On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Indictment No. 05-05-0485.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: April 23, 2008
Before Judges Cuff, Lihotz and Simonelli.
A jury found Curtis L. Lewis guilty of second degree certain persons not to possess a firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7b. Judge Pereksta sentenced defendant to a five-year term of imprisonment with a mandatory five-year parole ineligibility term.
On appeal, defendant raises the following arguments:
REPEATED REFERENCES BY POLICE OFFICERS AND THE PROSECUTOR TO A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER DENIED THE DEFENDANT A FAIR TRIAL.
THE MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED BECAUSE THE STATE FAILED TO MAKE OUT A PRIMA FACIE CASE OF POSSESSION OF THE HANDGUN BY THE DEFENDANT.
On March 18, 2005, Trenton police officer Richard E. Williams was on patrol when he became involved in an investigation regarding a man with a gun. When first contacted by police, the victim, Cynthia Bell, was at the home of her daughter in Trenton. She reported that her ex-boyfriend, Curtis Lewis, had pulled a gun on her.
When she first spoke to police, Bell was crying and distraught. She explained that she and defendant were arguing in a car. Defendant had accused her of cheating on him. The victim stated that at some point she turned away to look out the window and when she looked back, defendant was pointing a gun at her head. According to the victim, Lewis got out of the car and walked into their apartment. The victim ran to her car, called her daughter and told her to call the police. She provided a description of Lewis with information about his vehicle. The police broadcasted an alert over the radio after a search of the area was unproductive.
Thereafter, the police went to the apartment outside of which the victim reported the incident occurred. When officers were unable to locate Lewis or his vehicle, they returned to police headquarters to complete related paperwork, including a complaint and temporary restraining order against defendant. Thereafter, pursuant to the restraining order and with the victim's consent, the police returned to the apartment which the victim shared with defendant and conducted a search for weapons -- specifically, a black handgun and a machete.
There, officers discovered a machete leaning against the wall in a corner of the apartment, and a black handgun in a kitchen cabinet. The police also found .45 caliber ammunition in a coat closet and recovered six .38 caliber bullets from a linen closet. During the search, the victim was within view of the officers. Neither the handgun nor the ammunition was disturbed pending the arrival of crime scene Detective Ivan Mendez who ...