NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted June 18, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 09-05-00906.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Alison Perrone, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John L. Molinelli, Bergen County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (David A. Malfitano, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Parrillo and Messano.
Defendant Rishi Rakshpal appeals from an order of the Law Division denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
Indicted for fourth-degree possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(12), and third-degree possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in a school zone, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7, defendant pled guilty, pursuant to a negotiated agreement with the State, to an amended charge of disorderly persons possession of marijuana. Defendant admitted to being in possession of .37 grams of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle in the Borough of Maywood on January 28, 2009. He was sentenced, in accordance with the plea agreement, to a four-year term of probation and appropriate fines and fees were imposed.
Defendant did not file an appeal. Instead, he filed a PCR petition, in which he alleged plea counsel was ineffective for failing to: (1) properly investigate the possibility that the narcotics belonged to someone else; (2) file a motion to suppress; and (3) properly advise defendant as to what exactly he was pleading guilty. In support of his first claim of ineffective assistance, defendant submitted a July 23, 2010 statement of Travis Jeter — eighteen months after the date of the underlying offense — supposedly taking responsibility for ownership of the marijuana in question.
Following argument, the PCR judge denied the petition, reasoning:
The affidavit submitted is dated July 23, 2010. This Court finds it suspicious that Mr. Je[t]er's affidavit appears some three months following petitioner's guilty plea and some eighteen months after the date of arrest. This Court also wonders that if petitioner was aware of the willingness of Mr. Je[t]er to exculpate him, why he would entertain the notion of a guilty plea when someone else was guilty and willing to confess to the crime?
Petitioner next asserts that he was coerced to accept the plea instead of taking the matter to trial. Petitioner offers no evidence or explanation as to how he was coerced by his counsel, why he did not reject the plea offer or hire another attorney, and/or why he did not bring Mr. Je[t]er to the attention of his counsel before acquiescing to the plea. ...