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State v. McNeal

Supreme Court of New Jersey

May 2, 2019

State of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Isiah T. McNeal, a/k/a Isiah T. McNeil, and Isaiah McNeal, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued March 26, 2019

          On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

          Marcia 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).

          Regina 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).

         Defendant 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).

         HELD: 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.

         1. 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. (pp. 5-8)

         AFFIRMED.

          CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, ALBIN, PATTERSON, FERNANDEZ-VINA, SOLOMON, and TIMPONE join in this opinion.

          PER CURIAM.

         Defendant 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.

         At the 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.

         Two 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 ...


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