On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 05-11-1562.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Graves and Yannotti.
After his motion to suppress evidence seized without a warrant was denied, defendant Chad Alston pled guilty to counts three and four of Passaic County Indictment No. 05-11-1562 charging him with third-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute within 1000 feet of school property, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 (count three); and second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute within 500 feet of a public building, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 (count four). *fn1 On September 11, 2009, the court merged count three with count four and sentenced defendant to a five-year prison term with three years of parole ineligibility.
On appeal, defendant argues that "Detective Griffin's investigatory stop . . . was not supported by reasonable and articulable suspicion and the evidence seized thereafter should have been suppressed." For the reasons that follow, we affirm the order denying defendant's suppression motion.
At the suppression hearing, Detective Marvin Sykes of the Paterson Police Department testified that on August 17, 2005, someone he knew, who had given him useful information on three or four prior occasions, gave him "some information about a drug drop." According to Sykes, the individual told him that David Spencer would be "going to Summer and Hamilton . . . to sell some bricks of heroin" to somebody between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.
Based on this information, Sykes established an undercover surveillance location with "an unobstructed view of the corners of Summer and Hamilton." Sykes "knew Spencer from prior investigations," and Sykes observed Spencer driving a red mini van that stopped at the corner. An individual, later identified as defendant, got into the van "for a couple of minutes," but he exited the vehicle after it was driven a short distance. According to Sykes, defendant did not have anything in his hands when he entered the van. However, he was holding a green towel when he got out of the van. Sykes testified that the location was "a very high drug trafficking area," and he suspected that Spencer was selling drugs to defendant. Therefore, Sykes "had the back up teams move in on [defendant]."
Detective Sergeant Washington Griffin was one of the backup officers that morning. When asked to describe what happened after he received a radio transmission from Sykes, Griffin testified as follows:
A. We pulled up to the person fitting the description. He was carrying a green towel in his hand. . . .
Q. Okay. Now when you . . . first saw the man matching the description, what, if anything, did you say?
A. As we pulled up, when we exited the car, I told him to stop.
Q. Okay. And did he in ...