United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Roberto Figueroa (“Petitioner”), a prisoner
confined at East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, New Jersey,
at the time of filing, has submitted a Petition for a Writ of
Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (D.E. No. 3
(“Petition”)). For the reasons below, the
Petition will be denied.
Court, affording the state court's factual determinations
the appropriate deference, see 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1),  will recount salient portions of the
recitation of facts as set forth by New Jersey Superior
Court, Appellate Division, in its opinion on post-conviction
On September 15, 2008, defendant pled guilty to an amended
charge of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A.
2C:11-4 (a) (1), as a lesser-included offense of first-degree
murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(2).
During the plea colloquy, defendant admitted that he shot the
victim during an attempted robbery. Pursuant to the
negotiated plea agreement, the trial court sentenced
defendant to twenty years in prison, subject to the 85%
parole ineligibility period required by the No. Early Release
Act (“NERA”), N.J.S.A. 2C:43- 7.2. Defendant did
not file a direct appeal from his conviction and sentence.
Several months prior to defendant's guilty plea, his
codefendant, Michael Bonilla, was convicted following a jury
trial of a number of charges related to the same incident,
including first-degree felony murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(3),
and first degree robbery, N. J. S. A. 2C: 15-1. The tria1
court sentenced Bonilla to an aggregate forty-five-year term,
subject to NERA. Unlike defendant, Bonilla appealed his
conviction and sentence. On October 31, 2011, we reversed
Bonilla's first-degree felony murder and robbery
convictions, and remanded the matter for resentencing on
several other counts.
On remand, Bonilla pled guilty to the charge of first degree
robbery, and the State agreed to dismiss the felony murder
charge. Although the State requested the trial court to
impose a twenty-year term, the court sentenced Bonilla to
twelve years in prison, subject to NERA.
When defendant learned of Bonilla's resentencing, he
filed a petition for PCR. He asserted that Bonilla hatched
the plan to rob the victim, yet had received a twelve-year
term for his role in the scheme, while defendant received a
twenty-year term. Thus, defendant argued that his twenty-year
sentence was excessive and his sentence was “grossly
disparate” to that imposed on Bonilla.
State v. Figueroa, A-003369-15 (
post-conviction relief (“PCR”) court denied
relief and the Appellate Division affirmed the denial.
Id. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied
Petitioner's petition for certification. State v.
Figueroa, 159 A.3d 884 (N.J. 2017).
thereafter filed the instant habeas Petition. (See
Petition). He raises only one ground for relief-that his
Eighth Amendment rights were violated because his sentence
was grossly disparate as compared to his co-defendant.
(Petition ¶ 12).
amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 ...