On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 06-10-1744-I.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 29, 2008
Before Judges Carchman and R. B. Coleman.
Following a jury trial, defendant, Akheen Kennedy, was convicted of third degree forgery, (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1a(2)), as well as a disorderly persons offense of hindering apprehension as a lesser-included offense of fourth degree hindering apprehension, (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3b(4)). The same jury acquitted defendant of other charged drug offenses, and the prosecutor moved to dismiss yet another charged offense-third degree displaying of a document which is falsely purported to be a driver's license, (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-2.1c). The trial judge sentenced defendant to a term of imprisonment of three years on the forgery conviction and a concurrent term of six-months imprisonment on the hindering offense together with statutory fines and penalties. The narrow issue on this appeal relates exclusively to the forgery conviction, which we now reverse. We limit our discussion of the facts to the relevant circumstances surrounding the forgery charge. On August 3, 2006, defendant, with two other co-defendants, was allegedly observed in a drug transaction. Following the observation, Detective Justin Bertone of the Lodi Police Department approached defendant, identified himself as a police officer and told defendant to exit his vehicle. Defendant did so, and when questioned as to his identity, defendant said he was Darrell Kennedy. He then produced a license bearing the same name. Defendant was placed under arrest and ultimately taken to the Lodi Police Station. While at the police station, Detective Chris Perrilli observed defendant sign a consent to search form and use the name Darrell Kennedy.
What followed next at trial was the terse testimony supporting the forgery charge:
Q: Detective, I'm now going to show you what has been marked S-18. Do you recognize this?
Q: Okay. The outer bag, the outer plastic, did you place the card in that plastic?
Q: Would you use the scissors to cut it open and take out the contents. Now, is there a date on that bag, the outer bag, to show you when you put the card in that bag and sealed it?
A: August 8th. Tuesday, August 8th.
Q: Okay. Would you take out the interior, the contents of the bag. What is that?