November 28, 2011
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
SOLADEEN B. TAYLOR, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 92-11-1408.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 26, 2011
Before Judges Parrillo and Skillman.
Defendant Soladeen B. Taylor appeals from an order of the Law Division denying his motion to correct an illegal sentence, which is essentially his second petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of four counts of first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; two counts of aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1), (4); and one count of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a); attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1, 11-3; and unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(c)(2). The facts underlying these convictions may be briefly stated. Defendant and a co-defendant, along with a third perpetrator, robbed four men. Defendant pointed his firearm at the victims and shot one of the victims as he tried to run away. The victim was hit in the buttocks and sustained life threatening injuries which required immediate surgery consisting of a colostomy and appendectomy. After being released from the hospital, he underwent an additional eleven or twelve surgeries, including amputation of the toes on his left foot.
Defendant was sentenced to an aggregate custodial term of fifty-five years, subject to twenty-seven and one-half years of parole ineligibility.*fn1 On direct appeal, defendant argued, among other issues:
THE SENTENCE IMPOSED IN THIS CASE WAS MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE AND CONTRARY TO THE GUIDELINES OF THE CODE OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT.
A. The Trial Court Failed To Focus On The Specifics Of The Instant Offenses And To Support Its Findings Of Aggravating Factors With Facts That Distinguished The Offenses From Other Like Crimes.
B. The Trial Court Impermissibly Double-Counted Aggravating Factor (2) In Sentencing Defendant For Second Degree Aggravated Assault.
C. The Trial Court Erroneously Emphasized What It Perceived As Defendant's ["Malefecence]" And Failed To Identify Several Applicable Mitigating Factors.
D. Imposition Of Four Consecutive Sentences Violated The Holding In State v. Yarbough.
Save for merger of one aggravated assault count with the attempted murder conviction, the judgment of conviction was affirmed on appeal. State v. Bass, No. A-0061-94 (App. Div. Feb. 6, 1996). The Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for certification. State v. Bass, 145 N.J. 371 (1996).
In the meantime, on March 8, 1996, on the State's motion pursuant to State v. Haliski, 140 N.J. 1 (1995), the trial court resentenced defendant, as a second-time Graves Act offender,*fn2 to a mandatory extended term, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6c; N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7c; N.J.S.A. 2C:44-3(d); State v. Franklin, 184 N.J. 516, 534 (2005), consisting of: forty-years with a twenty-year parole disqualifier on the four robbery counts; a concurrent eighteen months on the aggravated assault charge; a consecutive ten years with a five-year parole disqualifier on the attempted murder conviction; and a consecutive five years with a two-and-one-half year parole disqualifier on the unlawful possession of a weapon charge. Defendant's aggregate sentence was fifty-five years in prison, with a twenty-seven and one-half parole disqualifier.
Thereafter, on July 29, 1996, defendant filed a PCR petition, which was denied on October 20, 1997. On appeal from the Law Division's order denying his PCR petition, defendant argued, among other issues, that his sentence was excessive. We affirmed, State v. Bass, No. A-2171-97 (App. Div. May 21, 1999), and the Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for certification. State v. Bass, 162 N.J. 129 (1999).
Several years later, on February 15, 2006, defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, in which he argued:
HIS ENHANCED SENTENCE PURSUANT TO GRAVES ACT EXTENDED TERM, IS ILLEGAL AS IT VIOLATES HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO HAVE A JURY DETERMINE ALL FACTS BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT ESSENTIAL TO HIS SENTENCE.
At the hearing, defendant argued that his sentences should run concurrent, rather than consecutive and further, that the aggregate sentence on the armed robbery should be reduced since none of the aggravating factors were determined by a jury. The motion judge denied the application, finding no merit to defendant's excessive sentence claim, which had been repeatedly rejected by our appellate courts in the past.
On the instant appeal, defendant argues:
I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED WHEN IT FAILED TO FIND THAT THE SENTENCE IMPOSED BY THE TRIAL COURT WAS MANIFESTLY IMPROPER AND MUST BE VACATED.
A. The Trial Court committed error when it imposed consecutive sentences of incarceration above the presumptive terms by misapplying, along with failing to make, the proper factual findings of the aggravating and mitigating factors that it used.
B. The Trial Court committed error when it resentenced defendant and re-imposed a period of incarceration above the presumptive term which contained unallowable multiple extended terms and without making the proper factual findings of the aggravating and mitigating factors that it used.
C. Defendant is entitled to relief under the standard announced in Natale and Pierce.
We have considered these issues and are satisfied they are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). Suffice it to say, defendant's claims of excessiveness of sentence have been previously adjudicated and rejected, and are therefore not cognizable on this appeal. R. 3:22-5. Moreover, defendant's aggregate term was authorized by law as he was properly resentenced as a repeat Graves Act offender to mandatory extended prison terms for each Graves Act conviction. N.J.S.A. 2C:44-5(a)(2); State v. Connell, 208 N.J. Super. 688, 697 (App. Div. 1986).