On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 99-04-1519.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 14, 2012
Before Judges A. A. Rodriguez and Fasciale.
Defendant appeals from a February 13, 2007 order denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) and an October 4, 2010 order denying reconsideration. He contends primarily that he did not enter a guilty plea knowingly because his plea counsel failed to inform him of the penal consequences. We affirm.
In August 1999, defendant pled guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a, and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39- 4a. At the plea hearing, defendant testified that "[t]here was a disagreement over a dice game. A weapon was involved and caused an innocent man his life. . . . I shot a man."
Defendant further testified that he shot the victim "[i]n the stomach" after defendant "pulled out [his] gun" during a "tussle." The plea judge questioned the defendant as follows: Q: [Defendant], . . . it's been represented . . . that you wish to . . . plea[d] . . . guilty to . . . aggravated manslaughter and [possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose]. In return, the State has indicated [that] they are going to dismiss [a charge of third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon] . . . and they will recommend that any sentence you receive not exceed [twenty] years . . ., though . . . this is subject to the No Early Release Act [(NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2]. . . . [I]t will be [seventeen] years before you're eligible for parole.
Is that your understanding of the plea agreement, sir?
Q: Anybody force or threaten you in any way to get you to plead guilty?
Q: Are you pleading guilty to these offenses, sir, because you are guilty of these offenses?
Q: Do you understand . . . that the maximum sentence you could receive for the offense you're about to plead guilty to, it would be [thirty] years in State Prison?
Q: I'm go[ing] to show you this plea form. It appears to have your initials and your signature on it, sir. Are those your initials and your signature?
Q: Did you go over [the plea] form with your [a]attorney before you initialed it and signed it?
Q: Did you understand all the answers and all ...