NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 1, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 09-10-1791.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Stephen P. Hunter, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, of counsel and on the brief).
Andrew C. Carey, Acting Middlesex County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Joie Piderit, Special Deputy Attorney General/ Acting Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief; Matthew Tallia, on the brief).
Before Judges Alvarez and Carroll.
Following a July 2010 jury trial, defendant Alicia Willard appeals her conviction for third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), specifically heroin, N.J.S.A. 2C:35–10a(1) (count one); third-degree possession of CDS (heroin) with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35–5a(1) and -5b(3) (count two); third-degree possession of CDS (heroin) with intent to distribute in a school zone, N.J.S.A. 2C:35–5a and -7 (count three); and third-degree conspiracy, N.J.S.A. 2C:35–5 and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 (count four).
On August 14, 2009, Lieutenant Paul Schuster of the New Brunswick Police Department's (NBPD) Anti-Crime Unit (ACU), was engaged in street surveillance in the area of Lee Avenue and Baldwin Street in New Brunswick. Schuster had positioned his surveillance vehicle on Baldwin Street, in close proximity to its intersection with Lee Avenue.
At around 6:00 p.m., Schuster observed (using binoculars) defendant and co-defendant, Patricia Jeter, approach a silver Honda and engage the driver in conversation. Schuster, who had taken part in several thousand narcotics investigations during his thirty-six years with the NBPD, observed Jeter reach into her pants and pull out what appeared to be a bundle of heroin packets. Jeter then passed the packets to the driver of the vehicle, who in turn passed cash to defendant. The silver Honda then drove away from the scene. Schuster and backup officers unsuccessfully attempted to locate and stop the vehicle, without success.
After meeting with his backup unit, Schuster returned to his original location to search the area for defendant and Jeter. In the interim, Schuster ascertained that both defendant and Jeter had outstanding arrest warrants. Around 8:00 p.m., Schuster and other members of the ACU observed that defendant and Jeter had returned to the same intersection where they had been observed earlier. Defendant and Jeter were then arrested, placed in a police van, and transported to police headquarters.
While being transported in the back of the van, Detective Joshua Alexander noticed that Jeter was squirming in her seat and attempting to reach into her pants. Alexander suspected Jeter was attempting to dispose of contraband, and he advised her to stop squirming. At headquarters, Jeter again began to squirm around, reached into her pants, and threw a bag on the ground containing seven packets of heroin. While searching defendant incident to his arrest, the police found $284 in cash.
Upon considering these proofs, on July 16, 2010, the jury found defendant guilty of all four counts of the indictment. Following an unsuccessful application to drug court, defendant was sentenced to an aggregate prison term of four years with a three-year period of parole ineligibility. This appeal ...