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State v. Conners

March 31, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DAVID CONNERS A/K/A DAVID CONNER A/K/A DAVID CONNORS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, 04-12-2063.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 10, 2008

Before Judges Lintner and Graves.

Following the denial of his motion to suppress, defendant, David Connors, was tried by a jury. On March 2, 2006, the jury returned its verdict, finding defendant guilty of third-degree possession of cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1) (Count One); third- degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2c:35-5a(1) and 2C:35-5b(3) (Count Two); third-degree possession with intent to distribute cocaine within 1000 feet of school property, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 (Count Three); third-degree distribution of cocaine to Shavanda Pearson, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) and 2C:35-5b(3) (Count Four); and third-degree distribute of cocaine to Shavanda Pearson within 1000 feet of school property, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 (Count Five).

On March 6, 2006, pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, defendant pled guilty to an unrelated charge of third-degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute within 1000 feet of school property. In exchange for defendant's plea, the State agreed to recommend a four-year term with two years of parole ineligibility, to run concurrent with the sentence to be imposed on defendant's March 2, 2006 convictions.

At sentencing, the judge granted the State's motion for a mandatory extended term, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6f. Following appropriate mergers, the judge imposed concurrent ten-year terms with five years of parole ineligibility on the Count Three and Count Five convictions. A concurrent four-year term with a two-year parole disqualifier was imposed on defendant's guilty plea. Defendant appeals and we affirm.

On September 15, 2004, Jersey City police officer Anthony Goodman, while conducting surveillance, observed what he believed to be a hand-to-hand drug transaction between defendant and an unidentified male at the corner of Belmont and Monticello Avenues, an area known for drug trafficking. He saw defendant talk with the unidentified male, then walk around the corner, return five minutes later and exchange an object for money.

Continuing his surveillance, Goodman then saw a woman, later identified as Shavanda Pearson, approach defendant and participate in a brief conversation. Defendant then walked around the corner. Following in his unmarked vehicle, Goodman saw defendant approach a parked GEO Storm, unlock and open the driver's side door, reach under the seat, and retrieve an object. Defendant then returned to Pearson and handed her an object for money. Goodman observed Pearson put the object into her bra.

Goodman contacted other officers via radio and advised of his observations. Officer John Traynor stopped Pearson and advised her of the narcotics investigation. Pearson responded by voluntarily handing over two vials with silver tops that contained cocaine.

The officers then stopped and arrested defendant. A pat-down search revealed two vials with silver tops containing suspected cocaine, and car keys. After defendant was placed in custody, Traynor and Goodman went over to the GEO Storm, unlocked the door, and underneath the seat found a plastic bag containing eighteen similar vials that contained suspected cocaine. At trial, it was stipulated that the substance recovered from Pearson, defendant, and the GEO Storm tested positive for cocaine. Sergeant Wally Wolfe of the Jersey City Police Department qualified as an expert on distribution of drugs and testified that the location was known as a drug market and, in response to a hypothetical question, opined that the possession of eighteen vials in the car and the two vials found on defendant and Pearson were consistent with drug sales.

On appeal, defendant contends:

POINT I

IT WAS ERROR NOT TO SUPPRESS THE EVIDENCE SEIZED FROM THE VEHICLE ...


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