March 26, 2019
certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.
Blum, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for
appellant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney;
Marcia Blum, on the brief).
Gretchen A. Pickering, Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause
for respondent (Jeffrey H. Sutherland, Cape May County
Prosecutor, attorney; Gretchen A. Pickering, of counsel and
on the briefs).
M. Oberholzer, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for
amicus curiae Attorney General of New Jersey (Gurbir S.
Grewal, Attorney General, attorney; Regina M. Oberholzer, of
counsel and on the brief).
Isiah T. McNeal argues that the amount of jail credit he was
told he would receive was misrepresented and he should be
permitted to move to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant
entered into a plea agreement as a global resolution of the
numerous indictments returned against him. Defense counsel
represented that defendant was told he would be entitled to
2438 days' jail credit. The State disputed that
assertion. The record shows that the plea court then
thoroughly discussed the issue with defendant, who affirmed
that he was not entering the plea agreement assuming the 2438
days of jail credit would be applied to the period of parole
ineligibility he faced for an aggravated assault charge.
Defendant's plea was accepted, and jail credits were
assessed per time accrued on each charge. Defendant argued
that all of the 4727 days of jail credit should be applied to
the aggravated assault charge even though he had accrued only
1012 days on that charge. On appeal, the Appellate Division
held that, "[w]hile misrepresentations regarding jail
credit may upend a . . . plea, a review of the record in its
entirety contradicts defendant's claim." The Court
granted certification. 235 N.J. 450 (2018).
Defendant was repeatedly and explicitly warned that the
estimated 2438 days of jail credit may not affect his period
of parole ineligibility and that he should not enter the plea
agreement expecting as much. Defendant cannot now credibly
argue that he relied on a belief that all 2438 days would be
applied to his term of parole ineligibility.
Incorrect calculation of jail credits may impact the
voluntariness of a plea. Future courts should take note of
the effective steps taken by the plea court here. It was made
clear to defendant that the jail credits should not be
presumed to apply to his parole ineligibility period. That
notion was clearly stated no less than three times, to which
the defendant affirmatively registered his understanding.
JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, ALBIN, PATTERSON,
FERNANDEZ-VINA, SOLOMON, and TIMPONE join in this opinion.
Isiah T. McNeal entered into a plea agreement as a global
resolution of the numerous indictments returned against him.
To dispense with an indictment for attempted murder,
defendant agreed to plead guilty to second-degree aggravated
assault, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1). To dispose of
four other indictments, he agreed to plead guilty to
third-degree theft by unlawful taking, contrary to N.J.S.A.
2C:20-3(a); third-degree conspiracy to manufacture or
distribute a controlled dangerous substance, contrary to
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1); fourth-degree throwing bodily fluids
at law enforcement officers, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-13;
and fourth-degree riot, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:33-1(a). The
plea agreement provided defendant would be sentenced to an
eight-year term of imprisonment subject to the No Early
Release Act's eighty-five percent parole disqualifier,
N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, for the aggravated assault charge, and a
concurrent thirteen-year flat term of imprisonment for the
other four charges.
first plea hearing, defendant repudiated the agreement,
because of an apparent misunderstanding about how the
concurrent thirteen-year sentence would affect his period of
parole ineligibility. The record shows defendant thought the
thirteen-year sentence would "override" the
eight-year sentence and, ostensibly, that he would not be
subject to the parole disqualifier.
days after abandoning the plea agreement, defendant entered
into a new plea agreement that was identical to the first,
save for a two-year increase in his sentence on the
aggravated assault charge. At this second plea hearing,
defense counsel informed the court "that there was a
number given to Mr. McNeal specifically that he would be
entitled to 2438 days' jail credit." Defense counsel
further stated that it ...