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State v. Kwon

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 16, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
YOON S. KWON, Defendant-Appellant.


Submitted September 10, 2013 [1]

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 10-06-0955.

Law Offices of Brian J. Neary, attorney for appellant (Brian J. Neary, of counsel; Jane M. Personette, on the brief).

John L. Molinelli, Bergen County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Catherine A. Foddai, Senior Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Messano and Hayden.


The Bergen County grand jury returned Indictment No. 10-06-0955, charging defendant Yoon S. Kwon in twenty-two counts, with first-degree kidnapping of Y.H.L., N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1b; second-degree aggravated assault of Y.H.L., N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1); two counts of first-degree attempted aggravated sexual assault of Y.H.L., N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and 14-2a(3), and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and 14-2a(4); third-degree possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d; third-degree aggravated sexual contact of Y.H.L., N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3a; and other offenses.

On May 10, 2011, after the jury was selected and pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, defendant pled guilty to third-degree possession of a weapon; third-degree aggravated sexual contact; and the lesser-included offense of third-degree aggravated assault. In return, the State agreed to dismiss the remaining nineteen counts of the complaint, and to recommend that: defendant would be sentenced to a suspended sentence of three years' imprisonment; bail would be revoked voluntarily and defendant would immediately serve six months' imprisonment as a condition of probation; he would be subject to Megan's Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 to -23, including parole supervision for life; and he would have no further contact with Y.H.L.

Before the trial judge, Edward A. Jerejian, and represented by counsel, defendant acknowledged his understanding of the plea agreement, including all the consequences of Megan's Law and parole supervision for life. Defendant acknowledged that he had adequate time to speak to his attorney, counsel "answer[ed] all [his] questions" and he was "satisfied with [counsel's] services."

Defendant further admitted he was pleading guilty because he was in fact guilty, and that he was waiving his right to a trial. Under questioning by his attorney, defendant admitted putting "a lamp cord" around the victim's neck as he touched her vagina. He further acknowledged that this was against the victim's will. Defendant also acknowledged that "he saw the marks on [the victim's] neck" that resulted from his use of the cord, and that this caused her "significant bodily injury." Defendant was provided with a date on which he was to surrender and begin his sentence.

Defendant actually began his sentence on August 1, 2011. On December 22, noting that defendant had indicated a desire to withdraw his guilty plea, Judge Jerejian conducted a hearing. Defense counsel indicated that one of the purported reasons for the application was ineffective assistance of counsel. Addressing defendant directly, the judge fully explained the consequences if the guilty plea was withdrawn. The judge relieved trial counsel of any further representation of defendant.

Since defendant had already served his period of incarceration, Judge Jerejian set bail and scheduled the matter for a further hearing with successor defense counsel. On or about April 18, 2012, successor counsel filed a motion and supporting brief seeking to withdraw defendant's guilty plea.

On April 30, the judge held a hearing on defendant's motion. After considering oral argument, Judge Jerejian applied the factors set forth in State v. Slater, 198 N.J. 145, 157-58 (2009). He concluded that defendant failed to present any "color[able] claim of innocence, " noting that defendant made only "bare assertions" without "any particular or plausible facts" in his filed statement with the court.[2] The judge also concluded that defendant was fully appraised of the consequences of his plea of guilty, including the "immigration consequences" and the possibility of civil commitment. The judge further determined that defendant had demonstrated "nothing more than a change of heart, " and evidence of only a "whimsical change of mind in order to set aside [the] plea . . . ." The judge also "recognize[d] some limited prejudice to the State." He noted that the plea agreement was ...

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