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State of New Jersey v. Peter Klah

June 28, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
PETER KLAH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Indictment Nos. 07-06-0681 and 06-02-0157.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 13, 2012

Before Judges Carchman, Baxter and Maven.

Following an unsuccessful motion to suppress and a jury trial, defendant Peter Klah*fn1 was found guilty of first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(2); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a; third-degree theft by receiving stolen property, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7, 2C:2-6; and third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute on or near school property, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7, 2C:2-6. After appropriate mergers, the trial judge sentenced defendant on the murder charge to an aggregate minimum term of seventy-five years' imprisonment, subject to an eighty-five percent minimum period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. The sentences on the other convictions were to run concurrent to the sentence imposed on the murder conviction. Defendant appeals, and we affirm.

These are the relevant facts adduced at both the hearing on the motion to suppress and the trial. Trenton Police Detective Matthew Przemieniecki and his partner, Officer Joseph D'Ambrosio, were driving an unmarked police patrol car near the intersection of Monmouth and Clinton Streets in Trenton on October 24, 2006, at 11:09 p.m., when Przemieniecki heard a gunshot and saw the muzzle flash of a gun being fired by defendant Peter Klah. According to Przemieniecki, after hearing the gunshot and turning his head to the right in the direction of the gunshot sound, he put his car in reverse to turn down Monmouth street. He then had an unobstructed view as he watched defendant fire a handgun at a man running down the sidewalk, who was later identified as the victim, Charles Bennett. Przemieniecki then observed defendant enter a silver Buick. Przemieniecki radioed surrounding units and headquarters, relaying what he had witnessed and indicating that the shooter was traveling down Monmouth Street in a silver Buick. A marked police car, driven by Officer Samuel Gonzalez, pulled into the intersection of Walnut and Monmouth Streets to cut off the silver Buick's path.

Upon exiting his vehicle, Przemieniecki approached the driver's side of the silver Buick with his weapon drawn; his partner approached the passenger side. According to Przemieniecki, he "approach[ed] the vehicle[,] . . . opened the driver-side door and removed the driver Chad Dillard from the vehicle." At the suppression hearing, Przemieniecki related the events that followed.

Q: Were you able to get the occupants out? A: Yes. . . .

Q: And were both occupants asked out of the -- removed from the vehicle at that point?

A: They were.

Q: Now, initially when the occupants were removed from the vehicle, were they patted down for your safety?

A: Absolutely.

Q: Were any weapons located on Dillard at that point?

A: No . . .

Q: After the occupants were removed from the vehicle, . . ., were the doors left open or closed?

A: They were left open. . . .

Q: What did you do next?

A: Once . . . both occupants were secured, they were put into police vehicles, made sure the car was secured and [I] basically just stood by to make sure everything was . . . the whole scene was secured . . .

Q: After those two individuals were secured, did you have occasion to look in the interior of the vehicle?

A: Yes, we did.

Q: And particularly why did you look in the vehicle?

A: Again, because we just saw an individual enter that same vehicle that just got done firing a handgun so --

Q: And no weapons were found on the occupants as you got them out?

A: Absolutely . . . .

Q: When you looked in the vehicle, what if ...


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