NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 30, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 11-06-0960.
Cobos, Ellington, Maduabum & McKenzie, LLC, attorneys for appellant (Michael L. Ellington, II, of counsel and on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Jennifer E. Kmieciak, Deputy Attorney General, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Fuentes, Fasciale and Haas.
After the trial court denied his motion to suppress evidence, defendant Sean Edwards pled guilty to third-degree attempt to endanger the welfare of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4a and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1. In accordance with the negotiated plea, the judge sentenced defendant to parole supervision for life. Appropriate fines and penalties were also assessed. We affirm.
Judge Bradley Ferencz conducted a four-day suppression hearing; listened to testimony from three police officers, Erwin Enriquez, Sean Meade, and John Canavera, and two lay witnesses, Jacob Grieff and Marta Edwards; and then denied defendant's motion. We discern the following facts from the testimony adduced at the hearing.
At approximately 2:30 p.m. on June 30, 2010, the Edison Township Police Department received a 9-1-1 call from a parent, who reported that a man had attempted to lure her fourteen-year old daughter into a van on Whitman Avenue. The parent described the man as "a Hispanic male with a scruffy beard in a light blue van." Officer Enriquez responded to the emergency call. When he arrived, he spoke to the parent and the child, who "pointed out a blue van" in a parking lot outside of a business. Officer Enriquez pulled his patrol car behind the van and approached it on foot. The driver, who was later identified as defendant, had a GPS device in his hand and did not immediately notice the officer. Officer Enriquez asked defendant what he was doing and defendant "stated he was lost." The officer asked for identification and defendant provided it.
A few minutes later, Officer Meade arrived at the scene. He noticed there were four or five individuals standing within twenty feet of the van. Officer Enriquez gave Officer Meade defendant's credentials and the two officers then walked back to the van. Defendant "asked why he was stopped, " and Officer Meade told him that the child had alleged he had attempted to get her to "climb inside" the van. Defendant denied being involved in the incident.
Officer Meade asked defendant to get out of the van because "[i]t's easier . . . to speak to him face-to-face rather than him up in the van and me on the ground." As defendant opened the van door to comply, Officer Meade observed "a light green . . . Tiffany's bag" on the floor of the van near defendant's feet. The officer also "saw sticking out of the open Tiffany's bag a little part of a pink pill." Based upon his training, Officer Meade believed the pill to be ecstasy, a controlled dangerous substance (CDS).
After defendant got out of the van, Officer Meade noticed "a large bulge" in defendant's front pocket. The officer patted defendant down for weapons. The bulge was money defendant had put in his pocket. No weapons were found. Defendant was handcuffed and placed in a patrol car. However, Officer Meade testified defendant was not under arrest at that point.
By that time, Officer Aldahondo had arrived at the scene. Officer Enriquez stayed with defendant and Officer Meade and Officer Aldahondo returned to the van to retrieve the CDS. Officer Meade removed the Tiffany's bag. Under the bag, he found two condoms, which he also took from the van. The bag ...