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State of New Jersey v. Jeffrey Powell

July 21, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JEFFREY POWELL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Accusation No. 10-02-0683.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

In this appeal, defendant argues that the trial judge erred in denying his application, filed prior to sentencing, to withdraw his guilty plea. Because we are satisfied defendant has failed to demonstrate that any of the Slater*fn1 factors favored the granting of the relief sought, we find no abuse of discretion in the denial of the motion and affirm. Defendant was charged with two counts of third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3a, and one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child by engaging "in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of [a] child," N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4a, in connection with his position as a teacher's aide in a middle school. Defendant retained counsel and surrendered to authorities.

Argued May 18, 2011 Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Fasciale. Defendant's attorney entered into plea negotiations that culminated in a negotiated plea agreement in which the State, in exchange for defendant's plea to an accusation charging third- degree endangering the welfare of a child, would recommend a four-year probationary term conditioned upon defendant serving 364 days in the Camden County Correctional Facility. The plea agreement was also conditioned upon defendant having no further contact with the victim, forfeiting his right to public employment, currently and prospectively, and undergoing an evaluation at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Avenel. Further, the agreement placed defendant on notice that he would be subject to Megan's law, parole supervision for life, as well as appropriate fines and penalties. Finally, defendant waived his right to appeal, and the State agreed to dismiss the underlying warrant.

The terms of the plea agreement were placed on the record in open court, with trial counsel confirming its terms in defendant's presence. Trial counsel represented to the court that she had ample time to review the charges and to discuss the conditions of defendant's guilty plea as well as his decision to proceed by accusation rather than having the matter presented to a grand jury for consideration. Trial counsel also represented that she had reviewed the requisite plea forms with defendant and filled in answers to questions contained in the forms based upon defendant's responses.

The court personally addressed defendant, who was placed under oath. Defendant acknowledged to the court that he heard and understood the nature of the charges against him, the terms and conditions of the proposed plea agreement, including the fact that he was waiving indictment. Defendant conveyed to the court his desire to waive indictment and to plead guilty in accordance with the plea agreement.

Next, through counsel, defendant provided a factual basis for his guilty plea:

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Mr. Powell, I'd like to draw your attention, as the [j]udge indicated that's on this charging document, that on or about April and May of 2009 in Cherry Hill, you were a teacher at a Cherry Hill school?

THE DEFENDANT: Correct.

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Or a teacher's aide?

THE DEFENDANT: Teacher's aide. Correct.

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: And in your capacity as a teacher's aide, did you come in contact or get to know a young woman by the name of -- or the initials of K.R.?

THE DEFENDANT: Correct.

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: And she was under the age of [sixteen], right?

THE DEFENDANT: Yeah.

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: She was about [thirteen] or [fourteen]?

THE DEFENDANT: Fourteen.

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Okay.

THE DEFENDANT: Fourteen, yeah.

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Did you on several occasions have some phone discussions with K.R. that you acknowledge were inappropriate?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: And do you acknowledge that they were inappropriate, because they had the tendency to impair or debauch her morals, because they were conversations of a sexual nature?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: And specifically, did you participate in these conversations where the two of you spoke about ...


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