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State of New Jersey v. Tormu T. Prall

July 6, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Indictment No. 07-03-00397.

Per curiam.


Submitted June 1, 2011

Before Judges Parrillo and Espinosa.

Defendant appeals from his sentence and convictions for second-degree eluding, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b); fourth-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(5); and fourth-degree resisting arrest by flight, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(a)(2). We affirm.

On October 18, 2006, Detective Brian Jones and Officer Eliezer Ramos of the Trenton Police Department responded to a call regarding criminal mischief, a broken window at the residence of Merl Bell, her boyfriend, Isaac Gleaton, and her daughter, Alexis Bell on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Gleaton was standing on the sidewalk and pointed down Southard Street at a white U-Haul van, screaming, "that's him, get him." As the officers proceeded down the street, the van made a U-turn and drove quickly toward the patrol car, stopping directly in front of it. Jones left the patrol car, approached the van on foot, and yelled at the driver to stop the van and exit the vehicle. When Jones was within ten feet of the van, the driver accelerated backward to the nearest intersection and turned the corner, disappearing from view. Ramos pursued the van with overhead lights flashing and siren activated.

Less than a minute later, as Jones was walking back toward Gleaton, the van reappeared. The driver slowed as if to stop, but then quickly accelerated in Jones's direction, crossing into the opposing lane of traffic. Jones drew his weapon and ran to the sidewalk to avoid being struck by the van. The van came so close that Jones felt the vehicle's draft as it passed by.

Alexis and her sister, Rodesha Bell, later identified defendant as the driver of the van and provided a photograph of him to Jones.

Ramos was driving directly behind the van when the driver returned to Southard Street and veered toward Jones. He pursued the van, driving approximately fifty miles per hour through twenty-five mile per hour zones, overhead lights on and siren blaring, through Ewing Township and back into Trenton, where he lost sight of the van. Other cars and pedestrians had to move out of the way and on to the grass to get out of danger.

Another Trenton police officer, Alphonse Ferdetta, Jr., responded and also pursued the U-Haul van with overhead lights and sirens activated. The driver of the van picked up speed and "blew" through a red light, almost causing an accident. Ferdetta broke off the chase because of the driver's aggressive driving, the diminishing light at dusk, and heavy traffic in the area.

At trial, Alexis Bell testified that, on October 18, 2006, she had been dating defendant for a little over a year. Earlier that day, they went to a store in Pennsylvania to buy parts to make a silencer for a gun. Defendant was driving a U-Haul van his mother had rented for him. The two got into an argument and Alexis jumped out of the van.

Around dinner time that day, defendant showed up in Alexis's backyard and threw a brick through a window. Rodesha Bell was in a second-floor bedroom and saw defendant running out of the backyard. Merl called the police, who arrived while defendant was circling the block in the van. Rodesha testified that defendant threatened "to get you all" as he drove around. Alexis confirmed that the officers tried to block defendant, that he drove in reverse and "charged" at the officers, as if he was trying to hit them, and that one of the officers dove out of the way to avoid being hit. Rodesha and Gleaton also saw defendant drive toward the officer who jumped out of the way "just in time."

Later that night, an unidentified man called the police department from a payphone, reporting that his girlfriend had stabbed him and that she was located at the street address for the Bell residence. Jones and Ramos again responded to the Bell residence, but no one there knew anything about an alleged stabbing and Alexis Bell was not home. The officers proceeded to the payphone location. They saw defendant walking on Martin Luther King Boulevard, and placed him under arrest. The officers took defendant back to the Bell residence, where Merl and Rodesha identified him as the person driving the U-Haul van earlier that day.

When processing defendant at headquarters, the police confiscated a key to a U-Haul van from him. When asked his name, defendant gave an alias ("Anthony Mathis"), but when signing the property report receipt, he began to sign the name Tormu Prall, stopped ...

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