STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff–Respondent, v. ALBERT J. FIELDS, JR., a/k/a ALBERT J. FIELDS, Defendant–Appellant.
On July 18, 2012, a Salem County grand jury indicted defendant Albert J. Fields, Jr. for third-degree criminal restraint, N.J.S.A. 2C:13–2. Defendant moved to dismiss the indictment.1 On October 12, 2012, Judge Timothy G. Farrell reviewed the transcript of the grand jury proceedings, considered defendant's contentions, and denied the motion.
In a thorough oral opinion, Judge Farrell detailed the testimony presented to the grand jury by Patrolman Hogate of the Salem City Police Department. On May 16, 2012, the officer was assigned to investigate “a call for a reported fight” at defendant's residence. When he arrived, Patrolman Hogate heard a “female yelling for help from the second floor, upstairs apartment; and then a male voice yelling to kick the door in.” After the officer attempted to “forcibly open the steel door,” defendant opened it. The officer observed that defendant “was sweating and breathing heavily.”
Patrolman Hogate found the female victim “upstairs, crying, sweating and distraught, with visible injury to her face and arms.” The victim reported that, following an argument with defendant, she attempted to leave the apartment. However, defendant “stopped her” and “[t]he verbal altercation escalated to a physical one, with [defendant] striking [the victim's] face and body.” Defendant “then threw her on the floor and laid on top of her saying that she was not going anywhere.” Based upon the officer's testimony, the judge found that the State had presented sufficient evidence “to establish a prima facie case, that is criminal restraint” as charged in the indictment.
On October 15, 2012, defendant entered into a plea agreement with the State. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, defendant pled guilty to an amended charge of simple assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12–1a, a disorderly persons offense. Defendant did not make his plea conditional on his right to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment or any other issue. Defendant provided a factual basis for his plea and testified that he had a “physical altercation” with the victim on May 16, 2012. Defendant also testified that he was aware of the terms of the plea agreement and that no one had attempted to force or coerce him to plead guilty.
On the same date as the plea was entered, the judge sentenced defendant in accordance with the plea agreement to time served of 152 days. Appropriate fines and penalties were also assessed. This appeal followed.
On appeal, defendant has raised the following contentions:
I. The prosecutor deceived the grand jury and presented testimony in a way that is tantamount to telling a half truth[,] mischaracterized known information and caused the grand jury to arrive at a result which it would not have otherwise reached.
II. The prosecutor failed to instruct the grand jury on [defendant's] [j]ustification defense.
III. The arrest of [defendant] in his home, the death of [defendant's] witness [T.A.], [defendant's] loss of employment, the extended detention and the loss of all personal property and residence compelled [defendant] to enter a plea of guilty to simple assault contrary to the justification defense he entered on May 29, 2012.2
As noted, defendant did not make his guilty plea conditional on his right to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment or any other issue. “Generally, a guilty plea constitutes a waiver of all issues which were or could have been addressed by the trial judge before the guilty plea.” State v. Robinson, 224 N.J.Super. 495, 498 (App.Div.1988). Thus, subject to certain exceptions that are not applicable here, “ ‘[w]hen a criminal defendant has solemnly admitted in open court that he is in fact guilty of the offense with which he is charged, he may not thereafter raise independent claims relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea.’ ” State v. Knight, 183 N.J. 449, 470 (2005) (quoting Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 267, 93 S.Ct. 1602, 1608, 36 L. Ed.2d 235, 243 (1973)). We therefore conclude that, because defendant entered an unconditional guilty plea, he waived his right to contest the denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment or to raise any other argument concerning his plea.
In any event, defendant's contentions on appeal, even if they were not waived, lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11–3(e)(2). We discern no basis for disturbing the trial judge's ruling on defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment or his acceptance of defendant's guilty plea.
1. FN1. Defendant has represented himself throughout these proceedings.
2. FN2. In his reply brief, defendant improperly raises new arguments that were not presented in his opening brief. Selective Ins. Co. of Am. v. Hojnoski, 317 N.J.Super. 331, 335 (App.Div.1998). We therefore decline to consider these contentions.