Defendant’s Guilty Plea Withdrawal Denied – State v. Carlo Amato

State of New Jersey v. Carlo Amato

Docket No. A-2788-21

Decided October 10, 2023

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from an order denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

In October 2017, defendant was indicted on charges of healthcare claim fraud, theft by deception, controlled dangerous substance possession, insurance fraud and financial facilitation of criminal activity. Two months later, defendant was then indicted a second time on charges of financial facilitation of criminal activity, theft by deception and making a false written statement. These additional charges arose from defendant allegedly filing false disability claims. Following a detention hearing, the trial court ordered defendant be incarcerated pending the outcome of his matters.

In April 2018, defendant plead guilty to one count of first-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity and one count of second-degree theft by deception. The State placed the terms of the plea agreement on the record before defendant entered his pleas of guilty. The plea agreement called for a dismissal of all other pending charges; allow defendant to exculpate his wife; recommend a ten-year prison term with a five-year parole disqualifier on the first-degree offense, to run consecutive to a flat five-year term on the second-degree theft charge; recommend that defendant’s aggregate sentence run concurrent to a sentence due to be imposed on his pending federal charges; and consent to delay defendant’s sentencing on State charges until after his sentencing on federal charges.

Following the agreement being placed on the record by the assistant prosecutor, the trial judge questioned the defendant to ensure his plea was knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily being entered into. Defendant communicated to the trial judge that he fully understood the terms of the agreement, he is entering into the plea freely and voluntarily, and had no additional questions for the judge or his attorney. Defendant was sentenced in accordance with the plea agreement and given 511 days of jail credit.

In May 2019, two days after being sentenced in federal court, defendant was sentenced on his state charges. For each conviction, the judge executed a separate Judgement of Conviction. One judgment of conviction mistakenly reflected a duplicate award of 511 days of jail credit and the judge issued an amended JOC.

Defendant filed and then subsequently withdrew a petition for post-conviction relief in March 2020. The following month, defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas to the two state charges, contending his “reasonable sentence credit expectations were defeated and his due process rights were violated.” Defendant also argued he was denied effective assistance of counsel because plea counsel failed to advise him duplicate jail credits could not be awarded on his consecutive state sentences. Defendant certified that if his plea counsel had advised him that he was not entitled to a duplicate award of 511 credits, he would not have accepted the plea offer from the State and would have insisted on going to trial.

After hearing argument, the trial judge denied defendant’s motion in an oral opinion the same day. The judge indicated that defendant made no claim of innocence, his plea reduced his overall penal exposure, and withdrawal would hinder State’s ability to prosecute the case. Defendant appealed.

After considering the arguments of the State and defendant, the Appellate Court ultimately affirmed the trial court’s decision. The court articulated that the trial judge carefully considered each Slater factor and concluded not one of them supported withdrawal of defendant’s pleas under the “manifest injustice” standard, correctly found defendant was not entitled to duplicate jail time credit, and that defendant failed to present a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel pursuant to Strickland.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to motions to withdraw guilty pleas. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the defendant in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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