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State v. McNeil

December 13, 2007

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
STEVEN B. MCNEIL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Indictment No. 02-06-0929.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 27, 2007

Before Judges Coburn, Fuentes and Chambers.

After a trial by jury, defendant Steven B. McNeil was found guilty of eluding in the second-degree, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b), and aggravated assault in the third-degree, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(5)(a). On the eluding conviction, he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of ten years with five years of parole ineligibility, and on the aggravated assault conviction, he was sentenced to a concurrent eighteen month term of imprisonment, with nine months of parole ineligibility. A careful review of the record and arguments of counsel reveals no error here, and we affirm.

The charges arose out of a five-car police chase involving officers from three towns in which the police pursued defendant at speeds approaching ninety-five miles per hour. The police briefly lost track of defendant's vehicle immediately prior to the arrest, and as a result, the defense argued that another person, not defendant, was driving the car.

The events leading to this conviction began on March 22, 2002, at about 10:39 p.m., when Officer Matthew Wiesniewski of the Burlington City Police Department, while on foot patrol, heard a vehicle approaching with the radio playing at a volume that could be heard over thirty feet away, in violation of a local ordinance. He testified that the vehicle had only one occupant. When he attempted to stop the vehicle, the vehicle swerved toward him and took off. Wiesniewski called the dispatcher and provided a description of the vehicle, a dark-colored Infiniti with a temporary license tag in the window.

Officer Jamie Lambing, another Burlington City policeman on patrol only a quarter of a mile from the incident, heard the dispatch, spotted the vehicle, and gave chase. The vehicle turned its lights off and went into a cemetery, and Lambing pursued it. The officer testified that only one occupant was in the car. The videotape from the officer's vehicle did not provide a clear view of the number of occupants in the car.

Officer Stanley Tarasewicz, a Burlington Township police officer, saw the vehicle exit the cemetery and took up the pursuit. Once defendant was apprehended, this officer was able to identify defendant as the person in the car. Unfortunately, his videotape of the chase was recycled, and hence lost as evidence in the case.

Tarasewicz dropped out of the chase when defendant headed into Willingboro, but Detective James Barnes from Burlington City continued the chase. He lost sight of the vehicle on Rockland Drive. The chase ended at 10:48 p.m.

Ten minutes later, at 10:58 p.m., Detective Robert Smith from the Willingboro Township Police Department saw a vehicle matching the description of the one involved in the chase. It was not speeding or driving erratically. When he stopped the vehicle, defendant, who was its sole occupant, was cooperative.

Defendant said that he had just obtained the vehicle from a friend.

The vehicle belonged to Beverly Minnie, defendant's girlfriend. She testified that she had given the car keys to defendant that evening and that defendant gave the keys to a friend named Sean who was the driver when the vehicle left her presence.

Rejecting defendant's defense that he was not the driver of the vehicle, the jury convicted him of the charges noted above.

Defendant raises the following issues in ...


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