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State of New Jersey v. Ronnie Bethea

June 28, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
RONNIE BETHEA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 02-06-0724.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 3, 2011

Before Judges Parrillo and Espinosa.

Defendant appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) without an evidentiary hearing. We affirm the denial of his petition, substantially for the reasons set forth by Judge Ernest M. Caposela, J.S.C., in his written opinion.

Defendant pled guilty to one count of first-degree armed robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, and one count of second-degree armed robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, pursuant to a plea agreement. The sentencing court imposed an aggregate sentence of 12 years, subject to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, on November 22, 2002.

Defendant filed a direct appeal, arguing only that his sentence was excessive. We affirmed his sentence. The Supreme Court denied his petition for certification. State v. Bethea, 185 N.J. 36 (2005).

Defendant filed a PCR petition on August 25, 2005. An amended, verified petition was filed with the assistance of counsel on November 15, 2007, in which defendant argued he was denied the effective assistance of counsel because his attorney failed to adequately consult with him prior to his guilty plea, failed to provide him a copy of his discovery prior to the plea hearing, and failed to investigate the viability of an intoxication defense. Defendant asserted that, as a result of his attorney's failure to provide him with discovery, he did not "truly" understand the plea. Defendant's PCR counsel submitted a certification in which he stated that he "reasonablybelieve[d] that Bethea may have not been mentally competent to accept a plea agreement in this case at the time he did so."

In a detailed written opinion, Judge Caposela denied defendant's petition. Defendant presents the following issues for our consideration in his appeal.

POINT I

DEFENDANT WAS DENIED EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL ON HIS PETITION FOR POST CONVICTION RELIEF. (NOT RAISED BELOW)

POINT II

THE LAW DIVISION JUDGE SHOULD HAVE GRANTED DEFENDANT'S PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF ON THE GROUNDS THAT DEFENDANT WAS DENIED EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL IN VIOLATION OF THE SIXTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATE[S] ...


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