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State v. Nichols

January 16, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
VINCENT NICHOLS, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Indictment No. 04-12-1379.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted December 10, 2008

Before Judges Lihotz and Messano.

Following a jury trial, defendant Vincent Nichols was convicted of first-degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) and 2C:35-5b(1), and third-degree possession of cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1). After merger, the trial judge imposed a sentence of twelve years imprisonment with a four-year period of parole ineligibility, along with the appropriate monetary penalties and license suspension.

On appeal, defendant raises the following point for our consideration:

POINT I

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL AT THE CLOSE OF THE STATE'S CASE.

We have considered this argument in light of the record and applicable legal standards. We affirm.

I.

On July 9, 2003, defendant was arrested after he picked up a package at Mailboxes, Etc. in Medford. Inside the package were four plastic containers of a gel-like substance, and inside the gel was more than two kilograms of cocaine. The sole issue at trial was whether defendant knew the packages contained cocaine.

The State's first witness was Christopher Reinhart, the acting manager of the store, who testified the store's practice was to require the business name, address, phone number and two forms of identification from anyone seeking to rent a business mailbox. The person renting the mailbox would receive a copy of the application, a rental agreement, a key to the mailbox, and a key to the store. Only someone authorized to access the mailbox, or someone with the key, could pick up the business' mail.

Reinhart testified that on April 12, 2003, a three-month rental of a mailbox was made by Chantal Michaels in the name of a business, Young and Savvy, located at 7900 Temple Road, Philadelphia. Reinhart recalled that three packages and five envelopes were sent to the mailbox over the ensuing months from Los Angeles. Pursuant to company policy, the mailbox owner was contacted in the event of an overnight delivery, and on one occasion, Reinhart attempted to contact Michaels at the phone number she supplied on the application. An elderly woman answered and complained to Reinhart that she frequently received phone calls from those looking for Michaels. The overnight letter was not picked up for several weeks after its delivery.

When defendant finally arrived to pick it up, Reinhart confronted him about the incorrect phone number. Defendant claimed Michaels was his sister and that he would tell her of the problem. Reinhart grew suspicious when other overnight envelopes were not picked up ...


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