On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Indictment Nos. 06-02-0220 and 06-05-0973.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 20, 2011 - Decided Before Judges Simonelli and Fasciale.
Defendant Antoine Dennis appeals from his conviction for aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a. He contends that the judge erred by denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, trial counsel was ineffective, and his sentence was excessive. We affirm.
Defendant and his brother were allegedly robbed by the victim. Approximately four or five hours later, defendant went home, obtained a gun, and searched for the victim. Defendant then located the victim, fired the gun at him, and killed him.
On April 20, 2007, defendant pled guilty in this Hudson County case and expected to receive a sentence of eighteen years in state prison subject to an eighty-five percent period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. Defendant expected his Hudson County sentence to run concurrent to murder charges he was facing in Monmouth County.
On April 14, 2008, defendant filed a pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant claimed he was not guilty and that he did not adequately understand the NERA consequences. On June 4, 2008, defendant's counsel explained to the judge that defendant filed his pro se motion to ensure that the sentence in Hudson County would run concurrent to the pending Monmouth County case. Defendant withdrew his motion after the judge stated that he would follow the negotiated plea and impose the Hudson County sentence concurrent to the Monmouth County sentence.
On July 22, 2008, defendant appeared for sentencing in Hudson County and renewed his motion to withdraw the guilty plea. At sentencing, the following exchange took place:
Defense counsel: [Defendant] has alerted me that he wishes to re-file his motion to retract the plea with regard to the aggravated manslaughter, correct? Defendant: Yes.
The Court: On what basis?
Defense counsel: Your Honor, that's what I'm unclear about. I don't believe there is a basis [to renew defendant's motion to withdraw his plea]. I've shared that with [defendant]. He nevertheless wants me to make the request and put it on the record.
Defense counsel: [Defendant] wishes me to renew the motion [to withdraw the plea] right now, correct?
The Court: But there's nothing else that you can add other than a change ...