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State v. Bowens

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

July 19, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
KEITH BOWENS, Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued January 7, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Indictment No. 09-06-1142.

Peter Blum, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney, Mr. Blum, of counsel and on the brief).

Stephanie Davis Elson, Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent (Gaetano T. Gregory, Acting Hudson County Prosecutor, attorney; Vando Cardoso, Special Deputy Attorney General/ Acting Assistant Prosecutor, on the brief).

Before Judges Graves and Guadagno.

PER CURIAM

Defendant Keith Bowens pled guilty to second-degree possession of a handgun by a prohibited person, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b), and third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) (cocaine), N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10A(1), after his motion to suppress physical evidence was denied. The court sentenced defendant in accordance with the plea agreement to a seven-year prison term with five years of parole ineligibility for the weapons offense, and to a concurrent seven-year term with forty-two months of parole ineligibility for the drug offense. The court also imposed mandatory penalties and assessments. Defendant appeals from the March 29, 2010 order denying his suppression motion. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

During the suppression hearing on March 5 and 19, 2010, the State presented the testimony of Sergeant Thomas McVicar and Officer Dwayne Dowell of the Jersey City Police Department. McVicar testified he met with a confidential informant (CI) on January 18, 2009. The CI advised McVicar that:

[A]n individual known . . . as Weefy was engaged in the distribution of CDS, specifically heroin, and that he was using, and he lived [on] Woodlawn Avenue. He used a maroon minivan that was registered to his girlfriend to make these deliveries. And that . . . Weefy was in possession of a handgun which was in a black case that the confidential informant had seen on at least two occasions inside of [the home].

The CI also told McVicar that "Weefy kept drugs in the home." Based on this information, the police conducted a "background investigation" and "set up surveillance" of the home on Woodlawn Avenue. On cross-examination, McVicar acknowledged "the confidential informant had prior criminal matters that the confidential informant was working off."

On February 18, 2009, McVicar observed defendant leave the house on Woodlawn Avenue and get into a maroon minivan. McVicar said he instructed officers to stop the minivan to corroborate that the driver was "Keith Bowens a/k/a Weefy":

We were conducting [an] investigation and we observed him. Part of the information was that he was operating that minivan. We stopped [it] to confirm that the person operating the minivan was indeed the Keith Bowens a/k/a Weefy who we had been provided information about.
And it goes to . . . corroborating the confidential informant's information that Keith Bowens lives [on] Woodlawn Avenue [and] operates this minivan. We stopped it to insure and to corroborate the CI's information ...

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