June 20, 2013
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
ERICK DOUGLAS, Defendant-Appellant.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted June 11, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 07-06-0797.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Frank J. Pugliese, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, of counsel and on the brief),
Camelia M. Valdes, Passaic County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Marc A. Festa, Senior Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Fisher and Grall.
Defendant was charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2(a); N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1), knowing or purposeful murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1); N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6, and other related offenses. Specifically, defendant and two others were charged with having met in Paterson on January 10, 2007, and agreeing to confront Katrell Greene about money he owned to one of defendant's cohorts. In fact, they met Greene twice that day. On the first occasion, they argued and defendants left. They later returned with a sawed-off shotgun, and one co-defendant fatally shot Greene while defendant and the other conspirator served as lookouts.
Defendant agreed to plead guilty to aggravated manslaughter. During the plea proceedings on December 15, 2009, Judge Joseph A. Falcone explained to defendant he would most likely be sentenced to an eighteen-year prison term, subject to a fifteen-and-one-half-year period of parole ineligibility. In fact, that is the sentence Judge Falcone imposed on February 11, 2010.
Defendant did not appeal. Instead, in June 2011, defendant filed a post-conviction relief (PCR) petition, claiming he was denied the effective assistance of counsel because "[m]y trial attorney advised me that I was receiving a fifteen year sentence subject to serving 85% [but I] received an eighteen year NERA term [and] [m]y attorney did not object or seek to correct this excessive term." Without conducting an evidentiary hearing, the PCR judge denied relief.
Defendant appeals, arguing:
THIS MATTER MUST BE REMANDED FOR AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING BECAUSE A PRIMA FACIE CASE OF INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL WAS ESTABLISHED.
We find insufficient merit in this argument to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). Judge Falcone fully explained the consequences of defendant's guilty plea and advised of the likelihood that defendant would receive the very sentence that was later imposed. During the plea hearing, defendant acknowledged he was advised and had sufficient time to discuss the plea offer with his trial attorney. He never asserted or suggested at that time that his attorney had advised he would likely receive a lesser prison term than that identified by Judge Falcone at the plea hearing. In light of these circumstances and absent anything other than defendant's conclusory and self-serving sworn statement, the PCR judge correctly rejected defendant's request for an evidentiary hearing because defendant failed to present a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel.