On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, Docket No. FJ-03-725-08 and FJ-03-440-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 1, 2009
Before Judges Messano and Alvarez.
F.T., born in 1990, was adjudicated delinquent by Judge Call on January 11, 2008, on three charges: theft, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3(a); burglary, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2; and obstruction, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1. He was sentenced on January 23, 2008, to one year of probation, as well as fines totaling approximately $150.
Patrol Sergeant Thomas Reinholt of the Evesham Township Police Department received a radio dispatch at approximately 1:15 a.m. on August 25, 2007, that two suspects wearing dark clothing were observed going up and down driveways trying to open the doors of parked cars. When Reinholt responded to the area, at approximately 2:05 a.m., he saw two males, whom he believed to be juveniles, wearing dark clothing, walking west across Conestoga Drive onto the front yard of a home on that street. He pulled over and walked towards them because of the 10:00 p.m. curfew that Evesham Township imposes on persons under the age of eighteen. The suspects began to run as Reinholt approached. He chased them across the front yard of the home where he initially encountered them into the backyard of a home on Bartram Road. They scaled a four-foot chain-link fence separating the property on Bartram Road from a third house on Conestoga Drive. Reinholt, who kept his flashlight trained on the suspects, saw the smaller of them take a hard fall; the other suspect returned to assist. They continued their flight, eventually disappearing into the yard of a house on an adjoining street. At this point, a second officer had arrived to assist, and he observed two males running into a house on Champlain Road. Based on this information, Reinholt and the other officers responded to the residence and attempted to contact the owner of the property. Finally, the two suspects came out of the house.
Reinholt identified F.T. as one of the individuals he had been chasing. F.T. was wearing different clothing, but in the words of Reinholt, was "winded, sweaty and defensive." Reinholt did not charge the juvenile that night; however, he retraced his steps and located a DVD player and DVD of the movie "300," which were later collected by an evidence technician. The DVD player and movie were identified at trial by the owner of a vehicle that had been burglarized on Conestoga Drive that night.
F.T.'s older step-brother was home during the evening of August 24 through the early morning hours of August 25 when police arrived. He claimed that F.T. and his younger brother were downstairs watching TV in the basement while he was on the first floor of the home, also watching TV. The older step-brother was insistent that he never saw his younger brothers leave the basement, nor did he see them in possession of any property that did not belong to them. He also claimed that they were in their pajamas when police arrived, and that he made them put on shirts before they spoke with police.
Reinholt testified on rebuttal that he recalled the older step-brother saying he was in his bedroom when police arrived.
Reinholt further recalled the older step-brother saying he did not hear the police at the door as he may have been asleep.
F.T. now asserts as errors:
POINT I: THE VERDICT WAS AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE.
POINT II: THE TRIAL COURT IMPERMISSIBLY CHANGED THE CHARGE OF HINDERING APPREHENSION TO OBSTRUCTION OF LAW, IMMEDIATELY PRIOR TO TRIAL, ...