On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union and Middlesex Counties, Indictment Nos. 08-08-0746 and 08-06-1014.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 25, 2012
Before Judges Messano and Lihotz.
We have consolidated these appeals for the purpose of issuing a single opinion.
In A-1049-10, defendant Stanley Cooper appeals from the denial of his motion to suppress: 1) evidence seized from the trunk of a vehicle owned by his sister, Love Cooper; and, 2) a subsequent statement he made to Woodbridge Township police officers. After those motions were denied, defendant pled guilty to eight counts of first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, contained in five indictments returned by the Middlesex County grand jury, as well as a single count of second-degree possession of a firearm by certain persons, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b), in a sixth indictment.
Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, the State agreed to dismiss the remaining counts of these six indictments, dismiss several additional indictments in their entirety and recommend an aggregate sentence of thirty years' imprisonment with an 85% period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. Additionally, defendant preserved his right to appeal the denial of his motions to suppress, and the State agreed that, if he "was successful on [his] appeal," defendant's guilty pleas would be vacated. Defendant was subsequently sentenced in accordance with the terms of the plea agreement.
Defendant raises the following points for our consideration:
BECAUSE THE SEARCH OF THE CHEVY LUMINA CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED UNDER THE INEVITABLE-DISCOVERY DOCTRINE, THE ITEMS SEIZED BY POLICE SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUPPRESSED
THE EVIDENCE RECOVERED FROM THE TRUNK AND DEFENDANT'S STATEMENT TO THE WOODBRIDGE POLICE ARE INADMISSIBLE AS FRUIT OF THE ILLEGAL POLICE CONDUCT*fn1
We have considered these arguments in light of the record and applicable legal standards. We reverse that portion of the order that denied defendant's motion to suppress physical evidence seized from the trunk of the car pursuant to Love Cooper's consent; we affirm that portion of the same order that denied defendant's motion to suppress the statement he gave to the police. Because the parties agreed that defendant's guilty pleas would be vacated if he was successful on appeal, we remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
As to A-1048-10, defendant appeals the denial of his motion to suppress certain statements he made to Linden and Rahway police officials. In Union County, defendant pled guilty to eleven counts of first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, and one count of second-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, contained in Indictment No. 08-08-00746.
Pursuant to the plea agreement, the State agreed to dismiss all remaining counts of the indictment and recommend an aggregate sentence of thirty years' imprisonment with an 85% period of parole ineligibility pursuant to NERA, concurrent to any sentence defendant received in Middlesex County. Defendant preserved his right to appeal the denial of his motion and was subsequently sentenced in accordance with the terms of the plea agreement.
Defendant raises the following issue for our consideration:
DEFENDANT'S STATEMENTS TO THE LINDEN AND RAHWAY POLICE ARE INADMISSIBLE AS FRUIT OF THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL ARREST AND SEARCH CONDUCTED BY THE WOODBRIDGE POLICE
We have considered the argument in light of the record and applicable legal standards. We affirm.
At the pre-trial hearing before the Law Division judge in Middlesex County, Woodbridge police officer Carlos Villegas testified that while on patrol at 2:06 a.m. on March 8, 2008, he and his partner, Officer Benigno, received a radio dispatch of an armed robbery in progress at the Quick Chek on Gill Lane.*fn2 Villegas was approximately two miles away from the store and immediately drove toward it.
Villegas was told that the robber, described as a black male wearing dark clothes and a dark ski mask, drove away in a white Chevy Lumina toward Route One. Within minutes, at the intersection of Route One and Gill Lane, Villegas observed a white Chevy Lumina exiting the parking lot of a shopping center. Turning his car around, Villegas drove behind the Lumina, radioed headquarters that he was "going to conduct a felony motor vehicle stop" and requested "a back-up car." When Officers Patrick Harris and Edward Barrett arrived to follow in their police vehicle, Villegas activated his car's emergency lights and sirens.
The Lumina pulled into the parking lot of a Dunkin' Donuts store. Defendant was driving the car. Using the public address system in his police vehicle, Villegas ordered all four occupants out of the Lumina, one at a time, starting with defendant. As defendant followed Villegas's commands, placed the car keys on the roof of the car, and walked backwards toward the police car, Benigno handcuffed him, searched him for weapons and placed him in the backseat of the police vehicle. Villegas repeated this procedure with the front-seat passenger, Love Cooper, who owned the Lumina, and the two rear-seat passengers, Danny Cooper and Tabitha Lee. Other patrol cars had arrived at the scene and each occupant of the Lumina was handcuffed, frisked and placed in a different patrol car. No weapons were ...