On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Salem County, 04-09-0326 and 04-10-0361.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 3, 2007
Before Judges Lintner and Parrillo.
Defendant, Ernest Johnson, was tried in absentia to a jury and was found guilty of third-degree aggravated assault on a police officer, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(5), third-degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a, and fourth-degree hindering prosecution, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3b.*fn1 The trial judge imposed four years imprisonment for the aggravated assault conviction, four years imprisonment for resisting arrest, and nine months imprisonment for hindering prosecution. The terms were run concurrent with one anther.
At approximately 5:15 a.m. on July 31, 2004, while patrolling a neighborhood in Penns Grove in his police car, uniformed police officer Sgt. Charles Brown, was approached by two men who gave Brown "information about a[n] incident involving a car and a subject being in a car," and the subject's direction of travel. Having "knowledge that there was previous criminal activity involving the same kind of activity [the men] described," Brown radioed this information to dispatch so that other patrolling units could search for the subject. During cross examination, Brown responded affirmatively when asked whether he was aware at the time that there had been some burglaries in the area and thought, after being approached by the two men, that there was some relationship between the subject they described and the recent burglaries.
Brown proceeded on foot in the direction the subject reportedly took. Eventually, Brown saw defendant in a residential front yard, walking in Brown's direction. When Brown was about twenty feet from defendant, he could see that defendant had a gray shirt on which was soaked with sweat. He thought defendant looked "out of place." Brown asked defendant to stop and asked him what he was doing. Defendant responded that he was looking for his girlfriend and asked Brown if he had seen her, describing her as wearing a short skirt. Defendant kept walking. Brown told him again to stop and when defendant did not, Brown told him to get on the ground. Defendant asked why, and continued to walk away.
Brown believed defendant was going to flee. Brown told defendant he was under arrest, after which defendant made a sudden move to his left. Brown responded by reaching out and grabbing defendant's shirt. Defendant "started . . . pummeling" Brown, punching him in the face and chest, and "attempting to get away in a very vigorous manner." After an extensive face-to-face struggle, during which Brown kept hold of defendant's shirt, defendant slipped from Brown's grasp and out of his shirt and ran off. Brown was unable to overtake defendant or find him, but retained defendant's shirt, which he had pulled off during the struggle. As a result of the altercation, Brown suffered bruises, swelling and a laceration on the bridge of his nose, and his glasses were broken, but no photographs were taken and the broken glasses were not preserved in that state.
The next day, August 1, 2004, when Brown reported for duty, he saw defendant sitting on a bench at police headquarters. Defendant had been arrested by Officer Jason Sperra. Sperra knew about Brown's encounter the day before and had been informed that an individual by the name of Rodney Dunn was suspected of being the escapee. Sperra observed defendant while on patrol. Defendant matched the description given by Brown and had bruises and scratches on his neck. Believing the individual was known as Rodney Dunn, Sperra asked defendant for his name. Defendant responded that his name was Ernest Dunn. Later that day, defendant was identified as Ernest Johnson.
At headquarters, Brown identified defendant as the escaped suspect and directed that defendant be placed in a holding cell. Brown gave defendant his Miranda*fn2 rights. Defendant told Brown his name was Ernest Dunn and Brown wrote that name on the Miranda acknowledgement card. However, defendant signed the card with his true name, Ernest Johnson. Defendant's arrest photograph was then taken. On the back of the photograph, an officer wrote "Ernest Johnson a/k/a Dunn."
On appeal, defendant raises the following points:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY PERMITTING THE INTRODUCTION OF HEARSAY EVIDENCE OF "OTHER ...