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State of New Jersey v. Raheem M. Long

October 18, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
RAHEEM M. LONG, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Criminal Part, Union County, Indictment No. 09-11-0989.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 11, 2012

Before Judges Messano and Kennedy.

Following a jury trial, defendant Raheem Long was found guilty of third-degree distribution of heroin, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and 2C:35-5(b)(3) (Count One); second-degree distribution of heroin within 500 feet of a public housing facility, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 (Count Two); third-degree possession of heroin, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1) (Count Three); third-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and 2C:35-5(b)(3) (Count Four); and second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute within 500 feet of a public housing facility, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 (Count Five).*fn1

The judge granted the State's request to impose a mandatory extended term pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6(f) and sentenced defendant to four years' imprisonment on Count One; a concurrent term of eight years on Count Two; a concurrent term of four years on Count Three; a concurrent term of eight years, with a four-year period of parole ineligibility, on Count Four; and a concurrent term of eight years on Count Five. The appropriate penalties and license suspension were also imposed.

Before us, defendant raises the following arguments:

POINT I

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS THE EVIDENCE AGAINST HIM

POINT II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO REVEAL DETECTIVE STATEN'S

SURVEILLANCE LOCATION AS THE DISCLOSURE OF THE EXACT LOCATION OF THE UNDERCOVER SURVEILLANCE WAS CENTRAL TO THE DEFENDANT'S CASE

POINT III

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR ACQUITTAL NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT AS THE JURY VERDICT WAS AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE AND RESULTED IN A MANIFEST DENIAL OF JUSTICE TO DEFENDANT

POINT IV

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A MISTRIAL

POINT V

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN PERMITTING THE STATE TO PRESENT AN OVERLY SUGGESTIVE HYPOTHETICAL

POINT VI

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S REQUEST TO SUBSTITUTE COUNSEL PRIOR TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF TRIAL

POINT VII

THE SENTENCE IMPOSED ON DEFENDANT'S CONVICTION WAS MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE AND CONSTITUTED AN ABUSE OF DISCRETION

We have considered these arguments in light of the record and applicable legal standards. We affirm.

I.

At a pre-trial evidentiary hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, the State called as its sole witness Plainfield police detective Daniel Staten. At approximately 3:13 p.m. on the afternoon of June 16, 2009, Staten, who had fifteen years experience as a narcotics detective, was in a "confidential surveillance location" in a "very high narcotics area." Staten estimated that he had made 2000 narcotics arrests in the area.

Staten knew defendant, having arrested him "several times before in the past." Staten observed defendant, who was with a small group of individuals near 536 West Second Street, have several conversations with passers-by. After each conversation, defendant would walk away from the group toward some "steps," reach down and pick up a soda can from the sidewalk. Staten observed these individuals exchange cash with defendant and walk away from the area.

Staten saw a car approach the group, and Pinks exited from the driver's side door. Pinks raised two fingers, and defendant motioned for Pinks to join him near the soda can. Staten saw defendant "twist off the top of the can," remove some small item and hand it to Pinks, who gave defendant some "currency." Pinks got back into the car.

Staten radioed for backup assistance. Detective Michael Black stopped Pinks' vehicle and advised Staten that Pinks was in possession of narcotics. Detective Troy Alston also responded, arrested defendant and seized the soda can. Inside were additional bags of narcotics that bore stamped markings identical to those on the two bags seized from Pinks.

The motion judge concluded that Staten was a credible witness, found probable cause for the arrests and seizure of the narcotics and denied the motion. Before us, defendant contends that Staten's testimony lacked credibility because Staten was unable to see the details of the transaction from his location and acknowledged errors in his written report. As a result, ...


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