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State v. Knight

October 20, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
LEROY KNIGHT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 95-08-0887.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 6, 2009

Before Judges Carchman and Ashrafi.

Defendant appeals an order denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) under Rule 3:22. We affirm.

Defendant was charged in a twelve-count indictment with sexual offenses that occurred between 1991 and 1993. On September 26, 1995, he pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to one count of first-degree aggravated sexual assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(1) and two counts of second-degree sexual assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b. On January 29, 1996, defendant was sentenced in accordance with the plea agreement to twelve years in prison on the first-degree charge, with six years of parole ineligibility, and concurrent terms of ten years in prison with five years of parole ineligibility on each of the second-degree charges. These sentences were to run consecutively to a sentence for burglary that defendant was then serving, and the court ordered that defendant serve the sentences for the sexual offenses at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Avenel. Defendant did not file a direct appeal.

More than ten years later, in June 2006, defendant filed a PCR petition alleging that neither the court nor his attorney had adequately informed him that he could be subject to civil commitment for an indefinite time after completing his criminal sentence under New Jersey's Sexually Violent Predator Act, N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. That legislation was enacted in 1998, three years after defendant's guilty plea. Counsel was appointed to represent defendant for his PCR petition. The same judge who had accepted defendant's guilty plea and sentenced him heard the petition on April 5, 2007, and denied it without an evidentiary hearing by order of the same date.

In defendant's presence and on the record, the judge reviewed the transcript of defendant's guilty plea from 1995. At that time, both his own attorney and the judge had asked defendant detailed questions about his understanding of the nature of the charges against him and the potential penalties he faced, his constitutional rights to stand trial and to take advantage of the protections available to him in criminal proceedings, the terms of the plea agreement with the State, and the possible consequences of his guilty plea. Among those consequences were the potential that as a sexual offender defendant might be sentenced to serve his term of imprisonment at Avenel and that such a sentence might require a longer term of incarceration than at other prisons, the requirement under the law that his sentence include community supervision for life, the effects and requirements of Megan's law upon his conviction, and the possibility that upon completion of his criminal sentence defendant could be involuntarily committed indefinitely if he were found to be a danger to himself or others.

With respect to involuntary commitment, the following questioning of defendant occurred in the context of what his attorney had discussed with and explained to defendant before entry of his guilty plea:

Q (DEFENSE COUNSEL): Also it's possible, though you would certainly, I would assume, attempt to fight it, but it's possible that the State might move for an involuntary commitment if they felt you were still dangerous after your serving your sentence. Do you understand that?

A (DEFENDANT): Yes.

Q (THE COURT): And that would be an involuntary commitment to a mental hospital. That's what we mean by that. Do you understand that?

A: Yes.

Q (THE COURT): That is done if, after a hearing at which you would be represented by counsel, it was found that you were a danger to yourself or others. If you continue to be a danger to yourself or others, you could be involuntarily ...


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