On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Indictment No. 03-06-0749.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 30, 2009
Decided Telephonically argued after remand March 3, 2009
Before Judges Cuff, C.L. Miniman and Baxter.
This is the State's appeal of an October 28, 2009 Law Division order that dismissed an indictment based on a finding that the State violated defendant Shakur Carrasquillo's rights under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD). The State's arguments come before us as a cross-appeal following our remand to the Law Division.
In defendant's direct appeal of his conviction, we reviewed defendant's claim that he established a violation of the IAD, and therefore the trial court erred when it denied his motion to dismiss the indictment. We concluded that the judge's findings of fact on the IAD issue were "not sufficiently precise to permit appellate review" of defendant's IAD claim. State v. Carrasquillo, No. A-4497-06 (App. Div. March 3, 2009) (slip op. at 4). Consequently, we remanded to the trial court for more detailed findings on three issues. Id. at 27.
In particular, we directed the judge to determine on remand the precise dates upon which the running of the 120-day limit*fn1 imposed by the IAD should be tolled for two events initiated by defendant: obtaining cell phone records of the victim and a co- defendant; and filing his motion to suppress evidence, and the court resolving the motion. Ibid. We also asked the judge to determine the date when defendant's New York sentence would have ended, because if defendant's New York sentence was complete before the IAD time limit expired, there could be no IAD violation. Ibid.
On October 28, 2009, after conducting three days of hearings that covered 284 transcript pages, Judge Falcone rendered an oral opinion addressing the factual questions that were the subject of the remand proceeding. The judge concluded that, even with the tolling of the 120-day time limit of the IAD for defendant to obtain the cell phone records, and for the filing of briefs and the scheduling of defendant's suppression motion, the 120-day limit within which the State was required to bring defendant to trial under the IAD had expired while defendant was still serving his New York sentence, and before defendant's trial began. Consequently, on October 28, 2009, Judge Falcone entered an order dismissing the indictment with prejudice. The judge stayed the dismissal of the indictment until November 7, 2009 to afford the State the opportunity to seek emergent review from this court. By order of November 16, 2009, we continued the stay and authorized the State to file a cross-appeal challenging the dismissal of the indictment.
After a thorough review of the State's arguments, we decline the State's request that we reconsider our earlier determination, id. at 25-27, that the continuance issued to the State -- which resulted in a lengthy relaxation of the 120-day IAD time limit -- was improvidently granted and should therefore be disallowed. Additionally, we reject the State's argument that Judge Falcone erred when he concluded that the IAD time limit expired before defendant would have been released from confinement on his New York sentence. We affirm the October 28, 2009 order that dismissed the indictment.
We need not repeat our discussion of the proofs the State elicited at defendant's trial, which resulted in his February 9, 2007 conviction on charges of second-degree burglary, first-degree kidnapping, third- and fourth-degree aggravated assault, and related weapons and conspiracy charges; the facts are set forth in our earlier opinion. Id. at 5-7. Although the factual questions we asked the judge to resolve on remand were also discussed at some length in our prior opinion, we review them here, along with a discussion of some of the pertinent contextual background.
On April 27, 2005, a Morris County judge granted the prosecutor's request for temporary custody of defendant pursuant to the IAD, thereby authorizing his transfer from a New York prison, where he was currently serving a sentence, to New Jersey to stand trial on the pending indictment. As we have noted, the IAD requires the State to commence trial within 120 days of the inmate's arrival, whenever, as here, the request for temporary custody is initiated by the State. N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-4(c). On August 23, 2005, pursuant to the State's IAD request, defendant was transferred to the Morris County Correctional Facility (MCCF). Thus, the 120-day time period set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-4(c) would have expired on December 21, 2005; however, the running of that 120-day time limit is "tolled whenever and for as long as the prisoner is unable to stand trial, as determined by the court having jurisdiction of the matter."*fn2
N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-6(a) (emphasis added).
Jury selection in defendant's trial commenced on November 30, 2006, well over a year after defendant was transferred to New Jersey. Thus, unless the IAD time limit was tolled for 344 days until the commencement of defendant's trial, or unless defendant's New York sentence ended prior to the expiration of the 120-day IAD time limit, that time limit was violated.
In our 2009 opinion, we considered the State's argument that even if the statutory time period had expired earlier than September 7, 2006, which was the date the court heard defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment, the IAD violation should be disregarded because the State had presented, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-4(c), "good cause" for a continuance. State v. Carrasquillo, supra, slip op. at 23. Judge Falcone had granted the State's request for a continuance, concluding that such relief was justified based upon the totality of the circumstances, which included the absence of any delaying tactics employed by the State. Id. at 24. In evaluating the judge's grant of a continuance, which had the effect of excusing the State's failure to comply with the 120-day IAD time limit, we observed that "'[t]he consequences of official misunderstandings, or administrative errors and negligence, should not be visited on the prisoner who is blameless.'" Id. at 25 (quoting State v. Millett, 272 N.J. Super. 68, 105 (App. Div. 1994)). Ultimately, we concluded that the judge's September 11, 2006 grant of the continuance was error. We reasoned:
The record reveals that the long delay was principally due to the prosecutor's inaction and failure to diligently move the matter to trial. Indeed, the record is devoid of any evidence that the prosecutor attempted to change the rather desultory pace at which this prosecution was moving. There is no indication in the record that the prosecutor informed the judge that defendant was transferred pursuant to the IAD and therefore must be tried within 120 days of his arrival to New Jersey. Also, there is no evidence in the record that the prosecutor asked the judge to schedule a trial date within the statutory time period, i.e., prior to December 21, 2005. Simply put, the State made no attempt to try defendant within 120 days of his arrival in New Jersey.
Instead, the record suggests that the assistant prosecutor apparently believed the State was entitled to have defendant remain incarcerated in Morris County, without commencing trial, until defendant's New York ...