MICHAEL A. PERO, III, Petitioner,
WARDEN JOHN DUFFY, et al., Respondents.
Michael A. Pero, III, Paterson, NJ, Petitioner pro se
Annmarie Cozzi, Bergen County Prosecutor's Office Bergen County Justice Center, Hackensack, NJ, Counsel for Respondents.
JOEL A. PISANO, District Judge.
Petitioner Michael A. Pero, III ("Petitioner"), a prisoner formerly confined at Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey,  has submitted a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The respondents are Warden John Duffy and the Attorney General of New Jersey.
For the reasons stated herein, the Petition shall be denied.
I. THE INTERSTATE AGREEMENT ON DETAINERS
This matter involves a prisoner's request for trial pursuant to Article III of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers. The Interstate Agreement on Detainers ("IAD") is a congressionallysanctioned interstate compact among 48 states (including both New Jersey and Connecticut), the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the United States, "to establish procedures for resolution of one State's outstanding charges against a prisoner of another State." New York v. Hill , 528 U.S. 110, 111 (2000). See also 18 U.S.C. App. II § 2; N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-1 to -15; Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-186; Cuyler v. Adams , 449 U.S. 433, 442 (1981) ("[The IAD] is a congressionally sanctioned interstate compact the interpretation of which presents a question of federal law."). The IAD aims "to encourage the expeditious and orderly disposition of [outstanding] charges and determination of the proper status of any and all detainers based on untried indictments, informations or complaints" by providing cooperative procedures among the party jurisdictions. IAD, Art. I.
Among those procedures, Article III permits a prisoner incarcerated in one jurisdiction to initiate proceedings to bring him to trial on charges pending in another jurisdiction. Specifically, Article III provides in pertinent part:
(a) Whenever a person has entered upon a term of imprisonment in a penal or correctional institution of a party State, and whenever during the continuance of the term of imprisonment there is pending in any other party State any untried indictment, information, or complaint on the basis of which a detainer has been lodged against the prisoner, he shall be brought to trial within one hundred and eighty days after he shall have caused to be delivered to the prosecuting officer and the appropriate court of the prosecuting officer's jurisdiction written notice of the place of his imprisonment and his request for a final disposition to be made of the indictment, information, or complaint: Provided, That, for good cause shown in open court, the prisoner or his counsel being present, the court having jurisdiction of the matter may grant any necessary or reasonable continuance. The request of the prisoner shall be accompanied by a certificate of the appropriate official having custody of the prisoner, stating the term of commitment under which the prisoner is being held, the time already served, the time remaining to be served on the sentence, the amount of good time earned, the time of parole eligibility of the prisoner, and any decision of the State parole agency relating to the prisoner.
(b) The written notice and request for final disposition referred to in paragraph (a) hereof shall be given or sent by the prisoner to the warden, commissioner of corrections, or other official having custody of him, who shall promptly forward it together with the certificate to the appropriate prosecuting official and court by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested.
(c) The warden, commissioner of corrections, or other official having custody of the prisoner shall promptly inform him of the source and contents of any detainer lodged against him and shall also inform him of his right to make a request for final disposition of the indictment, information, or complaint on which the detainer is based.
(a) In response to a request made under article III... hereof, the appropriate authority in a sending State shall offer to deliver temporary custody of such prisoner to the appropriate authority in the State where such indictment, information, or complaint is pending against such person in order that speedy and efficient prosecution may be had. If the request for final disposition is made by the prisoner, the offer of temporary custody shall accompany the written notice provided for in article III of this agreement....
IAD, Art. V(a). Pursuant to the IAD, failure to abide by the 180-day time limit set forth in Article III requires dismissal of the indictment. IAD, Art. V(c).
Standard forms have been adopted by all signatories to the IAD. See Casper v. Ryan , 822 F.2d 1283, 1285 n.2 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1012 (1987) (citing The Council of State Governments, The Handbook on Interstate Crime Control 125-33 (1978)). The forms required in an Article III request for final disposition are:
Form 1: "Notice of Untried Indictment, Information or Complaint and of Right to Request Disposition, " to be signed and dated by the warden of the custodial institution where the inmate is held, and then signed and dated by the inmate to acknowledge receipt.
Form 2: "Inmate's Notice of Place of Imprisonment and Request for Disposition of Indictments, Informations, or Complaints, " to be addressed to the Prosecutor in the jurisdiction where a charge is pending, signed and dated by the inmate.
