On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 07-04-0467.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lihotz and Ashrafi.
Defendant Werner Doecks pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and was sentenced in accordance with his plea agreement to six years in prison. He appeals from denial of his motions to suppress evidence and to permit cross-examination evidence otherwise barred by the Rape Shield Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-7. We affirm.
Defendant, sixty-seven years old at the time, was indicted on nine counts of sexual offenses involving underage girls. The crux of the charges was that, a few years earlier, defendant had taken nude photographs of three adolescent or teenage girls and that he had engaged in sexual acts with one of the girls.
The following facts were developed at suppression hearings. Wayne Township police responded to a call from defendant of a disturbance at his home on the afternoon of November 27, 2006. They saw defendant arguing in the driveway with a man named Barbosa, who was living on defendant's property in a converted school bus. Defendant alleged that Barbosa was angry at him because he refused to give him alcoholic beverages defendant had in the house.
Barbosa told the police that defendant kept nude photographs of teenage girls in the trunk of his car. He told the police that defendant had shown him the photos three days earlier and bragged about sexual activity with the girls. He said that defendant identified one of the girls as a prior girlfriend's foster child.
At the suppression hearing, Barbosa testified about his reasons for informing on defendant. He said he was angry because defendant's pit bull had chased Barbosa's cat into the road and the cat was killed. The night before he told the police about the photos, Barbosa was drinking and emotional, and defendant took his reaction as threatening, resulting in Barbosa's being arrested and jailed. After his release the next morning, Barbosa was still irate at defendant. When the police came, he decided to tell them about the nude photos because he knew it was wrong for defendant to have taken them.
The police officers asked defendant permission to search the trunk of his car. He refused.
Within a few minutes of the officers' conversations with defendant and Barbosa, Detective Matthew Dox arrived to supervise the police investigation. Dox was familiar with defendant from prior domestic violence matters involving defendant as both an alleged offender and a victim. Dox had a civil relationship with defendant, and he believed defendant had no animosity toward him. He took defendant aside and spoke to him privately.
Dox asked defendant for permission to search the trunk of his car to see if he had child pornography. Defendant said he had pictures, but all the females were adults. Dox said he knew that defendant had not permitted the other officers to go into the trunk but "maybe we can clear this mess up today." He told defendant that he needed his consent to search the trunk for the photos, and he repeated twice that defendant had a right to refuse consent. He also said: "Maybe we can resolve this[.]
[I]f they're adults[,] we'll leave[;] you go on your way." Defendant then agreed to the ...