TRENTON - In 2016, then 55-year-old Wildwood Crest resident Robert S. Myles was arrested and charged with second-degree sexual assault and aggravated assault, along with third-degree criminal restraint and use of terroristic threats. When the Herald published the indictment, it noted Myles inflicted serious bodily injury to the female victim.
The police reported that the incident fit the definition of domestic violence. Myles'bail was set at $150,000, and he was lodged at the Cape May County Correctional Facility.
Myles May 5 filed an appeal. A two-judge panel June 10 denied his appeal.
At the time of his original trial and sentencing, Myles pleaded guilty to second-degree aggravated assault. A plea agreement allowed for a “third-degree range” of sentencing, even though he was initially charged with two second-degree and two third-degree counts. Myles was sentenced to a four-year term, with no early release.
In 2018, Myles filed for “post-conviction relief,” stating that his plea counsel was ineffective for several reasons. His petition stated that council 1) did not allow him sufficient time to access his circumstances before accepting the plea agreement, 2) failed to interview certain witnesses, 3) did not file a motion to suppress incriminating statements Myles had made to police, and 4) neglected to argue in favor of certain mitigating factors at sentencing. Myles' request for post-conviction relief was denied, and he appealed in 2020.
Myles renewed the same arguments when he appealed the lower court denial of relief, ending by claiming his trial counsel’s ineffectiveness resulted in an “improper, excessive and/or otherwise unconstitutional sentence.” He added that the lower court erred in denying his request for relief without providing him with an evidentiary hearing.
The Appellate Court wasted little time in dismissing Myles’ claims.
The judges found that Myles failed to make a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel. The lower court found ample evidence of communication between Myles and his trial counsel. His counsel had even obtained an adjournment to provide time for the defendant to decide whether to accept the plea agreement. Myles testified at his plea hearing that he was “satisfied” with the agreement.
Concerning Myles’ claim that his counsel failed to file motions to suppress statements he made to police, the Appellate Court agreed with the plea judge that Myles offered only “bald allegations that such a motion would have been viable.”
The appeals court also noted that it was “worthy of mention” that Myles’ negotiated plea agreement allowed for the dismissal of three other pending charges, including second-degree sexual assault. It also allowed the defendant to be sentenced in the third-degree range on the second-degree aggravated assault charge.
“Under these circumstances,” the court said, “defendant has not established there was a reasonable probability that but for plea counsel’s purported errors, he would not have pled guilty or that going to trial ‘would have been rational under the circumstances.’”
According to the state Department of Corrections website, Myles was admitted to state prison Sept. 15, 2017, and released in March 2020, meaning that when his Appellate Court appeal was submitted in May 2021, Myles had been released for over a year.
To contact Vince Conti, email email@example.com.