On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Gloucester County, Indictment No. 02-12-00770.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 22, 2010
Before Judges R. B. Coleman and Baxter.
Defendant Sanford Ryles appeals from a May 22, 2008 order that denied his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We reject defendant's argument that the PCR judge erred when he found the victim's recantation testimony unpersuasive and denied defendant's motion for a new trial. We likewise reject defendant's claim that he was entitled to withdraw his guilty plea because trial counsel misinformed him about the impact of that plea on his military career. We affirm.
In December 2002, a Gloucester County grand jury returned a ten-count indictment charging defendant with several counts of second-degree sexual assault upon his fourteen-year-old sister-in-law, C.V., by engaging in sexual intercourse with her on various occasions between March 2001 and March 2002. The indictment also charged him with related counts of endangering the welfare of a child. On February 9, 2004, defendant entered a negotiated plea of guilty to one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, admitting that he had touched C.V.'s "butt" for the purpose of his own gratification when she was under the age of sixteen. In accordance with the plea agreement, defendant was sentenced on June 22, 2004 to community supervision for life in lieu of any probationary time, and was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
Nearly two years later, on January 23, 2006, defendant filed the PCR petition that is the subject of this appeal. He argued that trial counsel ignored his request for a jury trial, refused to investigate the allegations made by C.V. and pressured him into pleading guilty. He further maintained that he was innocent of the charge to which he pled guilty, and would never have engaged in sexual activity with his sister-in-law, who "was like a daughter to [him]." He supported his claim of innocence with an affidavit of recantation from C.V. Last, defendant asserted that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by wrongly advising him that his guilty plea to a sex offense would have no bearing on his military career; and if he had known the true facts about the impact of his conviction, he would never have entered a plea of guilty.
During the evidentiary hearing, defendant presented C.V. as a witness. Defendant married C.V.'s sister, Candice, in 1998, when C.V. was ten years old. Defendant, Candice, C.V., and C.V.'s brother all lived with Cindy, who was C.V.'s and Candice's mother. C.V. testified that while defendant was away from home for military training, her sister Candice told their mother "some crazy story" about defendant striking her with exercise dumbbells. Candice also told C.V. that defendant had been "raping her every night." When Candice reported to Cindy what defendant had been doing to her, Cindy insisted that C.V. falsely accuse defendant of sexually assaulting her.
According to C.V., her mother and sister "took things that they knew would be on some kind of record that they could twist." For example, Candice and defendant had gone to a motel to celebrate their anniversary and, knowing that the motel would have a record of defendant renting a room at the motel, Candice instructed C.V. to tell police that defendant had taken C.V. to the motel for purposes of sex. C.V. also testified that she lied when she told police that defendant had given her a ring as a sign of his affection.
When C.V. was asked whether she and defendant had ever exchanged intimate e-mail correspondence while he was away, C.V. testified that they had not. She explained that her sister asked her for her e-mail address and must have used it to make it appear that C.V. and defendant had been exchanging e-mail.
According to C.V., when Cindy learned that Candice had lied, and that defendant had never assaulted Candice, Cindy kicked Candice out of the house; however, according to C.V., Cindy was afraid to tell police that the accusations made against defendant were fabricated and untrue. C.V. was asked why it had taken her nearly four years, or until November 2005, to come forward and clear defendant's name. She responded that she had been living with Candice, who did not want her to recant, and after Candice "threw [her] out," she had been living with her brother "on the streets." She also explained that her mother had died in March 2003, and once her mother died, she felt more comfortable coming forward to clear defendant's name. C.V. did not explain why she waited nearly three years after her mother's death to do so.
Defendant also testified at the PCR hearing. He explained that he separated from Candice in March 2005. He insisted that he had never engaged in sexual relations with C.V. and pled guilty to inappropriately touching her only because his attorney told him he would "probably lose" at trial and would face a considerable prison sentence. According to defendant, his attorney assured him that because he would be placed on probation, his conviction would ...