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State v. Petrosyan

August 1, 2008


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, Indictment No. 07-02-000095.

Per curiam.


Argued July 21, 2008

Before Judges Graves and Yannotti.

Defendant Alexander Petrosyan appeals from an order entered on May 2, 2007, denying his motion to be admitted into the pretrial intervention (PTI) program over the objection of the Somerset County Prosecutor. On appeal, defendant contends the prosecutor's office clearly abused its discretion "by failing to consider all relevant factors in processing the application as well as by improperly weighing the significance of other relevant factors." Based on our review of the record, the arguments of counsel, and the applicable law, we affirm.

Indictment No. 07-02-00095 charged defendant and co-defendant Jamar L. Harris (Harris) with third-degree possession with intent to distribute cocaine, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) (count one), and third-degree possession of cocaine, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1) (count two). The undisputed facts giving rise to these charges are as follows. On January 8, 2007, defendant drove co-defendant Harris to the Hillsborough Municipal Court to "[get] some parking tickets . . . taken care of." While at the municipal court, Harris was taken into police custody on an outstanding Bridgewater Municipal Court arrest warrant. Thereafter, Harris placed a telephone call to defendant from the police station. During the telephone conversation, which took place on a recorded line, police overheard Harris ask defendant to come to the police station to pick up fifty dollars Harris had on his person. Harris also told defendant to leave the "creatine" inside the glove box of defendant's car until Harris was released from the county jail.

Suspecting that "creatine" was actually a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), police questioned defendant when he arrived at the police station. After admitting the "creatine" was actually cocaine, defendant "voluntarily turned it over" to police.

In a post-Miranda*fn1 statement, defendant admitted helping Harris package the cocaine, and he admitted they were going to sell the cocaine after Harris took care of his parking tickets. Additionally, in a certification to establish probable cause, Patrolman C. Engelhardt stated: "Both defendants gave post[-]Miranda statements admitting they had packaged the cocaine and were going to sell it after Harris'[s] court appearance. Both were going to sell the drugs in exchange for cell phones and then split the proceeds of the sale of the cell phones."

Defendant applied for admission into the PTI program, and in a letter dated March 5, 2007, Criminal Division Manager John N. Condelli advised defendant: "This office has determined that you are an appropriate candidate for Pretrial Intervention and has approved your application to the Somerset County Pretrial Intervention Program." The letter also informed defendant, however, that "the [prosecutor's office] does not consent to your participation in the [PTI] Program." Attached to Condelli's letter dated March 5, 2007, was a letter from the prosecutor's office dated March 2, 2007, which, in its entirety, reads as follows:

Please be advised that [the] Somerset County Prosecutor's Office objects to . . . defendant's entry [into the] PTI program. I will follow-up with a more formal letter of objection,*fn2 setting further the State's reasons. Part of the reason is the fact that the defendant admitted that he was engaged in the sale of [c]ocaine for a profit. Also, allowing the defendant into PTI would have a negative impact on the prosecution of the co-defendant.

Defendant's "Motion To Compel [PTI] Enrollment," was heard on March 29, 2007. Defendant argued the prosecutor's office erred in denying his PTI application because he had no criminal record, he was not addicted to drugs, he was "holding down two jobs," and he was "going to college." On the other hand, the State argued it was well within its discretion to deny defendant's PTI application because (1) defendant possessed CDS with the intention of profiting from its distribution, (2) the PTI program's goal of rehabilitation was "not in play" because defendant was not addicted to CDS, and (3) accepting defendant into PTI "would have a negative impact on the prosecution of the co-defendant."

In denying defendant's motion, the court reasoned as follows:

It's clear to me that the [defendant] doesn't have any prior record, that he's relatively young, that he probably would benefit from the P.T.I. program. However, I can't find that there's been [an] abuse of discretion by the State in this case. I think they're within their discretion, and . . . I've determined that it's not appropriate to resolve this case in this fashion. And frankly, there is a valid reason to deal harshly with those involved in drug distribution because of the many problems that are caused by drug distribution.

You only have to come here any Friday and listen to the sentences for people who get involved in crimes and listen to them tell you I wouldn't have done it but for the fact that I was involved with drugs. I would not have committed that robbery, I would not have committed that burglary, I ...

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