July 6, 2010
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
ENRIQUE IGLESIAS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment Nos. 85-10-2036 and 86-12-2854.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 6, 2010
Before Judges Graves and J.N. Harris.
Defendant Enrique Iglesias appeals from an order entered on July 21, 2008, denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
More than twenty-two years ago, on May 10, 1988, defendant pled guilty to the following charges: unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance (methamphetamine) with intent to distribute on June 25, 1985, as charged in Camden County Indictment No. 85-10-2036; and unlawful possession of methamphetamine on August 17, 1986, as charged in Camden County Indictment No. 86-12-2854. Pursuant to the negotiated plea agreement, the State agreed to dismiss various other charges and to recommend two concurrent five-year prison terms with two years of parole ineligibility.
During the plea hearing, the court questioned defendant regarding the plea form that stated he was satisfied with the legal services his attorney provided. In response to the court's questions, defendant confirmed that he understood all of the information on the plea form and that he signed it voluntarily. Defendant also testified he understood the terms of the agreement, he was entering the pleas freely and voluntarily, and he gave a factual basis for the pleas.
On June 17, 1988, the court sentenced defendant in accordance with the plea agreement to concurrent five-year terms of imprisonment with two years of parole ineligibility. In June 2007, nineteen years after he was sentenced, defendant filed a PCR petition in which he claimed his attorney had been ineffective and he "plead guilty [out] of fear not guilt."
In a certification in support of his petition, defendant stated he was serving "a federal prison sentence that was enhanced by [his] guilty pleas,"*fn1 and he claimed his attorney never explained "that by pleading guilty, a later (separate) sentence could be enhanced." Defendant also certified his attorney never explained "that by pleading guilty, I could be deported since I am a Cuban national. Had I known that I could be deported, I would not have entered the guilty pleas."
After hearing argument, the PCR court denied defendant's petition without an evidentiary hearing. The court gave an oral opinion in which it concluded that the petition was time-barred because it was not filed within five years of the entry of defendant's judgment of conviction. R. 3:22-12. Nevertheless, the court considered the matter on its merits and concluded that defendant "had adequate representation."
On appeal, defendant presents the following issues for our consideration:
THE COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY DENYING DEFENDANT AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING TO ESTABLISH THAT HE WAS DENIED THE EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL CONSTITUTIONALLY GUARANTEED TO HIM AT TRIAL, BY THE U.S. CONST., AMENDS. VI, XIV; N.J. CONST. ART. I, PAR. 10.
THE COURT ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN FAILING TO FIND EXCUSABLE NEGLECT THAT WOULD RELAX THE PROCEDURAL TIME BAR UNDER R. 3:22-12.
Based on our review of the record and briefs, we conclude that defendant's arguments are clearly without merit. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We add only the following comments.
Except for a petition to correct an illegal sentence, which may be filed at any time, a PCR petition must be filed within five years "of the judgment or sentence sought to be attacked unless it alleges facts showing that the delay beyond said time was due to defendant's excusable neglect." R. 3:22-12(a). As the Court has noted, "the Rule serves to respect the need for achieving finality of judgments and to allay the uncertainty associated with an unlimited possibility of relitigation." State v. Mitchell, 126 N.J. 565, 576 (1992). The five-year deadline discourages defendants from "sitting on their rights until it is too late for a court to render justice." Ibid. Therefore, a court must "consider the extent and cause of the delay, the prejudice to the State, and the importance of the petitioner's claim in determining whether there has been an 'injustice' sufficient to relax the time limits." Id. at 580.
In the present matter, the record fully supports the trial court's determination that defendant failed to establish excusable neglect or other sufficient circumstances to justify relaxation of the five-year time limit under Rule 3:22-12. Moreover, defendant does not claim he was entitled to PCR based on false or misleading information provided to him by his trial counsel, see, e.g., State v. Nuñez-Valdéz, 200 N.J. 129 (2009), and defendant has failed to assert "a colorable claim of innocence" or strong reasons for withdrawal of his pleas. State v. Slater, 198 N.J. 145, 157-58 (2009). Under these circumstances, the trial court correctly applied the principles governing claims of ineffective assistance of counsel as set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed. 2d 674 (1984); United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 104 S.Ct. 2039, 80 L.Ed. 2d 657 (1984); and State v. Fritz, 105 N.J. 42 (1987). Accordingly, the order denying defendant's PCR petition is affirmed.