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State v. Lopez-Rodriguez

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

June 10, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
VICTOR LOPEZ-RODRIGUEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted June 4, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 99-10-0980.

Saluti Law Group, attorneys for appellant (Gerald M. Saluti, of counsel; Camille Claudio, on the brief).

Camelia M. Valdes, Passaic County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Christopher W. Shieh, Chief Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

Appellant filed a pro se supplemental brief.

Before Judges Fisher and Waugh.

PER CURIAM

Defendant was born in the Dominican Republic and relocated to the United States when he was fifteen years old. Eight years later, defendant was charged with the murder of Angel Nova in Paterson on March 7, 1999. Within hours of the shooting, he fled to the Dominican Republic, but was extradited to the United States a year later. In 2001, by agreement, defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4(c), and was sentenced to a twenty-year prison term subject to a seventeen-year period of parole ineligibility. His appeal was placed on an excessive sentencing oral argument calendar. We affirmed on June 28, 2005.

Defendant filed a post-conviction relief (PCR) petition on September 16, 2005, claiming he was not informed either about the five-year parole supervision period imposed or that he would be sentenced to a twenty-year prison term. Defendant also argued he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. And he claimed a denial of due process because an interpreter was not present at the plea and sentencing hearings. The PCR judge conducted an evidentiary hearing at which both defendant and his trial attorney testified. The PCR judge denied relief for reasons set forth in a written opinion. We affirmed. State v. Lopez-Rodriguez, No. A-2476-06 (App. Div. Dec. 16, 2008), certif. denied, 202 N.J. 346 (2010).

Defendant filed a second PCR petition. Although the PCR petition is not included in the record on appeal, the parties agree that defendant argued in the PCR court that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based on the allegation that his attorney did not inform him of the deportation consequences of his guilty plea and that he was unlawfully extradited from the Dominican Republic. The PCR petition was denied for reasons set forth in a written opinion filed on April 15, 2011.

Defendant appeals. Through his attorney, defendant argues:

I. DEFENDANT'S PLEA BARGAIN SHOULD BE VACATED DUE TO INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL, BECAUSE DEFENSE ATTORNEY FAILED TO ADVISE CLIENT HE WOULD BE ...

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