On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 08-07-0639.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: October 26, 2011
Before Judges Cuff and Lihotz.
Following denial of defendant Treshard Vandunk's motion to suppress evidence, he entered a guilty plea to one count of second degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) with intent to distribute within 500 feet of a public park, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1. He was sentenced to six years concurrent to a violation of probation. The appropriate fees, penalties, assessments and driver's license suspension were also imposed. Defendant appeals from the denial of his motion to suppress. We affirm.
On April 25, 2008, Michael Caspersen was a Narcotics Division detective with the Plainfield Police Department. He had been a police officer for eleven years, employed nine years at the Plainfield Police Department, and a member of the Narcotics Division for seven years. He had participated in over 1200 narcotics-related investigations.
On that day, Caspersen received information from a confidential informant (CI) that defendant was involved in the distribution of CDS in Plainfield during the daytime. The CI provided defendant's name, described his car as a 1996 Buick with license plate number "WPW64J," and informed Caspersen that defendant would bring his car to 401 East 7th Street to conduct drug activity. The CI also told Caspersen that defendant stashed narcotics in the trunk of his vehicle or in a makeshift pocket near the zipper of his pants.
The CI had previously provided Caspersen with information which led to over seventy arrests. Caspersen characterized the CI's information as always being "[a] hundred percent corroborated," although it did not always lead to an arrest. Of the seventy or so arrests the CI's information had helped to achieve, many stemmed from drug charges.
Based on his prior experience as a narcotics officer, Caspersen was familiar with the area of the address and described it as a "heavy gang activity, heavy drug area, very high crime area." He also testified the area had "[n]umerous shootings on a regular basis . . . . A lot of weapons recovered there, . . . multiple people shot in that particular area."
During the evening of April 25 around 10 p.m., Caspersen drove to 401 East 7th Street to conduct surveillance. Wearing plain clothes without any police identifiers, he parked his unmarked vehicle on the west side of Franklin Place across from the driveway of the address.
After sitting in the car for "a little bit," Caspersen saw a car matching the CI's description of make, model, and license plate, pull into the driveway of 401 East 7th Street. Defendant exited the vehicle and Caspersen noticed co-defendant Brian Tinsley sitting in the passenger side of the car. Defendant went to the trunk of the car, retrieved something small, and returned to the driver's seat.
After a few minutes, Caspersen observed a black male walk onto the driveway to the driver's side of defendant's vehicle. Caspersen observed the man hand something small to defendant; defendant handed the man something through the open driver's side window. The man crossed the street and walked directly past the driver's side of Caspersen's car. As he passed, Caspersen noticed the man looking down into his left hand. Based upon his experience and training, Caspersen considered the man's actions consistent with typical actions during a drug transaction. Back-up units did not arrive at the scene soon enough to detain the man who purchased the suspected drugs.
About five or ten minutes later, Caspersen observed a white vehicle pull into the driveway next to defendant's vehicle. Defendant exited the driver's side of his vehicle, retrieved a small item out of the trunk, and approached the driver's side of the white vehicle. The driver in the white vehicle handed something to defendant, who gave something small to the driver. As the driver backed out of the driveway and drove away, defendant returned to his vehicle. Although Caspersen called back-up units to stop the white vehicle, it was not found.
As defendant walked to his vehicle, Caspersen observed him reaching toward the zipper of his pants. Soon after defendant returned to his vehicle, he and co-defendant Tinsley left the car and walked to the porch of the house a short distance away.
As defendant and co-defendant Tinsley approached the porch, Caspersen heard gunshots ring out from the south. From conversations on the police radio, Caspersen learned that a person located ten or eleven houses, ...