NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 4, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 98-07-3133.
Carl J. Herman, attorney for appellant.
Carolyn A. Murray, Acting Essex County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Jo-Ann Teng, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Graves and Guadagno.
Defendant Bobby Douglas appeals from an order entered on March 28, 2012, denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) without an evidentiary hearing. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
Defendant is not a citizen of the United States. He was born in Jamaica in 1973 and entered the United States in 1988 when he was fifteen years old. Defendant graduated from high school in 1991. Following his graduation, he served in the United States Navy and was honorably discharged in 1993.
In July 1998, an Essex County grand jury indicted defendant for first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(1) (count one); second-degree sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c)(1) (count two); second-degree sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c)(5) (count three); and third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a) (count four). The charges alleged that defendant had sexual relations with a minor in July 1996 and December 1997.
On July 15, 1999, when he was twenty-five years old, defendant pled guilty to count four, endangering the welfare of a minor. In exchange for the plea, the State agreed to dismiss the remaining charges and to recommend that any custodial sentence not exceed three years in prison. The assistant prosecutor explained that even though the victim, her father, and her grandmother had provided written statements outlining the offenses, the State was "willing to recommend such a lenient disposition" because the victim was "doing very well in school now, and the family wants to try to put this behind her."
Additionally, defense counsel advised the court that he had discussed the victim's reluctance to testify with defendant:
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: . . . I just want to also put on the record that in going over the offer of the State with [defendant], I also advised him, however, in knowing [the assistant prosecutor] for over ten years, that if he rejected the plea, the case wouldn't just go away, that in all likelihood [the assistant prosecutor] would, through the power of subpoena, get the people here and even if they recanted on the witness stand, I advised him that there still was a risk of conviction of serious offenses because of the prior statements that would come into, ultimately, evidence substantively; and knowing all of that, he has decided to take the plea as offered.
While under oath, defendant testified he was entering the plea voluntarily and understood the terms of the plea agreement. Defendant also confirmed that his attorney had reviewed the plea forms with him before he signed them, and he provided the answers to the questions on the forms:
THE COURT: Were those forms initialed and signed by you today?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, ma'am.
THE COURT: Did you sign and initial after reviewing each of these forms with your attorney?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, ma'am.
THE COURT: Did you read the forms before you provided ...