On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, Indictment No. 10-01-00030.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Yannotti and Espinosa.
Defendant Leonel Quinteroguerro was tried before a jury and found guilty of first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1(a); second-degree unlawful possession of an imitation firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(e); third-degree making terroristic threats, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3(b); and third-degree hindering his own apprehension, prosecution, conviction or punishment, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(b). Defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction dated March 17, 2011, and challenges his conviction and sentence.
We briefly summarize the relevant facts, based on the testimony presented at trial. At approximately 10:00 p.m. on December 19, 2009, Marco Rivas (Rivas) left a restaurant in Westfield, New Jersey and headed to his girlfriend's home in North Plainfield. Rivas took a train from Westfield and, after he got off the train, Rivas decided to walk from the train station to his girlfriend's home.
As he was walking down Somerset Street, Rivas felt someone touch him on his back. He turned around and saw two men. One of the men told Rivas that this "was an armed robbery." One of the men, who Rivas later identified as defendant, was holding what appeared to be a black handgun. Defendant asked Rivas whether he could see that he was holding a firearm. He said, "Do you see that it's real? Can you see the bullets?" Defendant cocked the gun, which led Rivas to believe that defendant was loading the weapon.
Defendant then directed Rivas to walk. Initially, Rivas refused but defendant struck him and pushed him towards Manning Avenue. When the three men reached Manning Avenue, defendant ordered Rivas to hand over everything he had. Rivas told defendant he did not have anything, and defendant demanded his wallet. Rivas pulled out his wallet and handed it to defendant.
Before his encounter with defendant and the other man, Rivas had been speaking to his girlfriend on his cell phone. She was still on the line, and he whispered to her to call the police. When she hung up, Rivas's phone lit up, which prompted one of the men to demand that he hand it over. Defendant also took some food that Rivas had been carrying.
Defendant told Rivas to raise his hands over his head and repeatedly threatened to kill him. Rivas pleaded for his life, stating that he was disabled and had children. According to Rivas, defendant said that he did not care. Defendant then saw two individuals walking to a nearby building and he hid his gun.
Defendant waited for them to enter the building and then ordered Rivas to continue walking towards a dumpster which was nearby. Rivas walked towards the dumpster and then noticed that the two perpetrators were gone. Rivas went to his girlfriend's house. About five minutes later, Officer Albert Domizi (Domizi) arrived. Shortly thereafter, Sergeant Christopher Bond (Bond) arrived.
Rivas was upset. He was stuttering and shaking, and he appeared to be on the verge of crying. Rivas gave Domizi a description of his two assailants. He said that both were Hispanic. He said one was wearing a black jacket while the other was wearing a blue jacket. Rivas said that one of the men was tall and the other short. Domizi passed the information to Bond, who radioed the description to police headquarters and other police units.
After speaking to Rivas for about fifteen minutes, the officers left and they separately began to search the area for suspects. Bond soon came upon two individuals who matched the description that Rivas had provided. The two individuals were later identified as defendant and Jose Monterola (Monterola). They had been walking together, between parked trucks, behind a liquor store on Harmony Street.
Bond exited his police vehicle, approached the men and told them to stop. They complied. Bond asked them what they were doing, and one of the men said he was resting. Bond detained them and waited for backup. Domizi arrived and Officer Christopher Pelissier (Pelissier) joined them shortly thereafter. They took control of the suspects.
Domizi conducted a pat down search of Monterola, and he found that Monterola was in possession of two wallets. One wallet belonged to Monterola and it contained $63. The other wallet contained Rivas's Honduran national identity card, as well as his credit and debit cards. Domizi escorted Monterola to a police cruiser. As Monterola was walking to the vehicle, a black handgun fell out of the backpack he was carrying. A later examination revealed that it was an inoperable B.B. gun.
Domizi returned to the home of Rivas's girlfriend. According to Domizi, Rivas was still in shock. Domizi told Rivas that the police had apprehended two individuals who matched the description Rivas had provided earlier. Domizi said that Rivas would have to look at the persons being held and verify that they were the persons who committed the robbery. He drove Rivas to the spot where the suspects were being held.
On the way there, Domizi told Rivas that the persons being detained may or may not be the persons who robbed him. Domizi and Rivas pulled into the parking lot behind the liquor store. Monterola and defendant were standing about thirty to forty feet apart. Domizi again said that the suspects being held may or may not be the persons who robbed him. Immediately upon seeing defendant and Monterola, Rivas declared that they were the persons who robbed him earlier that night.
Defendant and Monterola were transported to the North Plainfield police station. There, Detective Alan McKay (McKay) took Rivas's statement, with the assistance of Domizi, who acted as a Spanish language interpreter. Meanwhile, Pelissier conducted a pat down search of defendant and found that defendant was in possession of ...