On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 05-07-0809.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 5, 2008
Before Judges Fuentes and Grall.
Defendant Pierre Montague Beckles appeals from a final judgment of conviction and sentence. A jury found defendant guilty of the following crimes: second-degree eluding, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b (count one); second-degree aggravated assault by causing bodily injury to another while eluding, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(6) (count two); third-degree aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(5) (count three); fourth-degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a (count five); third and fourth-degree hindering apprehension, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3b(4) (counts six and seven); third-degree possession of a false driver's license, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-2.1c (count eight); and third-degree criminal mischief, N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3a (count nine). The jury returned a verdict of not guilty on count four, third-degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a.
After merging defendant's convictions on counts seven and eight into his convictions on counts one and two, the trial judge sentenced defendant to the following terms of incarceration: on counts one and two, concurrent eight-year terms; on counts three, five and nine, five-year terms concurrent with one another and with the sentences imposed on counts one and two; and on count six, an eighteen-month term, concurrent with all others. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, defendant must serve eighty-five percent of the eight-year term for aggravated assault and a three-year term of parole supervision. In addition, the judge imposed the appropriate assessments and penalties and required defendant to pay restitution in the amount of $4200 for damage caused to a police car.
We affirm defendant's convictions. Because the judge imposed a sentence on count five for fourth-degree resisting arrest that is within the range of sentences available for a crime of the third degree, we remand for correction of that illegal sentence. N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6a(4).
On April 30, 2005, defendant, driving a Mercedes with a passenger in his car, led police officers from three municipalities on a motor vehicle pursuit. Officer Luciano, one of the several officers who participated, was injured. He identified defendant as the driver after defendant was apprehended. The arrest was made by Detective DelDuca of the Union County Prosecutor's Office. When the officers in pursuit lost sight of the Mercedes, the detective went to the home of the registered owner, saw two men get out of the car, followed the men, ordered defendant to stop and had to struggle with defendant to restrain him with handcuffs.
The episode began during the early morning hours of April 30, 2005. Officer Hale of the Watchung Police Department saw a Mercedes pass through the intersection of Route 22 and Terrill Road against a red light. Officer Hale followed the Mercedes, got the license plate number and turned on his police car's overhead lights. The Mercedes continued along Terrill Road into Scotch Plains, passed through another intersection in disregard of another red light and came close to hitting a police car driven by an officer from Scotch Plains. After traveling in a residential area of Scotch Plains at a speed as great as sixty miles per hour, the Mercedes returned to and traveled east on Route 22, where it reached a speed as great as ninety miles per hour.
In Mountainside, defendant lost control of the Mercedes while attempting to negotiate a turn. Officer Luciano pulled his police car behind the Mercedes. Defendant briefly turned his head toward the rear window of the Mercedes, allowing Officer Luciano to see the full side of his face and his hair, which was chin length and styled in either dreadlocks or braids. Defendant's passenger had short hair, "shaved." Defendant put the Mercedes in reverse, and backed into the police car. The impact was sufficient to cause damage requiring repairs costing $4203.39. After backing into the police car, defendant and his passenger left the scene in the Mercedes. Because of the damage to his patrol car and the soreness of his neck, Officer Luciano was unable to follow. Another officer continued the chase until he lost sight of the Mercedes in Union.
The license plate number of the Mercedes was checked against motor vehicle records, and Detective DelDuca went to the Irvington address of the registered owner, Sharmaine Williams. The Mercedes was in the driveway, and its driver was backing it toward an open garage. When DelDuca pulled up to the driveway, the driver reversed direction and drove toward the street. DelDuca pulled into the driveway. The Mercedes stopped a few feet from DelDuca's car. Two men got out of the car and ran. DelDuca, who was watching the approaching car and not its occupants, could not say which one of the men was driving. Identifying himself as an officer, DelDuca pursued and was able to catch defendant. Defendant got on the ground as directed, but he cursed at DelDuca and resisted the detective's efforts to handcuff him.
The passenger was not apprehended. DelDuca lost sight of that man after he jumped a fence.
Defendant had a Florida's driver's license, which bore a photograph of him and the name "Monte Baller." Defendant first identified himself as Monte Baller and gave a street address for his residence that was the address of his aunt's home, not his. He later gave the officers his own name. Defendant was the subject of warrants issued for traffic-related and disorderly persons offenses. A photograph of defendant taken at the time of his arrest shows that his hair was styled with braids.
Defendant gave the following testimony at trial. From August 2004 until April 2006, he and Sharmaine Williams, the registered owner of the Mercedes, lived together at the Irvington address shown on the registration for the Mercedes. On the morning of April 30, 2005, Ian Bowen, who is Ms. Williams's cousin, was driving the Mercedes. Ms. Williams had leased the Mercedes for Bowen. Defendant was a passenger in Bowen's car at the time of the chase. Although he tried to get Bowen to pull over in response to the police officer's signal, Bowen refused. After the chase, Bowen took defendant home. They were in the ...