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State v. Walker

November 17, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
LINWOOD WALKER, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Indictment No. 04-06-00760.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 27, 2010

Before Judges R. B. Coleman and J. N. Harris.

Defendant Linwood Walker, Jr., appeals from an Order of the Law Division denying his (1) application for post-conviction relief (PCR), (2) request for an evidentiary hearing, and (3) motion to vacate a guilty plea in which he asserted ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm.

Defendant pled guilty to seven counts of a seventy-nine count indictment: third-degree conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1), and -5(b)(1) (count 62); second-degree distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and -5(b)(2) (counts 65, 68, and 74); third-degree distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and -5(b)(3) (count 71); first-degree distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and -5(b)(1) (count 77); and first-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and -5(b)(1) (count 79). In exchange, the State initially recommended a custodial sentence not to exceed twenty-five years with a twelve and one-half year period of parole ineligibility pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6(f). The Law Division imposed a lesser sentence of fifteen years incarceration with seven and one-half years of parole ineligibility.*fn1

On appeal, defendant raises the following points:

POINT I: THE GUILTY PLEA MUST BE VACATED BECAUSE APPELLANT WAS DENIED EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE REMANDED FOR A HEARING.

POINT II: THIS COURT MUST PERMIT APPELLANT TO WITHDRAW HIS PLEA OF GUILTY

Our review of the parties' arguments under the lens of the assembled record reveals that defendant was neither denied rights guaranteed to him by our federal and state constitutions nor otherwise entitled to an evidentiary hearing and post-conviction relief. There was no basis to vacate defendant's guilty plea, and accordingly, we reject defendant's multi-faceted arguments in affirming the Law Division.

I.

A brief procedural history will put this matter into perspective. In June 2004, a Morris County Grand Jury returned a seventy-nine count indictment against eighteen individuals relating to illicit drug trafficking. The indictment charged defendant with twenty counts involving drug transactions on several days in April, May, and August 2002.

On July 18, 2005, defendant entered a plea of guilty to the seven counts for which he was ultimately sentenced, and provided a factual basis to support each crime. Although the plea agreement did not require defendant's cooperation beyond "testifying truthfully against any co-[defendants]," it appears that defendant's sentencing was deferred in order to accommodate his efforts to cooperate with the New Jersey State Police.

A few months later, however, through new counsel, defendant sought to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing in a motion that at the time he entered his guilty plea he was misled by the Morris County Prosecutor's Office about how it would view his cooperation with law enforcement. Separately, defendant also moved to compel discovery from the Morris County Prosecutor's Office relating to its "procedures, policies and format to be followed by members of ...


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