On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hunterdon County, Indictment No. 05-04-0158.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 23, 2012 -
Before Judges Messano and Kennedy.
Defendant George M. Hladun appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) without an evidentiary hearing. Defendant was convicted by a jury of the first-degree strict liability drug-induced death of Gary L. Debele, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9, and third-degree distribution of heroin, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and (b)(3). So as to place some of the issues raised by the PCR petition in proper context, we cite extensively from our prior opinion regarding the evidence adduced at trial.
During the early morning hours of May 31, 2003, . . . Debele died of a heroin overdose while asleep on the couch in his home. Debele had attempted to overcome his addiction to the drug during the preceding years . . . .
Debele was discovered in a lifeless condition at approximately 5:30 a.m. by his step-daughter, Cheryl Machyousky, who lived with Debele, [Debele's wife] Cynthia, and her half-brother, Gary Debele, Jr. . . . Emergency medical personnel were unable to revive Debele, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The preceding evening, near 9:00 p.m., Debele asked Machyousky to drive him to K-Mart to purchase supplies for the garden they were planting. While Machyousky was driving to K-Mart, Debele asked her to stop at defendant's house, claiming that defendant owed him money. After defendant came to the front door, Debele went around the side of the house with him, and, after a few minutes, both returned to the car. Defendant continued a conversation with Debele about borrowing a roto-tiller from him. As they left defendant's home, Debele told Machyousky that he did not need to go to K-Mart that evening, and so they drove home.
Machyousky knew the symptoms of heroin intoxication having lived for several years with a man that was addicted to the drug. Although Debele exhibited no such signs when he left for K-Mart, he did on the ride home from defendant's house. When Machyousky reached home, Debele went into the bathroom where Machyousky assumed he was ingesting more drugs. Police who responded to the home the next morning found a cut straw with white-powder residue on it in the bathroom garbage can. The residue was heroin.
Machyousky agreed to assist the police investigation into Debele's death by consenting to secretly record telephone conversations with defendant. She attempted to have defendant speak about the night before Debele's death, and whether defendant gave him the heroin that led to his death. A taped conversation she had with defendant on June 18, 2003[,] was played for the jury. We recite some of the exchange:
Machyousky: But um, I mean, did you recognize the stamp that was on the  [bags of heroin]? You know how they stamp the bags? Defendant: No.
Machyousky: It was a different kind? 'Cause you should be very careful.
I mean, you know how . . . they stamp it, and they give it a name? Defendant: Yeah.
Machyousky: He (meaning Debele) said that he didn't recognize the name on th[e] [bag] . . . that night.
Machyousky: And he was even worried about it himself. So it, it was different to you? You didn't recognize it either? Defendant: I didn't, I didn't take notice.
Machyousky: How many did he even get?
Machyousky: He got two from you that night? And, you know, he seemed to be doing okay, George . . . . [W]ere you guys talking regularly or? I mean, I know back [in] the days before he went to rehab and when you guys were going to Newark and scoring dope and whatever, and you had some trouble with the law, ...