On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cumberland County, Municipal Appeal No. 05-11.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Grall and Alvarez.
Defendant Allen D. Morris, Jr., appeals from his conviction for disorderly persons resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(a)(1), entered by the Law Division on his appeal from the municipal court.*fn1 See R. 3:23. We affirm.
The incident leading to the charge occurred around 9:00 a.m. on May 18, 2010. Several state troopers assigned to the United States Marshall Service Fugitive Task Force stopped defendant's now-wife, Angela Morris, as she was driving to work and told her that they were looking for her fugitive brother, Adam Bard. She called defendant and informed him that the officers had an arrest warrant for Bard, who was living with the Morris family, and were present outside the home.
Defendant on two separate dates earlier that month had refused to cooperate with law enforcement officers in their efforts to arrest Bard. Defendant complained to the Professional Standards Division of the State Police about the officers' conduct during the prior attempts to execute the warrant.
On that particular morning, after Morris called her husband, the officers knocked repeatedly before defendant spoke to them through an open second-floor window. They asked him to open the door, explaining they had an arrest warrant for Bard. Defendant refused them admission and disappeared from view.
Officers forced the door open, and eventually Bard came downstairs and was taken into custody.
At the municipal trial, Detective Sergeant Mark Rowe testified that he called up to defendant that he too was under arrest and was to come downstairs or else a K-9 service dog would be brought into the home. Once the dog came into the house and began to bark, Rowe said, defendant "yelled down 'I'm coming downstairs.'" Defendant walked down the stairs, holding a cell phone to his ear, which he was instructed to drop. He was also told to turn around, put his hands on his head, and walk down the stairs backwards. Defendant complied with those instructions.
Once he reached the bottom of the stairs, as Detective Richard Henderson testified, defendant was ordered to drop his arms so he could be handcuffed. Henderson said defendant then placed his arms "in a locked position." Henderson was able to pull at one arm while a second detective freed defendant's other arm so he could be cuffed. Defendant, who is approximately six feet three inches in height, had "locked onto the step area . . . [a]lmost as though he was trying to push up off the step."
Defendant testified to the contrary. His version of the incident was that his arms were in the front of his body as he reached the bottom of the stairs only in order to protect himself from falling after the officers "slammed [him] to the steps." He claimed that one of the officers deliberately "bounc[ed]" on top of him, while Henderson had explained that an officer fell on top of defendant as he struggled.
Defendant also said that the officers twisted his arms into an unnatural position in the process of cuffing him, making it impossible for him to comply with their directives. He alleged that during the struggle he fractured his orbital lobe, eventually requiring surgery. On the day of his arrest, however, defendant complained of neither pain nor ...