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State v. Contreras

January 2, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
BIENVENIDO CONTRERAS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 04-07-0877.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 28, 2008

Before Judges Wefing and LeWinn.

Tried to a jury, defendant Bienvenido Contreras was found guilty of third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance, cocaine, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1); second-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance, cocaine, with intent to distribute, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(2); and third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance, cocaine, with intent to distribute within one thousand feet of school property, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7. At sentencing on December 2, 2005, the trial court merged the possession conviction and the school zone conviction into the conviction for possession with intent to distribute, and sentenced defendant to four years in prison with a three-year period of parole ineligibility.

Defendant has appealed his convictions. Having reviewed the record in light of the contentions raised, we affirm.

On April 3, 2004, members of the Plainfield Police Department conducted surveillance of a second-floor apartment at 305 Madison Avenue. This apartment was leased to Ramona Acevedo, who was indicted and tried jointly with defendant.*fn1

Over a period of approximately one hour, Detective Romeo Simeon observed several individuals approach that location, both on foot and by automobile, ring the doorbell or knock and then be admitted. Each individual was also observed leaving the premises within a few minutes of arriving there. Simeon identified defendant and Acevedo as the individuals who took turns opening the door to admit the arriving individuals. Simeon testified that immediately following this period of surveillance, he and other officers conducted a raid of the second-floor apartment.

Lt. Brian Newman entered the apartment with Simeon. As Newman entered, he observed Acevedo toss a black pipe and a tin can out the bedroom window, landing on the roof of the building's first floor. Newman climbed out the bedroom window to retrieve these items, and discovered a quantity of cocaine and some currency in the can. Several other individuals were present in the apartment, some of whom were found to have cocaine in their possession; the officers also found approximately eighteen hundred dollars in cash. When the police entered Acevedo's apartment, defendant was seated at the kitchen table.

On appeal, defendant raises the following arguments:

POINT I.

IT WAS REVERSIBLE ERROR FOR THE TRIAL COURT TO DENY DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL

A. THE STATE FAILED TO MEET ITS BURDEN OF PROOF

B. THE VERDICT WAS AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE ...


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