On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Indictment No. 07-09-1462.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 31, 2011
Before Judges Parrillo and Skillman.
Defendant was charged in one indictment with eluding the police, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b); aggravated assault while eluding the police, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12- 1(b)(6); aggravated assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1); and knowingly leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1.
Defendant was also charged in a second indictment with aggravated assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(2); possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d); unlawful possession of a weapon, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d); and contempt, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(b).
These two indictments were based upon a series of acts committed by defendant on January 4, 2007. Defendant first held a knife to the throat of his then girlfriend at her place of employment and inflicted a knife wound to her body during this confrontation, then eluded the police who attempted to arrest him by driving his car away from the scene at a high rate of speed, and finally, collided with another car during the course of this eluding, which caused very serious injuries to the driver of the other car.
Defendant entered into a plea bargain under which he agreed to plead guilty to the two counts of aggravated assault contained in the first indictment and the unlawful possession of a weapon and contempt charges contained in the second indictment, and the State agreed to recommend an aggregate term of eight years imprisonment, with the 85% parole disqualifier recommended by the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, and to dismiss the other charges against defendant.
The trial court accepted the plea bargain and sentenced defendant to concurrent eight-year terms of imprisonment, subject to the 85% period of parole ineligibility mandated by the No Early Release Act, for the two aggravated assaults, and concurrent eighteen-month terms of imprisonment for unlawful possession of a weapon and contempt.
Defendant did not file a direct appeal. However, more than a year after he was sentenced, defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief. The primary ground of his petition was that his assigned counsel had been ineffective in failing to argue at sentencing that the trial court should find mitigating factors based on defendant's mental condition. Defendant also argued that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to have him undergo a psychiatric evaluation before sentencing. Defendant did not seek to retract his guilty plea based on this alleged ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing.
By an oral opinion rendered on December 16, 2009, the trial court denied defendant's petition.
On appeal from the denial of his petition, defendant presents the following arguments:
POINT I: THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DENYING MR. SMITH'S PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF WITHOUT AFFORDING HIM AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING TO DETERMINE THE MERITS OF ...