June 21, 2013
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
ANTONIO ENRIQUEZ, Defendant-Appellant.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 6, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 83-10-3311.
Antonio Enriquez, appellant pro se.
Carolyn A. Murray, Acting Essex County Prosecutor (Barbara A. Rosenkrans, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief.
Before Judges Sabatino and Maven.
Defendant Antonio Enriquez appeals from a December 1, 2010 order denying his motion to correct an illegal sentence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
An Essex County jury convicted defendant of conspiracy to commit murder, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 (count one); first-degree murder, contrary N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) and (2) (count two); third-degree hindering apprehension, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(b)(1) (count three); third-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b) (count four); fourth-degree possession of a defaced firearm, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(d) (count five); and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a) (count six). On September 7, 1989, defendant was sentenced to an aggregate term of life imprisonment with a thirty-year parole disqualifier.
We affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences on appeal. State v. Antonio Enriquez, No. A-0964-89 (App. Div. July 6), certif. denied, 130 N.J. 596 (1992). On January 23, 1995, the trial court denied defendant's petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirmed the denial of PCR. State v. Enriquez, No. A-6665-94 (App. Div. Nov. 12, 1997), certif. denied, 153 N.J. 49 (1998). Defendant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus was denied by the United States District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The United States Supreme Court denied defendant's writ of certiorari.
The very lengthy facts underlying this conviction are set forth in our earlier merits appeal opinion and need not be repeated to address the issue now before us. In 2003, defendant filed his motion to correct an illegal sentence. Defendant contended that the life sentence imposed was not authorized by N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(b), which he argued required a specific term of years. The motion was finally heard before the Honorable Peter V. Ryan, J.S.C., in March 2010 and denied in a written opinion dated December 1, 2010.
In considering the motion, Judge Ryan specifically noted that the Code of Criminal Justice, N.J.S.A. 2C:1-1 to -104-9, specifies the sentence or penalty for each criminal offense and authorized disposition. The applicable statute for defendant's murder conviction, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(b)(1), provided, in pertinent part, that
a person convicted of murder may be sentenced, except as provided in paragraphs (2), (3), and (4) of this subsection, by the court to a term of [thirty] years, during which the person shall not be eligible for parole, or to be sentenced to a specific term of years which shall be between [thirty] years and life imprisonment of which the person shall serve [thirty] years before being eligible for parole.
After determining that subsections two, three, and four were not applicable to defendant, the judge found that "a sentence of life imprisonment with [thirty] years parole ineligibility is entirely legal." The judge further confirmed that the concurrent sentences for counts three, four, five and six would be satisfied within the life imprisonment sentence. Upon noting that defendant failed to offer any supporting documentation or valid grounds to support his claim of an illegal sentence, the judge denied the motion. This appeal followed.
On appeal, defendant raises the following claims:
I. THE LOWER COURT'S DENIAL OF [DEFENDANT'S] MOTION TO CORRECT HIS SENTENCE IS ERRONEOUS AND SHOULD BE REVERSED BY THIS COURT.
II. PRINCIPLES OF FUNDAMENTAL FAIRNESS REQUIRE THAT THIS MATTER BE REMANDED WITH NEW COUNSEL ASSIGNED TO ASSIST [DEFENDANT] AND A NEW HEARING HELD.
We have carefully reviewed the record and, in light of applicable law, we conclude that these contentions are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Ryan. We add only the following brief comments.
"[A]n illegal sentence is one that exceeds the maximum penalty provided in the Code for a particular offense or a sentence not imposed in accordance with law." State v. Acevedo, 205 N.J. 40, 45 (2011) (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted)). In this case, it is clear that defendant's aggregate term of a life sentence, on merged counts one and two, was within the thirty-to-life imprisonment term permissible for first-degree murder See NJSA 2C:11-3(b) Accordingly the sentenced imposed by the trial court and affirmed on appeal was not an illegal sentence
In view of the foregoing the order denying defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence is affirmed.