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State of New Jersey v. Julio Rodriguez
July 6, 2011
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
JULIO RODRIGUEZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 08-01-0300.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Espinosa and Skillman.
Defendant appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm, substantially for the reasons articulated in the oral opinion rendered by Judge Samuel D. Natal. Pursuant to a plea agreement that disposed of three separate indictments, defendant entered guilty pleas to an amended count of second-degree conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and 2C:35-5(a)(1) and/or 2C:35-5(b)(1); third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d); and third-degree burglary, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2. The plea agreement included a recommendation that all sentences run concurrent to each other and to a violation of probation. Consistent with the prosecutor's recommendation in the plea agreement, the sentencing court imposed an aggregate sentence of six years with no minimum period of parole ineligibility on May 1, 2008.
Defendant did not file either a direct appeal from his convictions and sentence or a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. In this PCR petition, defendant argues that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel because his attorney misled him in stating that he would be home in four months if he accepted the plea agreement and that, as a result, his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary. In addition, he argues the disparity between his sentence and that of a co-defendant constitutes a violation of his constitutional right to equal protection under the laws.
After carefully reviewing the record and briefs, we are satisfied that none of these arguments has sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion, R. 2:11-3(e)(2), and affirm substantially for the reasons set forth in Judge Natal's detailed oral opinion. After hearing defendant's testimony, Judge Natal explicitly found that defendant was not a credible witness. He reviewed defendant's statements at the time of his guilty pleas, including the fact that the court had "verified he understood the direct and maximum consequences of his guilty plea." We agree with his conclusions that defendant failed to make a prima facie showing of ineffective assistance of counsel, that defendant's guilty plea was knowing and voluntary and that there was no merit to defendant's challenge to his sentence.
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