Form 3: "Certificate of Inmate Status, " to be signed and dated by the warden, and to include: (1) The term of commitment under which the prisoner is being held, (2) the time already served, (3) time remaining to be served on the sentence, (4) the amount of good time earned, (5) the date of parole eligibility of the prisoner, (6) the decision of the parole board relating to the prisoner, (7) the maximum expiration date under the present sentence, and (8) detainers currently on file against this inmate from the same state.
Form 4: "Offer to Deliver Temporary Custody, " to be signed by the warden.
See State v. Pero , 370 N.J.Super. 203, 208 (N.J.Super. A.D. 2004).
The relevant facts are set forth in the opinion of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.
Here is the relevant history as appears in the record. On December 28, 2000, a grand jury indicted defendant on charges of first-degree kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1b; first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; second-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1); third-degree theft, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3; fourth-degree unlawful possession of a knife, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d; and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d. The charges were based on acts allegedly perpetrated on February 5, 2000; defendant's mother was the alleged victim.
Defendant was indicted on these charges in Bergen County on December 28, 2000 and was scheduled to appear for arraignment on January 22, 2001. When he failed to appear, a warrant issued for defendant's arrest. After his subsequent arrest in Connecticut on unrelated charges, the Bergen County Prosecutor forwarded a detainer to Connecticut prison officials.[FN4] Defendant was sentenced to prison in Connecticut on October 31, 2002.
FN4. The prosecutor apparently faxed a detainer, that is, a notice of pending charges, along with a copy of the January 22, 2001 arrest warrant, first on January 31, 2001 and again on September 18, 2001.
On November 7, 2002, defendant's informal, handwritten "notice and a request for final disposition, " citing Article III of the [Interstate Agreement on Detainers ("IAD")], was received by the warden of Connecticut's MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, where defendant was then held. The warden responded informally on November 14, advising defendant of his right to file for a trial in New Jersey and informing him that "the paperwork will be generated by Records and you will sign the necessary forms with your assigned assessment counselor." On November 19, 2002 defendant signed IAD Forms 1 and 2, provided by the Connecticut DOC as required by N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-3(c), thereby initiating his request for disposition of the New Jersey indictment. Apparently, a "records specialist" in the MacDougall-Walker facility in Connecticut partially completed Forms 3 and 4, which required the warden's signature. But those forms were not signed. The record on appeal includes unsigned Forms 3 and 4, each bearing the typed date November 1, 2002. The records specialist also prepared cover letters addressed to the Bergen County Prosecutor and the "Clerk of the Court" in Bergen County, dated November 21, 2002, purporting to attach "Forms 2, 3, and 4." Assuming that the appropriate New Jersey authorities received some documents from Connecticut "on or about" November 25, 2002 as defendant claims, he admits that "the records specialist mailed out Form 3 and Form 4 without the warden signing them."
In March 2003, defendant was transferred to a different Connecticut prison, the Garner Correctional Institution. On March 20, 2003, defendant wrote to the Bergen County Prosecutor's office, inquiring as to New Jersey's intention, enclosing a copy of his November 19 request for disposition, and alleging a 180day deadline from that date to bring him to trial. In response to his request some four months later that Connecticut prison authorities check the status of his request for trial in New Jersey, defendant was permitted to make a telephone call to the court clerk in Bergen County. According to defendant, the clerk told him "all the paperwork is here. We are just waiting for somebody to pick you up. Everything is all set." The court clerk also faxed to defendant copies of the documents received in November from Connecticut. Defendant made copies of those documents, and on March 20, 2003 he sent a packet of material to both the Bergen County Prosecutor and the court clerk. He asked to be informed "of the intention of the State of New Jersey regarding these outstanding matters." Finally, completed and signed Forms 3 and 4 were sent by Garner prison personnel in April and received by the Bergen County Prosecutor on April 10, 2003.
The State now appears to admit it received Forms 1 and 2, signed by defendant, in November 2002.[FN5] The record includes unsigned copies of cover letters from the Connecticut DOC to the Bergen County Prosecutor and to the "Clerk of Court, Bergen County, " dated November 21, 2002, referring to "[a]ttached" "I.S.D. Forms 2, 3, 4." The record also includes unsigned copies of Forms 3 and 4, dated November 21, 2002, certifying defendant's commitment to MacDougall-Walker and his incarceration for the preceding 853 days. However, the only signed Forms 3 and 4 are dated April 3 and 2, respectively, and certify defendant's then current commitment at Garner and his incarceration in Connecticut for the preceding 1041 days. The State plainly did not receive Forms 3 and 4, signed by the warden, until after April 3.[FN6]
FN5. The assistant prosecutor appears to have apologized to the court for a misstatement in his brief, in which he had said that the State received only Form 1, and not Form 2, in November, although in later argument he claims only to have admitted that defendant signed ...