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State of New Jersey v. Almahdee Jefferson

August 9, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ALMAHDEE JEFFERSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 02-06-2514.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted December 1, 2010

Before Judges Cuff and Sapp-Peterson.

Almahdee Jefferson appeals from the trial court order denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.

A jury convicted defendant of third-degree attempted theft, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3a and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1, as well as second-degree use of a juvenile in the theft of an automobile, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-17a. The court sentenced defendant to an eight-year custodial term. Defendant appealed, claiming the trial court should have granted a judgment of acquittal because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he used a juvenile in the theft of an automobile, the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on cross-racial identification, and the trial court abused its discretion in imposing an eight-year custodial term. In an unpublished opinion, we affirmed the judgment of conviction and sentence imposed. State v. Jefferson, No. A-65-03 (App. Div. June 11, 2004). The Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for certification. State v. Jefferson, 182 N.J. 141 (2004).

On December 19, 2006, defendant filed a pro se PCR petition, and upon appointment of counsel, an amended verified PCR petition was filed. Defendant claimed that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choosing and that he was sentenced above the presumptive sentence contrary to State v. Natale, 184 N.J. 458 (2005).

The PCR judge conducted oral argument and thereafter issued a written opinion denying defendant's petition. The judge first rejected defendant's contention that he was wrongfully denied his right to counsel during his trial, concluding there was no basis to have removed assigned counsel "[s]imply because [p]petitioner disagreed with his assigned trial attorney's strategies" and the fact that petitioner "was generally dissatisfied does not mean the [c]court must allow [p]petitioner to choose an attorney who will satisfy his every whim." The court also observed that defendant's first request to change his attorney was made on the first day of trial. The court concluded that defendant had "ample opportunity to obtain counsel of his choice prior to trial[,] and allowing [p]petitioner an adjournment after the commencement of his trial would have been an unnecessary as well as disruptive delay."

On appeal defendant raises the following points for our consideration:

POINT I

THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED BECAUSE DEFENDANT WAS DENIED HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BE REPRESENTED BY AN ATTORNEY OF HIS CHOICE.

POINT II

THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE THE TRIAL COURT FAILED TO HOLD A HEARING TO DETERMINE WHETHER DEFENDANT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO FIRE ...


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