On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Indictment No. 06-10-1836.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lisa and Alvarez.
Defendant Nasir Shakur, also known as Ronnie Moten, appeals the denial of his motion to suppress evidence and the sentence subsequently imposed as a result of the entry of his negotiated guilty plea. We affirm.
The following facts were developed during the June 12, 2007 motion to suppress hearing. On July 22, 2006, Officer Corey J. Parson of the Jersey City Police Department was dispatched at about 7:47 a.m. to a location where, via closed-circuit television (CCTV), defendant was being observed selling drugs on a street corner. Parson was given a description of defendant and his vehicle, a black Honda. Upon receiving the dispatch, the officer turned on his lights and sirens and drove approximately nine blocks to the location. As he approached, he was told by the CCTV Unit that the drug dealer, the sole occupant of the vehicle, was changing his shirt. When he arrived, Parson saw that defendant was sitting in a black Honda, adjusting his shirt. He asked defendant to step outside and place his hands on the Honda's roof.
As he was patting defendant down, Parson glanced in the car and saw a brown paper bag open on the dashboard, containing approximately thirty vials of cocaine bundled together with a rubber band. Defendant does not point to anything in the record that casts doubt upon the officer's credibility or ability to make the observation. Once backup arrived, the officer handcuffed defendant and entered the car to retrieve the drugs. When he returned to the car to retrieve the registration and other documents, Parson found a police-issue baton between the driver and passenger seats.
The judge denied the motion to suppress on the basis that the officer had the right to pat defendant down for his own safety prior to proceeding with the investigation, and that once the officer glanced in the vehicle, he had the right to seize the brown paper bag. Although he denied the motion to suppress in its entirety, the judge made no specific findings as to the baton.
On November 27, 2007, defendant entered a guilty plea to possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute within 1000 feet of a school zone, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7, in exchange for the State's recommendation of five years of imprisonment subject to a three-year term of parole ineligibility. He was sentenced accordingly on January 25, 2008, and appropriate fines and penalties were imposed.
At the time of sentencing, defendant, then thirty-two years old, had four prior convictions. The offense most recent to the commission of this crime was originally a murder charge, but was ultimately amended to manslaughter, to which defendant entered a guilty plea. Defendant's criminal history also included a prior school-zone distribution offense.
On appeal, defendant raises the following points:
THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE STATE DURING THE SUPPRESSION HEARING WAS NOT SUFFICIENT TO SUPPORT THE LOWER COURT'S FINDING THAT OFFICER PARSON HAD PROBABLE CAUSE TO BELIEVE THAT THE BROWN ...