On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 05-05-1096.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 14, 2012 -
Before Judges Grall and Alvarez.
Defendant Chris Nobles appeals from a denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. We affirm.
Defendant's convictions are based on his plea of guilty, which was entered pursuant to an agreement with the State resolving charges in two indictments. In the first indictment, the grand jurors charged defendant with first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1)-(2); third-degree possession of a handgun without a permit, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b; and second-degree possession of a firearm with purpose to use it unlawfully, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a. In the second, he was charged with possessing a weapon although disqualified by prior conviction, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7. The plea agreement called for the State to: dismiss the second indictment; amend the murder charge to aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a(1); dismiss the count charging possession with unlawful purpose; and recommend a twelve-year term of imprisonment subject to periods of parole ineligibility and supervision required by the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.
In conformity with that agreement, defendant was sentenced to a twelve-year term of imprisonment for aggravated manslaughter, subject to NERA, and a concurrent five-year term for unlawful possession of a weapon. Defendant's twelve-year sentence for aggravated manslaughter is below the midpoint in the range of ordinary terms for aggravated manslaughter. N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4c.
Defendant did not file a direct appeal, but he filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief. Judge Vena, who accepted defendant's guilty plea and imposed sentence, appointed counsel to represent defendant on the petition. The judge rejected defendant's request to vacate the plea because of "newly discovered evidence" and his request for relief based on his allegations of his prior attorney's deficient performance - specifically, failure to investigate the State's evidence and failure to adequately explain the consequences of the NERA parole.
A During the colloquy that preceded defendant's testimony about the crimes at the plea proceeding, defendant testified that he had reviewed the questions on the plea agreement forms with his attorney, understood the questions and provided truthful answers. In court, he identified his initials and signatures on the various forms.
In addition to setting forth the duration of NERA parole ineligibility and of the NERA parole supervision term, the plea form explains the consequences of a violation of NERA parole as follows:
Do you understand that if you violate the conditions of your parole supervision that your parole may be revoked and you may be subject to return to prison to serve all or any portion of the remaining period of parole supervision, even if you have completed serving the term of imprisonment previously imposed?
Defendant marked "yes," indicating his understanding of that information, and he signed the form. During the plea hearing, the judge probed to ensure that defendant understood that paragraph. He advised defendant:
[P]ursuant to [NERA], you'll be required to . . . serve a period of parole supervision subsequent to ...