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State v. Gonzalez

June 20, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILFREDO GONZALEZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 98-12-4325.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 20, 2008

Before Judges Skillman and Yannotti.

Defendant Wilfredo Gonzalez was charged under Camden County Indictment No. 98-12-4325 with the murder of Henry Lewandowski, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1)(2) (count one); felony murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(3) (count two); armed robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count three); burglary, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2a(1), -2b(1)(2) (count four); kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1b(1)(2) (count five); carjacking, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2a(1)(2)(3)(4) (count six); possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (count seven); unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b (count eight); and hindering his own apprehension or prosecution, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3b(1) (count nine). On September 22, 1999, following a suppression hearing, the court denied defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained during the stop of the vehicle that defendant was driving.

On June 18, 2001, defendant pled guilty to felony murder, as charged in count two of the indictment. At the plea hearing, defendant stated that on January 8, 1998, he forced his way into Mr. Lewandowski's home for the purpose of robbing him. Defendant said that he took the keys to Mr. Lewandowski's car, tied him up, put him in the trunk, and drove to a location where he withdrew money from Mr. Lewandowski's account using his money access card.

Defendant also said that he drove with another person to a location in Camden, where he exited the car to purchase marijuana and gave a gun to the other person. Defendant conceded that he was aware the other person might use the gun to shoot Mr. Lewandowski. Defendant stated that he heard a gunshot, got back into the car, and drove off. Defendant was arrested the following day and Mr. Lewandowski's body was found in the trunk of the car.

Defendant was sentenced on July 27, 2001, to a custodial term of thirty years, without the possibility for parole. The judge imposed appropriate penalties and assessments and ordered defendant to pay Mr. Lewandowski's family the expenses that they had incurred for Mr. Lewandowski's burial. The remaining counts of the indictment were dismissed.*fn1

Defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction entered by the trial court on July 27, 2001, and raises the following issues for our consideration:

POINT I:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING THE UNCONSTITUTIONALLY SEIZED EVIDENCE RECOVERED DURING THE PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA TRAFFIC STOP IN VIOLATION OF DEFENDANT WILFREDO GONZALEZ FEDERAL AND STATE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.

POINT II:

AS THE TRIAL COURT'S SENTENCE EXCEEDED THE AGREED UPON PLEA AGREEMENT, DEFENDANT WILFREDO GONZALEZ MAY WITHDRAW HIS PLEA PURSUANT TO R. 3:9-3(e) (NOT RAISED BELOW).

For the reasons that follow, we reject these arguments and affirm.

I.

We briefly summarize the pertinent evidence presented at the September 22, 1999 hearing on defendant's suppression motion.*fn2 On January 9, 1998, Officers Brian Werner and Donna Sewell of the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) were on patrol during the 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. shift. At about 8:11 p.m., Werner and Sewell were in their marked patrol car in the vicinity of Palethorp and Somerset Streets in Philadelphia. Werner was driving the vehicle.

Werner testified that he observed a 1997 blue Ford Taurus with a New Jersey license plate. The Taurus was traveling westbound on Monmouth Street approaching Palethorp Street. Werner said that the driver of the Taurus failed to signal a left-hand turn as he was turning from Monmouth onto Palethorp.

Werner indicated that the failure to signal a turn was a motor vehicle violation in the State of Pennsylvania. Werner said that he activated the overhead lights of his vehicle and "hit the siren." Werner said that he and Sewell stopped ...


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