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Date: 11-13-2017

Case Style:


Case Number: A-1135-16T1

Judge: Carmen_Alvarez


Plaintiff's Attorney: Esther Suarez
Hudson County Prosecutor

Erin M. Campbell
Assistant Prosecutor

Defendant's Attorney: Joseph E. Krakora
Public Defender

Janet A. Allegro
Designated Counsel,

Description: A Hudson County grand jury charged defendant and three co
defendants in a multi-count indictment with first-degree murder
and other offenses. Defendant accepted a plea offer and pleaded
guilty to an amended charge of second-degree manslaughter,
N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4(b)(2).
During the plea proceeding, while summarizing the plea
agreement, the prosecutor informed the court:

3 A-1135-16T1

The State will be recommending a sentence of ten years. The [eighty-five] percent No Early Release Act would apply. The three year period of parole would apply. [Defendant] has a prior Graves Act conviction involving an aggravated assault involving a gun. So it's a mandatory Graves Act extended on this case.

We're asking that this sentence be consecutive to the Federal sentence he is currently serving. He received 188 months on that sentence. . . . [H]e was sentenced on November 28th, 2012. So from the State's position he's entitled to direct jail time credit to that date. It would be gap time credit from that date forward.

The court responded: "Okay. So, if I'm clear, from the date
of his arrest until November 28, 2012, jail credit, and from
November 28, 2012, henceforth, is gap time credit?" The prosecutor
replied, "[t]hat's correct."
Defense counsel, in defendant's presence, informed the court
the prosecutor's recitation of the plea agreement was correct.
Defense counsel also informed the court that at the time of
sentencing, "we will put forth arguments for a . . . concurrent
sentence, . . . and for total credit for the whole four years as
[defendant has] been in [county jail] that whole time."
The court asked defendant to provide a factual basis for the
plea. Defendant admitted that on June 5, 2010, in Jersey City,
he went to the waterfront area where he shot the victim. He
claimed to do so under provocation, namely, that the victim pulled

4 A-1135-16T1

out a gun. Defendant stipulated through counsel he shot the victim
in the abdomen. The medical examiner found the abdomen wound to
be a contributory cause of death. The other cause was by drowning,
but according to the stipulation, that occurred at the hands of
In response to the court's questions, defendant acknowledged
he had the opportunity to "exit the area" without shooting the
victim, but defendant chose to shoot the victim rather than to
flee. Defendant also said he understood the prosecutor would
recommend a ten-year prison term, of which defendant would have
to serve eight and one-half before being considered for parole.
Lastly, defendant acknowledged he would be required to undergo
three years of parole supervision upon his release from jail, and
that if he violated parole supervision, he would return to jail
for the entire three years.
The court explained the State was recommending the sentence
be served consecutively to defendant's federal sentence and that
defense counsel would ask for the sentence to be served
concurrently. The court also explained it would make the decision
to impose either a concurrent or consecutive sentence at the time
of sentencing, not before. Defendant said he understood. When
the court asked if defendant had any questions for either his

5 A-1135-16T1

counsel or the court, defendant responded: "No. On sentence day
I'll ask."
Lastly, the court asked if defendant understood it would
be very difficult to change [his] mind and take [his] guilty plea back, because [the court is] likely to believe what [defendant] just told [the court] that [defendant] shot this individual and . . . didn't have to, [defendant] could have fled, even though [he was] provoked, which shows [the court he's] guilty, . . . rather than . . . something [defendant] later [says] trying to take it back.

Defendant said he understood. The court then informed defendant
that once the court imposed the sentence, it would be even harder
for defendant to change his mind and take his plea back. Defendant
again said he understood.
When defendant was sentenced, his attorney argued that he
should receive jail credits for the entire time he was in jail
before being sentenced, including the time he spent in jail after
imposition of the federal sentence. Counsel claimed defendant had
not posted bail on the Hudson County indictment, was returned to
Hudson County jail after being sentenced on the federal charges,
and remained in the Hudson County jail until appearing before the
court for sentencing on the Hudson County charge. Defendant did
not dispute at sentencing, and does not dispute on appeal, that

6 A-1135-16T1

he was not entitled to jail credits once he began serving his
federal sentence.
The trial court sentenced defendant in accordance with the
plea agreement to ten years with eight and one-half years of parole
ineligibility and a three-year term of parole supervision. The
court ordered defendant to serve the sentence consecutively to the
federal sentence.
One year and three months after the court sentenced defendant,
defendant filed a PCR petition. Defendant asserted five points
in his petition: (1) there was a "questionable factual basis" for
his plea; (2) the trial court erroneously considered a companion
case during sentencing; (3) the court committed error by requiring
that petitioner had to flee to support passion-provocation; (4)
defense counsel "labored under a conflict of interest"; and (5)
defense counsel "failed to appear and sent a representative who
was not prepared to vigorously champion petitioner's cause."
Thereafter, defendant filed an amended verified petition in
which he made two additional arguments: his attorneys were
ineffective for misrepresenting the amount of jail credits he
would receive upon sentencing, and his attorneys were also
ineffective for telling him he could not withdraw his guilty plea.
He claimed that if he knew he would not receive 604 days of jail
credit for the time between the sentencing on the federal charges

7 A-1135-16T1

and the sentencing on the State manslaughter charge, he would not
have pleaded guilty. He also claimed that had he known he could
have filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, he would have
done so. Defendant asserted his innocence, claimed he acted in
self-defense, and maintained that his actions were not the cause
of the victim's death. His counsel filed a supporting brief.
Following oral argument, the Honorable Joseph V. Isabella
denied defendant's petition without an evidentiary hearing. In a
comprehensive written opinion, after reviewing applicable
precedent, Judge Isabella addressed each of defendant's arguments.
Addressing defendant's claim concerning jail credits on the
federal charges, Judge Isabella pointed out that nothing in the
record supported defendant's claim. To the contrary, the plea
forms reflected the State would recommend gap time credits after
defendant was sentenced on November 28, 2012. Judge Isabella, who
had presided over the plea and sentencing proceedings, noted he
had asked, and defendant had acknowledged, that the plea forms
were correct. Defendant further acknowledged counsel had
explained each question to him, defendant understood them, and
that no one had promised him anything that was not in the plea
Judge Isabella also noted that at the outset of defendant's
plea proceeding, the State, among other things, said defendant was

8 A-1135-16T1

only entitled to gap time credits following his federal sentence.
After the prosecutor spoke, the court reiterated the State's
position that defendant would receive gap time credit for time
spent in jail following his federal sentence on November 28, 2012,
before imposition of his sentence on the State manslaughter
offense. Judge Isabella concluded that in light of defendant's
plea form and the colloquy concerning gap time credits during the
plea proceedings, defendant's bald allegation his attorney
promised him gap time credits had no factual basis.
Similarly, Judge Isabella determined defendant's bald
assertion that his attorney told him he could not withdraw his
plea was unsupported by anything in the record. The judge
explained that before accepting the plea, he assured himself
defendant knowingly and voluntarily pleaded guilty. Moreover, the
judge had advised defendant that if defendant pleaded guilty, it
would be difficult to withdraw the plea and would be even more
difficult once defendant was sentenced. Defendant never inquired
about withdrawing his plea either before or during the sentencing
proceeding. Nonetheless, Judge Isabella analyzed the criteria set
forth in State v. Slater, 198 N.J. 145, 157-58 (2009). Based on
the Slater criteria, Judge Isabella denied defendant's argument
that he should be permitted to withdraw his plea.

Outcome: We affirm, substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge
Isabella in his August 25, 2016 written opinion. Defendant's
arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant further

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


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