On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Indictment No. 02-05-1096.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 15, 2009
Before Judges Skillman and Simonelli.
Defendant Patrina Crawford appeals from the denial of her petition for post conviction relief (PCR) grounded on ineffective assistance of trial, appellate and PCR counsel. We affirm.
A grand jury indicted defendant for purposeful and knowing murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) and (2) (count one); felony murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(3) (count two); armed robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count four); conspiracy, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 (count five); unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b (count seven); and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (count eight).
The charges against defendant stemmed from her involvement with her boyfriend, Dennis Goldberg, and another person in the pre-planned beating and robbery of Robert Crute at his dry cleaning business in Bayonne. After Crute refused to turn over any money, Goldberg repeatedly hit him on the head with a gun, causing him to fall to the floor where Goldberg repeatedly kicked him in the head. The police apprehended defendant and her cohorts as they attempted to flee the scene. Defendant gave a statement to the police admitting that she helped plan the crime and participated in it, and that she knew that Goldberg had a gun. Crute subsequently died from his injuries.
On September 3, 2003, defendant entered into an unconditional agreement to plead guilty to armed robbery (count four) in exchange for the State's recommendation of a twenty-year term of imprisonment with an eighty-five percent period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, and dismissal of the other charges. On December 5, 2003, the trial court sentenced defendant in accordance with the plea agreement. Also, pursuant to a plea agreement involving an unrelated indictment, the court sentenced defendant to a concurrent suspended five-year term of imprisonment for one count of aggravated assault as amended from armed robbery, and to a concurrent suspended five-year term of imprisonment pursuant to a plea agreement involving an unrelated accusation.
Defendant appealed her conviction and sentence. We affirmed at an Excessive Sentence Oral Argument hearing. State v. Crawford, No. A-3124-03T4 (App. Div. June 2, 2005). The Supreme Court denied certification. State v. Crawford, 185 N.J. 265 (2005).
In her PCR petition and on this appeal, defendant contends that trial counsel (1) misinformed or failed to provide her sufficient information concerning the penal consequences of her plea; (2) failed to perform an adequate investigation; (3) failed to file a motion to withdraw her plea; (4) failed to file a motion to suppress her statement to the police based on her alleged intoxication at the time of the statement; and (5) failed to advocate effectively at the time of sentencing. Defendant claims that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue for withdrawal of her plea and suppression of her statement to the police. Defendant claims that PCR counsel was ineffective for failing to raise material arguments.*fn1
Based on our review of the record, we conclude that defendant's contentions are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). However, we add the following comments.
Judge DePascale denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing, finding that defendant provided no competent evidence supporting any of her contentions, including her own certification. The judge also found that the record clearly indicated that defendant understood the penal consequences of her plea and that her plea was voluntary and knowing. The judge also emphasized that, despite the overwhelming evidence of defendant's guilt on the felony murder charge, "[trial] counsel's ability to persuade the State to accept a plea on only the robbery charge cannot be considered as ineffective. Under the circumstances here, he was nothing short of remarkable." We agree with Judge DePascale's findings and affirm substantially for the reasons expressed in his oral opinion of February 14, 2008.