 26, 1990 on the basis that the factual basis supporting the plea was inadequate.
12. Mr. Limite seeks relief from the judgment entered on April 12 and 26, 1990 on the basis that he received an illegal sentence.
13. For the reasons set forth in paragraphs 9 through 12 of this petition, Mr. Limite alleges that his conviction and the subsequent imposition of sentence in this matter resulted from a substantial denial of rights under the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of New Jersey. Mr. Limite seeks to have the judgment of conviction and the sentence imposed on Bergen County Indictment No. 87-11-1353 set aside and the case set down for a trial on the relevant charges. Defendant-petitioner further seeks leave to amend this petition, as well as leave to file a supplemental petition and memorandum if it should become necessary to do so.
The judge denied relief and found:
This is a motion that has been captioned for post conviction relief. Originally filed pro se.
Now [defendant] has the Office of the Public Defendant representing him.
On November 30th, 1987 the defendant was indicted on ten counts of drug related charges and one charge of murder in the first degree.
On March 6th, 1990 the defendant signed a plea agreement outlining the factual basis for the crimes committed, and he went through an allocution before Judge Kuechenmeister.
He pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter and drug related charges.
He was sentenced on April 12, 1990 by Judge Kuechenmeister.
Twenty years with ten [years] on the post conviction.
On the aggravated manslaughter and ten with four and a half years on the drug charge. So, a total of thirty years with fourteen and a ...