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State of New Jersey v. Hai Kim Nguyen

April 15, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, Indictment No. 02-04-00248.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Skillman, J.A.D.



Argued February 8, 2011

Before Judges Parrillo, Yannotti and Skillman.

The opinion of the court was delivered by SKILLMAN, J.A.D. (retired and temporarily assigned on recall).

Defendant committed a murder in New Jersey and then fled to New York, where he was apprehended and evidence of the crime was recovered. This appeal presents two issues arising out of defendant's flight to New York after the murder. First, defendant argues that the trial court should have dismissed the indictment because the State did not bring him to trial within 120 days after his arrival in New Jersey, as required by the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD). We reject this argument because the record indicates that New York transferred custody of defendant under the Extradition Clause of the United States Constitution and the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, and therefore, the speedy trial provision of the IAD did not apply to defendant's trial. Second, defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence of a handgun later identified as the murder weapon, because it was discovered in the course of a search by Somerset County Prosecutor's Office investigators who were not authorized under the governing New York statute to conduct a search in New York. We reject this argument because the violation of the New York statute by the New Jersey investigators who discovered the murder weapon was a technical violation that did not implicate privacy rights protected by the Fourth Amendment or its New Jersey counterpart, and therefore, the remedy of exclusion of evidence was not required.


Defendant's convictions were based on a killing that occurred on the front lawn of the Dynasty Restaurant in Green Brook on March 24, 2002. Defendant and the victim, Tuan Thieu, were both guests at a wedding reception in the restaurant. The two men had an argument arising out of a previous dispute about a woman, which escalated into a physical altercation. Defendant then pulled out a gun and shot Thieu eight times. Defendant also shot at a bystander, but missed. After killing Thieu, defendant fled the scene in a 1996 Honda Accord.

The police arrived at the restaurant shortly after the shooting. Witnesses to the crime identified defendant as the shooter and provided the police with an address in Brooklyn, 1062 Lafayette Avenue, where he had been living. The witnesses also told the police that defendant had driven away in a 1996 Honda with Alabama license plates, which they had seen him drive on other occasions.

The day after the murder, Somerset County Prosecutor's Office detectives went to arrest defendant at the 1062 Lafayette Avenue address, accompanied by officers of the New York City Police Department. However, when the officers knocked on the door, defendant refused to come out, and thereafter, a female told the police defendant was inside the apartment with her two- year-old son. A hostage negotiation team of New York City police was dispatched to the scene, and after about four hours, defendant agreed to end the standoff and was immediately arrested.

After defendant's arrest, the police secured the 1062 Lafayette Avenue residence and the 1996 Honda Accord defendant had driven from the murder scene in order to apply for search warrants. Shortly thereafter, the police applied for and obtained warrants to search both the residence and the car.

The search of the residence revealed various articles of clothing defendant may have been wearing at the time of the crime and a shoebox containing gun cleaning equipment. However, this search did not result in discovery of the murder weapon.

The police searched the car in the parking lot at the headquarters of the New York City police officers who participated in the investigation. This search revealed marijuana secreted in the roof of the car, which was turned over to the New York City officers, but not the murder weapon.

Arrangements were then made to return the car to Kenneth Eng, a resident of 1062 Lafayette Avenue and friend of defendant to whom the owner of the car had entrusted possession. Detective Rinaldi of the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office began driving the car from police headquarters back to 1062 Lafayette Avenue. As he was driving, Detective Rinaldi heard a rattling sound above his head every time he made a turn. When he arrived at 1062 Lafayette Avenue, he and Timothy Braun, another member of the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office who had been following him, searched the area of the car's roof where Detective Rinaldi had heard the rattling sound. This search revealed a handgun, which forensic testing showed to be the murder weapon. The Somerset County detectives brought the handgun and the items seized in the search of 1062 Lafayette Avenue back to New Jersey.

On April 24, 2002, defendant was indicted for murder and various other offenses. On August 20, 2003, the Governors of New York and New Jersey entered into an agreement for defendant's extradition from New York to New Jersey. On November 17, 2003, defendant was brought from New York to New Jersey.

Defendant remained in pretrial incarceration in New Jersey from 2003 until his guilty plea and sentence in 2009, during which time he filed numerous motions directed at the charges against him. One motion was to dismiss the indictment on the ground that defendant's lengthy pretrial incarceration in New Jersey violated the IAD. Another was to suppress evidence of the handgun on the ground that the Somerset County detectives violated New ...

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