On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 08-06-02049.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Ashrafi and Nugent.
Defendant AlTariq Wagner appeals from his conviction after a jury trial for drug and firearms offenses. We affirm.
After his arrest in an apartment building in Newark, defendant was tried on four counts of an indictment that charged him with third-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) and 5b(3); second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute near a public facility, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1; second-degree possession of a firearm while committing a drug offense, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1; and second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b.
At the trial, the prosecution presented testimony from three Newark police officers and a police firearms witness. The Newark officers testified they were in uniform at about 7:10 p.m. on February 23, 2008, investigating possible criminal activity at an apartment building located at 523 South 14th Street in the city. They opened an entry door and looked into a well-lit, first-floor hallway, where they saw defendant and two other men together. The police observed defendant receive money from one of the men and hand an item to the man.
Upon seeing the police, defendant fled up the stairs. On the second-floor landing, he took a handgun from his waistband and threw it out a window. He was apprehended as he tried to enter a third-floor apartment. On his person, the police found $891 in denominations of twenty dollars or less, including more than 100 one-dollar bills. They did not find any illegal drugs on his person. They recovered the loaded handgun from a vacant lot outside the second-floor window.
The police also arrested the man in the hallway who had handed defendant money and received something in return. They seized two decks of heroin from his hand.
Defendant was the only witness for the defense. In brief direct testimony, he denied he had been in the hallway before his arrest or that he had fled up the stairs. He testified he spent the afternoon at his uncle's apartment on the third floor watching television and eating pizza. The police knocked on the door shortly after 6:00 p.m. and asked whether anyone had run into the apartment. They returned later and searched him, his uncle, and his uncle's girlfriend. Upon finding cash in his possession, they charged him with the drug and firearms offenses. He said he had received $800 in cash from his mother that day to pay his cell telephone bill but spent the day at his uncle's apartment instead.
Apparently crediting the officers' testimony, the jury convicted defendant on all four counts. The court sentenced him to concurrent terms on several counts and a consecutive term on the count for possessing a firearm in connection with a drug offense. His aggregate sentence was ten years' imprisonment with three years of parole ineligibility.
On appeal, defendant makes the following arguments:
THE ADMISSION OF HEARSAY TESTIMONY DENIED DEFENDANT A FAIR TRIAL. ...