On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 02-03-0314.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 5, 2009
Before Judges Fisher and Espinosa.
In this appeal, defendant contends the trial judge erred in denying his petition for post-conviction relief, which claimed a denial of the effective assistance of counsel when defendant pled guilty to the offense for which he is now serving a ten- year prison term. We find no merit in defendant's arguments and affirm.
In 2002, defendant and Carlos Solano were indicted. Both were charged with having committed first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; Solano was also charged with other offenses. On the scheduled trial date, Solano and the State reached a plea agreement. Counsel discussed with defendant the impact of Solano's decision to plead guilty, after which defendant also reached an agreement with the State to plead guilty. However, prior to sentencing, defendant moved to withdraw his plea, arguing that his trial attorney "forced" him to plead guilty. The matter was adjourned so that new defense counsel could be assigned.
On April 23, 2004, the judge considered defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. After hearing the testimony of defendant and his former attorney, the judge rendered a thorough oral decision denying the motion. The judge then sentenced defendant to a ten-year prison term subject to the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.
Defendant's appeal was placed on an excessive sentencing oral argument calendar and heard on June 27, 2006. Defendant's appellate counsel asserted that the trial judge erred in denying the motion to withdraw the guilty plea because defendant was not advised of the deportation consequences of his plea. After holding that "the issues on appeal relate solely to the sentence imposed," and without mention of counsel's argument regarding the deportation consequences of the plea, we affirmed the judgment of conviction. State v. Medrano, No. A-5981-03T4 (App. Div. June 27, 2006). Defendant's petition for certification was denied by the Supreme Court on October 3, 2006. 188 N.J. 490 (2006).
Defendant filed his PCR petition in or about January 2007.*fn1
He asserted at that time, without specificity, only that his trial attorney "false[ly] induce[d]" him into entering a guilty plea. In or about August 2007, defendant filed a certification in further support of his PCR petition, in which he alleged:
a. My co-defendant had said he was going to plea[d] guilty and provide a statement that he had been at fault and clear me of the offenses. My attorney refused to investigate this, and told me that it would not matter as the judge wanted to see the both of us in jail.
b. While my attorney did provide a copy of the discovery to me, he did not review or discuss the discovery with me. I had no idea of the strengths or weaknesses of the case against me.
c. My attorney did not go over the plea form with me and I did not get to read it. He just told me to "sign here." He told me that if I did not sign and take the plea offer, that I would be convicted and be sentenced to 20 years or more in state prison. My attorney scared me into taking the plea offer when what I really wanted to do was go to trial as I knew the State would not be able to prove their case against me.
d. My attorney did not speak Spanish, and I do not speak English. However when he was speaking with me regarding my case, he did not use an interpreter. Because of this I was not able to follow everything that ...