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State v. Rodriguez

February 7, 2006

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOSE RODRIGUEZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 00-09-2485-I.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hoens, J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Submitted March 13, 2006

Before Judges Kestin, Lefelt and Hoens.

Fusco & Macaluso, attorneys for appellant (Anthony J. Fusco, Jr., on the brief). Zulima V. Farber, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Adrienne B. Reim, Deputy Attorney General, of counsel and on the brief).

Defendant Jose Rodriguez appeals from the June 14, 2002 order of the Law Division directing that he forfeit his public employment and that he be forever barred and disqualified from public employment. We affirm.

In the early morning hours of November 21, 1999, defendant drove through a red light and hit a pedestrian who was attempting to cross the road. Defendant did not stop his car, but instead turned off his lights and continued to drive a short distance to a parking garage near his residence. Witnesses followed him to the garage and then told the police who responded to the scene about where defendant could be found. The victim was transported to the hospital where he died of his injuries. At the time of the incident, defendant was an off-duty police officer.

Eventually, defendant was indicted for first-degree aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a; third-degree leaving the scene of a fatal accident, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.1; third-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3b(1); and fourth-degree obstructing the administration of the law, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1. In addition, he was charged, by way of three municipal summonses, with driving while intoxicated resulting in a fatal accident, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a); reckless driving, N.J.S.A. 39:4-96; and leaving the scene of a fatal accident, N.J.S.A. 39:4-129.

Following a jury trial during which all parties were prohibited from revealing the fact that defendant was a police officer, he was found guilty only of third-degree leaving the scene of a fatal accident. The trial judge then found him guilty of the municipal offenses of reckless driving and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. The judge sentenced him to a probationary term, together with fees and penalties which included a driver's license suspension on the third-degree offense. The judge also imposed a concurrent driver's license suspension for the municipal convictions, along with applicable fines. As part of the sentence, the judge also ordered that defendant forfeit his position as a police officer and that he be disqualified from public employment in the future.

On appeal, defendant raises the following arguments for our consideration:

POINT I

THE TRIAL JUDGE'S DECISION TO FORFEIT THE APPELLANT'S PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE OR ANALYZED UNDER THE ...


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