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Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff–Respondent, v. AARON NORMAN, Defendant–Appellant.

DOCKET NO. A–6177–11T3

-- December 13, 2013

Before Judges Messano and Hayden. Aaron Norman, appellant pro se. Geoffrey D. Soriano, Prosecutor of Somerset County, attorney for respondent (James L. McConnell, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

On June 1, 2001, defendant pled guilty to one count of first-degree armed robbery on indictment number 00–07–00393 (“first indictment”), and one count of first-degree armed robbery on indictment number 00–07–00398 (“second indictment”).   On August 24, 2001, defendant received two concurrent ten-year terms of imprisonment subject to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43–7.2. In 2006, after defendant filed a post-conviction relief petition, the trial court overturned his convictions based on the ineffective assistance of counsel.

On February 20, 2007, as part of a new plea agreement, defendant pled guilty to two counts on the first indictment, namely one count of first-degree armed robbery and one count of third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.   The State agreed to recommend a ten-year sentence, subject to eighty-five percent parole ineligibility under NERA, on the armed robbery count to run concurrently with any sentence imposed on the second count.   Additionally, the State agreed to recommend dismissal of the second indictment.   On June 11, 2007, the trial judge sentenced defendant in accordance with the plea agreement, giving credit for all time previously served, and dismissed the second indictment.

In 2012, defendant filed a motion to vacate the NERA parole ineligibility portion of his sentence.   The motion judge denied defendant's motion on June 26, 2012.   This appeal followed.

On appeal, defendant argues that he should not be subject to NERA's eighty-five percent parole ineligibility requirement because he did not have a hearing concerning its application to his convictions.   Thus, he contends he was eligible for parole without serving eighty-five percent of his sentence.   However, defendant was released from prison in May 2013.

We generally do not decide issues when the controversy no longer exists and a judgment cannot grant effective relief.  De Vesa v. Dorsey, 134 N.J. 420, 428 (1993);  see also Greenfield v. N.J. Dep't of Corr., 382 N.J.Super. 254, 257–58 (App.Div.2006) (“An issue is ‘moot’ when the decision sought in a matter, when rendered, can have no practical effect on the existing controversy.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).   As any decision this court renders in this case could not grant defendant relief concerning his parole eligibility, we dismiss the appeal as moot.



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