On Appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 05-11-1605.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 3, 2010
Before Judges Stern and J. N. Harris.
On November 28, 2005, defendant was indicted for first- degree conspiracy to commit murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3; first-degree attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1, N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6, and N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3; second-degree burglary, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2; second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a); third-degree possession of a handgun without first having obtained a permit to carry the same, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b); second-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1); and fourth-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(4). More than twenty-six months later, on February 15, 2008, defendant negotiated a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty to only the charges of first-degree conspiracy, second-degree burglary, and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. In exchange for this plea, the State agreed to recommend a maximum aggregate sentence of ten years incarceration subject to the eighty-five percent period of parole ineligibility mandated by the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. Defendant also agreed to provide truthful testimony at trial against co-defendant April Russo.*fn1
While under oath, defendant gave the following factual basis to support his plea:
Q: All right. Matt, on August 16, 2005, did you know a person by the name of April Russo?
Q: And you were in a relationship with her, correct?
Q: She was your girlfriend, right?
A: Something of that sort, yes.
Q: Yes. Okay. Now, did you, and she reach an agreement that her husband, Brian Grogan would ultimately be killed?
Q: And when I say that, you knew that she wanted that to occur, correct?
A: I had known that she had -- yes, she had said -- talked about it prior to, yes.
Q: Many times, right? Yes?
A: Several instances, yes.
Q: Okay. Now, on -- August 16, 2005, in the wee hours of the morning did you go to the house of Brian Grogan, and April Russo, located . . . in Clifton, New Jersey?
A: I went to their house that night, yes.
Q: Okay. Now you -- you went to the back door of the house, correct?
A: I went through the garage.
Q: Okay. And Ms. Russo met you at the door, correct?
Q: And when you entered into the residence she gave you a -- gun -- a handgun, correct?
A: It was in a paper bag, that is correct.
Q: A McDonald's bag I believe ...