On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 09-01-00040.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Graves and Yannotti.
After the trial court denied his motion to suppress evidence, defendant pled guilty to second-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) with intent to distribute, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) or (2). The trial court thereafter sentenced defendant as a third-degree offender and imposed a three-year term of incarceration. Defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction entered by the trial court on July 9, 2010. We affirm.
The following facts are drawn from the testimony given at the suppression hearing, which was held on January 6, 2010. Detective Christopher Wright (Wright) of the New Jersey State Police testified that on October 24, 2009, he was at the Grover Cleveland rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike with his partner, Detective Sergeant Mark Primerano (Primerano).
Wright and Primerano were in an unmarked vehicle and wearing plain clothes. They were undertaking surveillance of the parking lot for commercial vehicles. Wright observed a green Nissan Maxima with New Jersey license plates driving up and down the lanes of the lot. Wright determined that Al Aly (Aly) was the registered owner of the car.
Wright said that a man, later identified as Leonard Trujillo (Trujillo), entered the vehicle, which was then driven back to the truck lot and pulled behind a tractor-trailer with Florida license plates. Trujillo exited the car. He was in possession of a bag, which he did not possess when he got into the car. Wright testified that, based on his experience and his assignment, narcotics transactions commonly take place in the Turnpike rest area.
Trujillo went to the driver's side door of the tractor-trailer and the Maxima drove away from the area. Wright and Primerano approached Trujillo and asked him about the bag. He said that a friend had given him the bag to bring to another friend in Miami. Trujillo told the officers that there was no contraband in the bag. They asked him to open the bag. Wright told Trujillo that he did not have to open the bag. Trujillo opened the bag, which was found to contain $56,000 in cash.
Trujillo insisted that he did not know that anything was in the bag. Trujillo also said that he did not know where the money was from. However, Trujillo admitted that, in the past, he had transported several similar bags to Miami and he had been paid to do so. The officers arrested Trujillo.
Wright called the Woodbridge Police Department and the Office of the Middlesex County Prosecutor. He provided them with Aly's home address. Trujillo was transported from the scene. Wright and Primerano went to the Aly's home in Fords, New Jersey. They arrived around 12:00 nooon. Wright and Primerano went to the front door of the residence, while officers from the assisting law enforcement agencies "secured the outside." Wright said that, initially, there were about eight officers at the scene but more officers arrived over time.
Aly answered the door. He was arrested. He was upset and asked to be removed from the scene. Aly consented to the search of his automobile. No evidence of any wrongdoing was found. Wright and Primerano then "secured the house." Defendant is Aly's brother. He was found in the house, along with another brother, Aly's wife, Aly's daughter and mother, Fatma Safar (Safar). Wright determined that Safar owned the residence. Wright and Primerano explained to her that Aly had been arrested and they had reason to believe that there may be evidence of criminal activity in the house.
Wright testified that he thought that, because a large sum of currency had been dropped off at the rest area, there may be additional currency or possibly narcotics in the residence. Wright testified that Safar was "obviously upset." The officers asked for her consent to search the residence, and they presented her with a consent-to-search form. Wright read the form to Safar, explaining what they were looking for. Safar signed the form. Wright and Primerano then initiated the search.
Defendant came out of his room and went downstairs with the other occupants of the house. At around 3:00 p.m., Wright and Primerano asked ...