October 9, 2012
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
STEVEN J. RUFFIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Indictment No. 08-12-1849.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 21, 2011 Before Judges Fuentes and Graves.
Defendant Steven Ruffin pleaded guilty to third degree conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1); disorderly person offense of possession of drug paraphernalia, N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2; and second degree possession of a weapon by a person convicted of committing one of the crimes listed in N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b). The court sentenced defendant consistent with the plea agreement to a term of seven years in prison, with a mandatory five-year period of parole ineligibility. Defendant reserved the right to appeal the court's decision denying his motion to suppress. We affirm.
On March 20, 2008, Brick Township Detective Joseph Leskowski executed two no-knock search warrants for rooms number nine and ten at the Route 88 Motel in Brick. The search warrants were predicated on two affidavits executed by Leskowski, describing in detail the investigation that uncovered the sales of illicit drugs by defendant from rooms nine and ten at the Route 88 Motel. Specifically, Leskowski averred that he was first apprised of this situation by a confidential informant (CI), who indicated that a man identified as "Justice" was distributing cocaine from room number ten at the Route 88 Motel. "Justice" was subsequently identified as defendant.
The CI provided Leskowski with a cellular telephone number for "Justice," whom the CI described as a dark-skin African American man, approximately five feet, nine inches tall, weighing approximately 220 pounds, with a beard. The CI also told Leskowski that "Justice" possessed two handguns that he kept on top of the television at unit number ten at the Route 88 Motel.
As the investigation progressed, Leskowski and other officers arranged for a second CI to contact defendant to arrange for the sale of a quantity of cocaine. Under carefully choreographed conditions, the second CI purchased a quantity of crack cocaine from defendant. The transaction occurred at room number nine at the Route 88 Motel. The second CI identified defendant as the man known as "Justice" from a motor vehicle photograph of defendant obtained by Leskowski.
On the day the search warrants were executed, defendant was arrested in the parking lot of the Route 88 Motel as he entered a black Acura that had another individual inside. In room number ten, law enforcement officers found a glass smoking-pipe with cocaine residue, a digital scale with cocaine residue, a .380 caliber semiautomatic handgun, four .380 caliber rounds, a black holster, a plastic bag containing numerous smaller plastic baggies, another scale, and pieces of mail addressed to Steven Ruffin listing the Route 88 Motel as his address.
Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized in connection with the search warrants, arguing that they were not based on probable cause. Defendant also challenged the basis for the no-knock provision. After hearing the arguments of counsel, Judge Wendel E. Daniels denied the motion, articulating his reasons in a memorandum of opinion dated June 26, 2009.
Defendant now appeals, raising the following arguments:
THE ITEMS SEIZED FROM THE MOTEL ROOM MUST BE SUPPRESSED BECAUSE THE AFFIDAVIT DID NOT CONTAIN PROBABLE CAUSE TO SEARCH OR SUFFICIENT BASIS FOR A NO-KNOCK ENTRY.
A. Lack of Probable Cause.
B. Inadequate Basis for No-Knock Entry.
Defendant's arguments lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. See R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Daniels in his memorandum of opinion.
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