On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 07-04-0649.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Rodríguez, Reisner and Yannotti.
Following a domestic dispute, which resulted in the police being called, defendant Ansumana Kaikai was accused of driving away from the scene despite directions from the police to stop, and trying to hit an officer with his car. He was convicted of third degree eluding, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b, but acquitted of aggravated assault. He appeals from the conviction and from the sentence of five years probation. We affirm.
These are the most pertinent facts. Defendant Ansumana Kaikai and his wife lived in a large apartment complex. The wife's friend Suzanne lived in a nearby building in the apartment complex. On January 29, 2007, the wife and defendant got into an argument about her $1500 cell phone bill.
The next day, January 30, 2007, the wife went to Suzanne's apartment at ten a.m. At approximately 11:30 a.m., the defendant went to Suzanne's apartment. The couple struggled over the wife's handbag. Her clothes were torn in the scuffle, and she received a cut on her finger. However, she broke the defendant's glasses in the altercation. After the struggle, defendant left the building.
Following his departure, the wife's sister arrived at Suzanne's apartment and insisted on calling the police. Officer Keith Grausam, responding to a dispatch about a disturbance, was the first to arrive. He spoke with the wife, who told him about the altercation with defendant, and she indicated that he may have gone to their apartment, describing him as a "thin black male." Officer Grausam testified that she also told him that her husband drove a "green Saturn." However, in her testimony she denied giving him a description of the vehicle during their first conversation.
Officer David Schmidt arrived as back-up, and the officers walked to defendant's building and knocked on the door for "about a minute." Defendant did not answer. Hearing a car start near the building, Grausam walked toward the sound and saw a "green car" pulling out of the lot. As the car approached the officers, Grausam walked into the middle of the roadway and "signaled the car to stop, yelled, police, stop, and waved my hands." The car did not stop, and Grausam "took a step back out of the way" to avoid being hit by the car. Grausam testified that the driver, whom he identified in court as defendant, looked at him and smiled as he drove by. At trial, Officer Schmidt also identified defendant as the driver of the green vehicle.
Grausam ran back to his patrol car and gave dispatch the information about a "green car," with a license plate that began with the letters UGM. After unsuccessfully attempting to locate the vehicle, the officers returned to speak with the wife.
During Grausam's direct testimony, he identified the defendant's car from a photo, which contained "two green vehicles." Grausam and Schmidt indicated, in response to questions from the prosecutor, that the other green vehicle, a Toyota Camry, was not the vehicle that almost ran Grausam over on January 30, 2007. On cross-examination, Grausam acknowledged that the license plate of the Camry read UGM14F, and that it was registered in New Jersey to a person who lived in the defendant's apartment complex. On redirect, Grausam stated that he had never seen the Toyota Camry before seeing the photograph. The prosecutor showed Grausam and Schmidt a photograph of a man and woman, later identified as the owner of the Camry and his wife; the officers stated that neither of the individuals in the photograph was driving the green car, and that the man in the photo did not resemble defendant.
Upon questioning by the judge, Officer Grausam stated that after initially speaking with the wife, he would have arrested defendant for domestic violence based on the police department's protocol. The judge also asked for clarification about the timing of the events, and Grausam's procedure for writing his reports.
The wife testified that upon the officers' return to Suzanne's apartment, they asked her what kind of car her husband drove. She told them that her husband drove a green car, but she did not know the make, model, or license plate number. They accompanied her to her apartment, where she showed them a picture of defendant. Grausam and Schmidt testified that from the photo, they concluded that defendant had been the driver of the ...