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State v. P.W.

July 13, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
P.W., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 06-04-1495.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 5, 2010

Before Judges Stern and Graves.

Defendant P.W. appeals from an order dated December 12, 2008, denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR).

After reviewing the record and the applicable law in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

In 1991, P.W. was found not guilty of felony murder and aggravated arson by reason of insanity and was involuntarily committed to Ancora Psychiatric Hospital (Ancora). Pursuant to State v. Krol, 68 N.J. 236, 246-47 (1975), periodic review hearings have been conducted to determine whether defendant remains a danger to himself or others. On January 22, 2006, while a patient at Ancora, defendant was charged with third- degree aggravated assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12- 1(b)(7). The victim was defendant's treating psychiatrist.

A staff member who witnessed the assault gave the following statement to the police:

[The treatment] team was meeting with [P.W.] at his request. He was demanding to be taken off of medication because he does not believe he is dangerous to himself or society. Dr. Elizabeth Burns was interviewing him and informed him that he would remain on his current medication regimen. When [P.W.] was not getting his way, he said, "Forget this. Fuck you bitch," and abruptly stood up from the table, grabbed a chair, and proceeded toward Dr. Burns. I attempted to grab the chair that he threw at Dr. Burns and was hit in the wrist causing a large bruise. I then attempted to stop him from proceeding toward Dr. Burns and grabbed his arm. He threw me off and began punching Dr. Burns repeatedly in the head. I grabbed him again and this time he moved away from her and walked out of the team room. Dr. Burns sustained a large contusion to her forehead with significant bleeding.

The victim, Dr. Elizabeth Burns, also provided the police with a written statement describing the assault and her injuries. In her statement, Dr. Burns explained that defendant "demanded to meet with the treatment team" on January 22, 2006, even though his social worker, who she described as "a large man," was not at work that day. Dr. Burns also stated her belief that defendant "took advantage of the fact that the male social worker was not there" to attack her because she had previously recommended "transferring him back to a more restrictive facility."

On February 23, 2007, pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, defendant and his attorney completed and signed a plea form. In the plea form, defendant stated he was satisfied with the advice he received from his attorney, and confirmed that he was voluntarily entering a guilty plea to third-degree aggravated assault. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the State agreed to recommend a sentence of four years imprisonment.

At the plea hearing on March 5, 2007, defendant's attorney told the court that defendant had thought about the plea agreement since his last court appearance, and he was "going to take the plea." After defendant was sworn, he testified he understood he was giving up his right (1) to a trial by jury, (2) to remain silent, (3) to confront and cross-examine the State's witnesses, and (4) to present any defenses he may have had. When questioned by the court, defendant testified as follows:

Q: [P.W.], I understand that you are here in court today intending to plead guilty, is that true?

A: Yes, Sir.

Q: All right. The charge is the offense of aggravated assault. Is that your understanding?

A: Yes, Sir.

Q: You've been represented in this matter by Ms. Soast. Have you been fully satisfied with the legal advice and services that she has provided?

A: Yes, Sir.

Q: Are you pleading guilty today voluntarily and of ...


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