On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cumberland County, Indictment No. 09-03-00239.
New Jersey Court of Appeals a5384_09.pdf
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 30, 2011
Before Judges Lihotz and Waugh.
Defendant Ordale Telfair appeals from his conviction, following a guilty plea, for third-degree possession of cocaine, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1), as well as the resulting sentence of incarceration for five years with no parole disqualifier. We affirm.
We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.
Early on the morning of January 17, 2009, Millville Police Officer James Grone was dispatched to an address on East Oak Street to investigate a report of a fight. He observed two men fighting when he arrived. One of the men was subsequently identified as Telfair, but the other man was never identified because he fled the scene. According to Grone, Telfair was "kicking and punching [the other man who] was curled up next to a fence." The kicking and punching appeared "very forceful" to Grone.
As Grone was getting out of his patrol car, Telfair turned, ran up onto the porch of the adjacent residence, and then ran into the house. He ignored Grone's order to stop. Grone followed him through the open door into the house. As Grone approached Telfair, he observed him slow down, reach into his jacket pocket, and remove an object, which he threw over the top of the couch. Grone described the object as a "plastic baggie." Grone caught up with Telfair, grabbed his arm, and threw him to the ground. He then placed Telfair under arrest.
Based upon his training and experience, Grone believed that the baggie contained illegal drugs. Consequently, while other police officers took care of Telfair, Grone retrieved two baggies containing a white, rock-like substance from behind the couch. They were subsequently found to contain cocaine.
Although he was originally charged with several drug offenses, Telfair was subsequently indicted on a single charge of possession of cocaine. At the time of his arrest, he was also charged with two disorderly persons offenses, violations of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2(a)(2) (creating "a hazardous or physically dangerous condition") and N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 (harassment), arising out of the fight observed by Grone. He was arrested on subsequent, unrelated offenses in August 2009.
Telfair moved to suppress the evidence recovered at the time of the January arrest, arguing that the seizure of the drugs was unlawful. Following a hearing on August 25, at which Grone testified, the judge delivered an oral opinion denying the motion.
On September 14, Telfair accepted a plea bargain and pled guilty to possession of cocaine on January 17 and a downgraded disorderly persons charge resulting from the August arrest. The plea called for a sentence of incarceration for five years with no period of parole ineligibility, and a brief concurrent term for the other offense. After satisfying himself that the plea was ...