On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment No. 06-07-1498.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 3, 2011
Before Judges A. A. Rodriguez and Fasciale.
Defendant, Enrique DeJesus, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
These are the allegations against defendant. On November 30, 2006, defendant was arrested as he approached a house in Ocean Township. He allegedly went there to sell cocaine to a woman resident. The police searched defendant and found 1.5 grams of cocaine in his possession, as well as a key to a motel room in Asbury Park. Defendant was taken to the motel room, where a second search was conducted. An additional 17.5 grams of cocaine were seized from the room. The indictment alleged that defendant intended to sell the cocaine taken from his person and the motel room.
After arrest and indictment, defendant's private counsel filed a motion to suppress evidence seized without a warrant. Thereafter, defendant entered into an agreement with the State to plead guilty to second-degree possession of cocaine, a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5b(2). In exchange, the State agreed to dismiss two related charges: third-degree conspiracy to distribute a CDS and third-degree possession of CDS. The State also agreed to recommend a maximum seven-year term with a forty-two-month parole disqualifier to run concurrent to any probation violation sentences that might be imposed as a result of this conviction. Defendant, who was eligible to an extended term, also agreed to withdraw the motion to suppress evidence.
Judge Bette E. Uhrmacher accepted the plea and imposed a seven-year term with a forty-two-month parole disqualifier. Defendant did not file a direct appeal. However, three weeks after being sentenced, defendant filed a pro se PCR petition.
Appointed PCR counsel filed a verified petition and brief that alleged ineffective assistance of plea counsel because counsel "coerced and cajoled [defendant] into pleading guilty by refusing to proceed with trial and failing to advise defendant of the penal effect of his plea agreement." In support of the petition, defendant certified in pertinent part:
2. My attorney, Steven E. Nelson, Esq., did not file a motion to suppress the evidence in this matter despite clear search and seizure issues pertaining to the search of my home in Asbury Park by police from the township of Deal.
3. There were also Terry issues that counsel did not raise with respect to the search of my person, as I had nothing resembling a weapon on my person that would lead to such a search.
4. There was no communication from my attorney, as he refused to return my phone calls or provide me with my discovery file.
5. I paid my attorney $5000 to file the aforesaid motions and also to hire a forensic handwriting expert to analyze the different signatures that were forged onto the consent to search forms by the police. No expert was ever retained.
6. My attorney didn't know the facts of the case, specifically, he urged me to take a plea with respect to a school zone charge even though this matter did not pertain to a school zone. I had to point this fact out to him. From that point on I ...