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State v. Freeman

February 27, 2007

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
RAVON FREEMAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 04-09-1268-I.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 17, 2007

Before Judges Holston, Jr. and Grall.

Defendant, Ravon Freeman, appeals the Law Division's December 2, 2005 judgment of conviction for second-degree eluding, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b. We affirm.

On September 13, 2004, defendant was charged in Passaic County Indictment No. 04-09-1268-1 with count one (receiving stolen property), in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7 and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2b (2) (b); count two (eluding), in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b; and count three (resisting arrest) in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a(2). A jury trial was conducted from April 18 to 21, 2005. Defendant was found guilty on counts one and three but the jury could not reach a verdict on count two, and a mistrial was declared.

The retrial on count two was conducted before a jury from September 7 to September 13, 2005, following which the jury found defendant guilty. Defendant was sentenced on December 2, 2005, to a term of imprisonment of nine and one-half years concurrent to terms of imprisonment previously imposed on counts one and three. Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence.

On the evening of April 5, 2004, Officer Henderson (Henderson), a Passaic police officer in uniform on patrol in a marked patrol car, observed a 1998 Honda Accord with a Virginia license plate stopped in the left hand lane at a stop sign at the intersection of Pennington Avenue and Gregory Street. Motorists were unable to make a left hand turn due to the stopped car and began driving around the car. Henderson pulled behind the car "to check on the driver" and to make sure he was "healthy and okay."

Henderson noticed three people in the car. Defendant, the driver, was slumped over the wheel. There was a male passenger in the front (who was never identified) and a female passenger in the rear, identified as Kanisha Wilson. Henderson approached the vehicle and asked the driver if everything was alright. Defendant "turned, look startled and nervous and said he was changing his CD." Henderson asked for his license, registration and proof of insurance. Defendant produced two Virginia transfer cards and said he did not have his license.

Henderson asked defendant to turn the vehicle off, but instead, defendant "started playing with the gear shift, put it in first gear, screeched his tires and turned the corner." While he was fidgeting with the stick shift, Henderson took a step back for his safety and told defendant, "[d]on't do it." Henderson ran back to his car, turned on his overhead lights and sirens and gave chase. Upon activating the patrol car's lights, the video camera, mounted on the front windshield, was automatically activated, the tape from which the jury was able to view at trial.

Henderson pursued the car defendant was driving. Defendant turned left onto Gregory Avenue, and ran a red light as he made a right turn onto Main Avenue. He then drove on the wrong side of Main Avenue, ran another red light at Paulson Avenue, and nearly crashed as he "almost went head on with a vehicle." Defendant pulled into the correct lane, and came up to Lafayette Avenue where he became blocked by traffic and came to a stop. Defendant then exited the car, and fled on foot. During the pursuit, Henderson had called for a license plate lookup. The dispatcher informed Henderson, just as defendant came to a stop, that the car was stolen.

Henderson chased defendant through trees and fences, and only caught up to defendant after he attempted to board a bus. Defendant was arrested. Defendant gave his address as 353 Oak Street, Passaic.

The Honda belonged to Tanisha Porter (Porter), who at the time of the trial and at the time of this incident was living in France. When Porter departed for France, she left her car in the custody and control of her stepfather, David Henry (Henry), who resides at 353 Oak Street, Passaic. Two regular sets of keys were kept at Henry's home. In addition, a valet key was kept in the basement.

During March 2004, defendant, who was Porter's cousin, lived in the basement of Henry's house. Defendant did not have a key to the house while he lived with Henry. In late March, defendant left the house and about a week later, the car and valet key were missing. Henry never gave defendant permission to use the car. On April 3, 2004, after speaking with his stepdaughter, Henry reported the car stolen to the police, as a result of the car being missing. When Henry picked up the car from the police, he learned the car had been operated with a valet key.

POINT I.

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN PERMITTING THE STATE TO ELICIT INADMISSIBLE AND HIGHLY PREJUDICIAL TESTIMONY UNDER THE GUISE OF N.J.R.E. 404(b).

POINT II.

THE PROSECUTOR'S SUMMATION EXCEEDED THE BOUNDS OF PROPRIETY BY INFERENTIALLY COMMENTING UPON THE DEFENDANT'S FIFTH AMENDMENT PRIVILEGE.

POINT III.

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT ALL OF THE DEFENDANT'S PRIOR CONVICTIONS WERE ADMISSIBLE TO ATTACK CREDIBILITY.

POINT IV.

THE SENTENCE IMPOSED WAS MANIFESTLY ...


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