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State v. Caldwell

September 25, 2007


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, 01-08-0898-I.

Per curiam.


Submitted September 10, 2007

Before Judges Weissbard and Baxter.

Defendant Eric Caldwell appeals from his conviction following a guilty plea to all Counts of an indictment charging the following offenses: possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1) (Counts One and Five); possession of CDS with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35- 5a(1) and 5b(3) (Counts Two and Six); possession of CDS with intent to distribute within a school zone, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 (Counts Three and Seven); and possession of CDS with intent to distribute within 500 feet of a public park, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 (Counts Four and Eight). In addition, defendant pled guilty to a disorderly persons offense of possession of less than fifty grams of marijuana, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10.

On July 22, 2005, the judge merged Counts One and Two into count Three, and Counts Five and Six into count Seven. On Counts Three and Seven, the judge imposed concurrent extended term sentences of seven years with three-and-a-half years of parole ineligibility. A concurrent six month term was imposed on the disorderly persons offense. Counts Four and Eight, which the State had not intended to move for trial, were dismissed. Defendant's guilty plea followed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Following a two-day suppression hearing, Judge Guzman made the following factual findings:

On July the 7th, 2001 Paterson police, Detective Sergeant Trommelen set up surveillance at 113 East Holsman Street in the City of Paterson[.] . . . [H]e arrived at the scene at approximately 12:40 p.m. Sergeant Trommelen is an experienced police officer with over 20 years of experience, 15 and a half years working in the Narcotics Division of the City of Paterson. He has taken courses in drug enforcement and . . . has been involved in over 6,000 investigations and over 1500 arrests. . . . [A]s per the testimony . . . of Sergeant Trommelen, the area of 113 East Holsman Street in Paterson is a high drug trafficking area. On this particular day after setting up surveillance he observed what appeared to be a hand-to-hand drug transaction involving the defendant, Eric Caldwell, and a female, a white female.

Detective Sergeant Trommelen was assisted by back-up units of Officer Magda (phonetic), Detective Magda, Detective Leberza, Detective Bailey and Detective Sykes. Detective Magda and Leberza were together and Detective Bailey and Sykes were together in separate vehicles, unmarked police vehicles. Detective Bailey was the driver and Detective Sykes was a passenger. . . . Sergeant Trommelen . . . was undercover and in an SUV vehicle. The vehicle had tinted windows except that the front windshield was untinted. He had to use binoculars. He testified again that the weather . . . was good and then that's when he observed . . . what appeared to be a drug transaction. He observed the defendant was wearing bright . . . beige shorts and a white T-shirt engaged in a conversation with a female and saw paper currency . . . exchanged from the female to Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Caldwell gave the female a bright-colored object. The item was retrieved from the defendant's pocket and handed to the buyer. Again, he believed there was a . . . he observed a hand-to-hand narcotics transaction.

Detective Trommelen radioed in the identification of . . . Mr. Caldwell and also the . . . information as to the female. The female was lost in the neighborhood but the defendant was arrested.

Prior to being arrested . . . Sergeant Sykes testified that he approached the defendant. . . . [D]efendant's right hand went to the side and [Sergeant Sykes] saw something fall. . . . [Sergeant Sykes] saw a plastic bag next to him. Again, Detective Sykes testified that and the Court does find that the description was given of the defendant again as wearing beige shorts and white T-shirt. He doesn't recall . . . if the buyer was white and what she was wearing, but he said that he and Detective Bailey were concentrating on the seller and his description. Confiscated . . . or rather, recovered from that plastic bag was 21 bags of crack and nine glassine . . . envelopes of heroin.

At police headquarters the defendant was searched and on his person was found a bag of marijuana. Also confiscated from the defendant was $82 in U.S. currency, two $20 bills, one $10 bill, five $5 bills and seven $1 bills. The arrest occurred at approximately 12:45 . . . in the afternoon.

The Court also has heard the testimony of Christina Butts, who was living at 113 East Holsman Street, who testified that the defendant went to visit her and her boyfriend . . . and his godson, who happens to be . . . her son, and that he . . . was there for about 25 minutes to 30 minutes and moments after he . . . left she looked out the window and the defendant was being arrested by the police.

Mr. Caldwell testified that he was in the apartment for about one half-hour to 40 minutes. . . . [S]econds after he left [he said] hello to some people that he knew, [without] stop[ing] for conversation . . . [and] was immediately arrested.

Once again, the Court finds that upon giving the description of Mr. Caldwell, Detective Trommelen . . . [and] Detective Sykes did arrest the defendant . . . [and] noticed that [] items were dropped to ...

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