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State v. Growalt

August 3, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES L. GROWALT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 08-10-2404.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted June 16, 2010

Before Judges Cuff and Fasciale.

Defendant, James Growalt, appeals from a July 24, 2009 judgment of conviction. He contends there was insufficient evidence to issue an arrest warrant, he did not knowingly and voluntarily consent to the search of his apartment, and his video-taped statement was the product of an illegal arrest. We affirm.

On October 9, 2008, defendant was indicted and charged with first-degree robbery in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (Count One); third-degree aggravated assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(2)(Count Two); fourth-degree aggravated assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(4)(Count Three); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (Count Four); second-degree possession of a weapon, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b (Count Five); second-degree possession of a weapon by a convicted person, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7 (Count Six); and second-degree possession of a weapon by a convicted person, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7 (Count Seven). The first six counts arise out of an incident that occurred on June 20, 2008. Count Seven refers to the recovery of a loaded gun from defendant's home on June 21, 2008. After unsuccessfully moving to suppress his statement and the loaded gun, defendant pled guilty to Count Seven and was sentenced to ten years in prison with a period of five years of parole ineligibility consistent with his negotiated plea agreement.

I.

On Friday, June 20, 2008, Detectives Fred Spano and Heath Per were assigned to investigate a reported armed robbery that occurred inside a condominium. Spano and Per interviewed the male victim and defendant's ex-girlfriend, the female owner of the condo in which the incident occurred. They learned that defendant's ex-girlfriend invited the victim to spend that night in her condo.

A couple of days before the incident, defendant called his ex-girlfriend several times. She permitted Spano and Per to view her cell phone, and they confirmed that defendant sent several text messages to her. The messages show that defendant threatened to come to her condo. Defendant's ex-girlfriend admitted having phone contact with defendant that night.

In the early morning hours, defendant made an unannounced visit at the condo. He entered the condo and noticed the male victim. Through their investigation, Spano and Per learned that defendant pulled a gun, hit the victim over the head with it, and stole the victim's cell phone.

Looking at a photo array, the victim identified defendant as the person who strongly resembled the suspect who robbed him. Spano and Per learned that defendant had an extensive juvenile and adult criminal history involving thefts, burglaries, weapons offenses, and robberies.

Based on the investigation, Spano and Per concluded that probable cause existed and sought a warrant for the arrest of defendant charging him with robbery, assault, and weapons offenses. Spano certified that defendant robbed the victim and possessed a firearm with the purpose of using it unlawfully. A municipal court judge authorized the issuance of the warrant pursuant to Rule 3:3-1(c)(1).

On Saturday, June 21, 2008, defendant called Spano, admitted his involvement in the condo incident, and stated he would report to the police station to discuss it. When defendant arrived that day, police advised him of the charges and placed him under arrest. Defendant's current girlfriend accompanied him and gave Spano the keys to defendant's apartment. Police administered defendant his Miranda*fn1 warnings and placed him in a cell. That day he gave a recorded statement to Spano and Per. Twice during the statement, defendant advised them that he had no problem with a search of his apartment and he had nothing to hide.

After the recorded statement, defendant spoke to his attorney on the phone. Defendant's attorney told Spano that defendant had "nothing to hide" and that if defendant wanted to ...


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