On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 99-02-0650.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 18, 2008
Before Judges Wefing and Yannotti.
Defendant Charles Maurer appeals from an order entered on July 14, 2006, denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
Defendant was charged under Camden County Indictment No. 99-02-0650 with third-degree receiving a stolen automobile, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7a; third-degree possession of a handgun without a permit, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b; and fourth-degree possession of hollow nose bullets, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3f. Prior to trial, two co-defendants, Rod Talley (Talley) and Tariq Smith (Smith), entered guilty pleas. Defendant was tried to a jury and found guilty on all charges.
At the trial, the State presented evidence that at about 10:30 a.m., on November 30, 1998, Officer Joseph Rossi (Rossi) of the Pennsauken Police Department, was traveling south on Mansion Boulevard in a marked patrol car when he observed two persons exit an automobile. The two men walked briefly in the officer's direction and then turned down Beacon Avenue.
Rossi continued along and pulled up behind the automobile from which these individuals had exited. It was a four-door, black 1994 Acura Legend with New York license plates. The vehicle remained at the stop sign at the intersection, even though there was no traffic and the vehicle could have turned onto Route 70.
After remaining at the intersection for about forty-five seconds to one minute, the driver looked up, saw the police vehicle, and made a right turn onto the highway. Rossi said that this behavior and the vehicle's out-of-state license plates made him "a little suspicious." Rossi asked the dispatcher to run a check on the Acura's license plate through the computer in his police car. Rossi made a right turn and followed the Acura. The car entered the parking lot of a strip mall.
Rossi drove through the parking lot and out onto Beacon Avenue looking for the two men who had exited the car. Rossi looked around but he did not see the men. He proceeded back to Mansion Boulevard and again approached the stop sign where he had first seen the Acura. At that point, the radio dispatcher informed him that the Acura had been reported stolen in Philadelphia.
Rossi said that he "raced" back to the parking lot where the Acura was located, and he saw three individuals getting into the car. Two of those individuals were the men who had been dropped off earlier. Rossi pulled up in front of the Acura to prevent the vehicle from leaving. He exited his patrol car, drew his weapon and ordered the persons in the car to put up their hands.
Officer David McBurdey arrived as back-up. Smith had been sitting in the back passenger seat of the Acura. Smith opened the door and "took off running." McBurdey ran after him. Defendant had been sitting in the front passenger seat. He also "took off and ran" toward Mansion Boulevard. Rossi radioed dispatch to provide defendant's description and approached the car. Talley was seated in the driver's seat. Rossi pulled him out of the car.
Talley was placed on the ground and handcuffed. Rossi returned to the car and observed the butts of two guns "sticking out" on the floor, behind the passenger seat. One gun was a semi-automatic with hollow nose bullets. The other gun was a revolver, which also contained hollow nose bullets.
Officer Michael Dean Briggs (Briggs) heard the dispatch with the description that Rossi had provided. After about four or five minutes, Briggs observed defendant. He pulled up along side of defendant and said that he wanted to speak to him. Defendant ran off. Briggs pursued him on foot, caught up with him, and placed him under arrest.
Defendant testified that he had never been inside of the Acura. He stated that he was with a person named "Carla" when he saw Talley and Smith. Defendant said that he spoke with Talley and Smith about a minute before Rossi first appeared in his patrol car. Then, Smith and defendant "took a walk." They went to a parking lot behind a fur store.
Defendant further testified that, about five minutes later, Talley was getting into his car near the donut shop when Rossi pulled up in his patrol car. Rossi jumped out with his gun. Talley was in the front seat of the car. Smith ran. Defendant said that he walked away and then started to run because he was on probation at the time. He stated that he left the ...