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Morris v. Baker

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 6, 2018

BRENT MORRIS, Petitioner,
v.
RENEE BAKER, Warden, Nevada Department of Corrections and THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW JERSEY, Respondent.

          Brent Morris, No. 29890 Northern Nevada Correctional Center Petitioner Pro se

          Brian Uzdavinis Office of the Attorney General Counsel for Respondents

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         Petitioner Brent Morris “Petitioner”, a prisoner presently incarcerated at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City, Nevada, has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 the “Petition”. ECF No. 1. Mr. Morris's sole grievance raised in the Petition is that his New Jersey state sentence failed to account for time during which he was incarcerated pre-trial on a New Jersey detainer while he was in the state of Nevada. By of Court, Respondents filed an Answer to the Petition the “Answer”, ECF No. 6, and supplemental exhibits, ECF No. 14. Petitioner filed a reply to the Answer the “Reply”. ECF No. 8. The Court requested supplemental briefing regarding whether the Petition is now moot because the Petitioner has fully served the sentence at issue, ECF No. 15, which the parties provided, ECF Nos. 16, 17. The Petition is ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated below, the Petition will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Allegations Contained In The Petition

         In 2013, Petitioner faced various state felony charges arising from his conduct at the craps tables of various Atlantic City, New Jersey, casinos. ECF No. 1, Pet. at 3. Petitioner pled guilty on March 4, 2013, to four counts of violations of N.J.S.A. 5:12-113, swindling and cheating in the third degree, contained in three separate state indictments lodged against him. Id.; ECF No. 7-3, Indictments; ECF No. 7-5, Plea Agreement. Petitioner alleges that his guilty plea agreement contained the following:

The prosecutor has agreed to recommend for dismissal: all remaining counts . . . 4 years NJSP concurrent to any other state's sentence. Credit for time served in ACJF or on N.J. detainer out of state (Nevada or Michigan). Counsel to provide info. Forfeiture of all $ seized. Restitution of $34, 620.

ECF No. 1, Pet. at 3. See also ECF No. 7-5, Plea Agreement.

         At sentencing on April 19, 2013, Petitioner objected to the proposed calculation of the discretionary jail time credits, presenting the following argument, as recited in the Petition:

The language of the negotiated plea agreement signed by all parties on March 4, 2013 clearly states that I am entitled to receive additional jail credits for any detainers filed against me during the time I was arrested in Michigan and Nevada. I was arrested on September 22, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. While I was incarcerated at the Clark County Detention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, officials in New Jersey lodged a detainer against me on . . . June 30, 2010 and also on December 10, 2010 . . . pursuant to a bench warrant and a detainer signed by you, Judge, on the same date of December 10, 2010. . . . I am entitled to the 940 days of jail credits calculated from the date September 22, 2010, my arrest date in Las Vegas Nevada, to the present time of sentencing, which is today, April 19, 2013.

ECF No. 1, Pet. at 6. Petitioner went on to state that he was informed at the time he entered into the plea agreement that he would be entitled to these credits, and he questioned why no one explained to him at the time of his plea agreement that he would not be entitled to the disputed jail credits. Id. at 5.

         As Petitioner states in his Petition, “Petitioner's sole contention on appeal is that he was denied the benefit of his plea bargain because Judge Donio [the trial court and sentencing judge] failed to award him 940 discretionary jail credits for the time he spent in confinement in the state of Nevada.”[1] Id. at 5-6. Petitioner calculates the time he is allegedly owed from the date he was arrested in Nevada in September 2010. Id. at 4. As a result of the denial of these jail credits, Petitioner states that his sentence is unconstitutional in violation of the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Id. at 3.

         In his supplemental brief addressing whether his Petition is now moot because he has served his sentence at issue, Petitioner asserts that “[e]ven though collateral consequences are not presumed, Petitioner may still avoid a finding of mootness if he can show a continuing injury, or collateral consequences, that is sufficient.” ECF No. 17, Pet'r Suppl. Br. at 4. Petitioner does not identify any injury or collateral consequence to him personally, but suggests that “there is more at stake than the completion of his New Jersey prison sentence of 4 years; at stake is the honor of the government, public confidence in the fair administration of justice, and the efficient administration of justice.” Id. at 5.

         B. Factual Background Contained In The Record

         A thorough review of the record reveals the following timeline of events prior to and after Petitioner's sentencing in New Jersey.[2] Petitioner was initially arrested and jailed in Atlantic County on May 27, 2010, for conduct occurring on that day as well as on March 14 and 15, 2010. ECF No. 7-3, Indictments; ECF No. 7-8, Sent'g Tr. at 8. He posted bail on June 10, 2010, for the aforementioned offenses but failed to appear later that month for an unspecified hearing on the charges. ECF No. 7-8, Sent'g Tr. at 8. Thus, on June 30, 2010, a New Jersey bench warrant was issued for Petitioner. Id. That warrant, however, only covered the Eastern ...


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