On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 08-12-03660.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: January 16, 2013 -
Before Judges Axelrad and Sapp-Peterson.
Defendant Charles Davis appeals from the April 14, 2011 order of the Law Division denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) without an evidentiary hearing. Defendant had argued ineffective assistance of trial counsel in allegedly forcing him to plead guilty and failing to challenge the charge. We affirm.
Defendant was charged with second-degree conspiracy to commit carjacking, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and 2C:15-2 (count one); two counts of first-degree carjacking, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2 (counts two and three); first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count four); second-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b) (count five); third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b) (count six); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a) (count seven); and second-degree eluding, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b) (count eight).
On March 23, 2009, defendant pled guilty to count two, first-degree carjacking, pursuant to a plea agreement. During his plea colloquy, defendant admitted: (1) he did "strike [the victim] in an attempt to take her motor vehicle"; (2) "in striking her, because of her age [and her falling down], [she] did suffer some bodily injury"; and (3) he did "then take her motor vehicle and leave the scene." On June 5, 2009, Judge Peter J. Vazquez sentenced defendant to the negotiated term of seventeen years imprisonment with an eighty-five percent parole eligibility subject to the No Early Release Act, and the State dismissed the remaining charges.
On December 6, 2010, defendant filed a pro se PCR petition and certification, alleging his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by: (1) coercing defendant into pleading guilty by threatening him with a life sentence, thereby rendering his guilty plea unknowing, and (2) failing to challenge the carjacking charge on the basis that the victim was not a person "in possession or control of the car" as required by N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2a(1). Defendant's PCR counsel submitted a supplemental brief that alleged defendant's plea was not knowing, voluntary, and intelligent due to trial counsel's coercion.
Following oral argument on April 14, 2011, Judge Vazquez denied defendant's PCR petition, finding defense counsel correctly advised defendant of his sentencing exposure, and the facts and case law supported the carjacking charge. This appeal ensued.
On appeal, defendant argues:
THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY ACCEPTING DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA BECAUSE THE PLEA FAILED TO MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF R. 3:9-2.
A. Defendant's Guilty Plea to Carjacking Was Not Supported by an Adequate Factual Basis Where There Was No Indication That the Victim Was "An Occupant or Person in Possession or Control Of a Motor Vehicle" as Required under N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2a(1) (Not Raised Below).
B. The Defendant's Guilty Plea Was Not Knowing, Voluntary, and Intelligent Because He Was Not Properly Advised of the Penal Consequences of His Plea and Trial Counsel Coerced the Plea by Threatening the ...