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State v. Vasco

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 30, 2018

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
RAINLIN VASCO, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted March 14, 2017

          Before Judges Espinosa, Suter, and Guadagno

          On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Accusation No. 15-09-0641.

          Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Frank M. Gennaro, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

          Grace H. Park, Acting Union County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Meredith L. Balo, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

          PER CURIAM.

         Defendant Rainlin Vasco appeals his judgment of conviction for fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39- 5(d). We affirm.

         I.

         The following facts are taken from the record. On August 6, 2015, Elizabeth police responded to a report of domestic violence at an apartment occupied by defendant and his mother, R.P. Defendant and N.C. began to date in January 2015. N.C. became pregnant with defendant's child and moved in with defendant and his mother a few weeks before this incident. When N.C. told defendant she wanted to go back to her mother's house, he became angry and grabbed her. N.C. pushed defendant and he "got madder." Defendant took out a knife, started walking toward N.C. and told her he was going to cut her neck "wide open." N.C. yelled for R.P. to come and R.P. took the knife from defendant. Defendant then jumped on N.C. and began punching her in the leg until R.P. pulled him off. R.P. dialed 9-1-1 and defendant ran out of the house before police arrived.

         Defendant was initially charged with simple assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-l(a), third-degree terroristic threats, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3(a), and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d).

         On September 16, 2015, pursuant to a plea agreement, defendant waived his rights to indictment and trial by jury and agreed to plead guilty to an accusation charging him with fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d).

         During his guilty plea allocution, defendant provided the following responses to questions by his counsel:

Q: Mr. Vasco, on August 6, 2015, were you in the City of Elizabeth?
A: Yes, I was.
Q: And on that date, did you possess a knife?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: And was it your understanding that it was against the law to possess that knife?
A: Yes, it was.

         When defendant's counsel indicated he had no further questions, the assistant prosecutor asked to confer with him. Counsel then indicated he had a follow-up question:

Q: And did you - and you didn't have a lawful purpose for that knife, right?
A: I had a lawful - I had a lawful purpose, like, I didn't want to do anything unlawful. I just possessed it.

         The judge then indicated he could not accept the plea because defendant had not presented an adequate factual basis and suggested the parties return after the lunch break.

         When they returned, defendant provided the following responses to his counsel's questions:

Q: Mr. Vasco, on August 6, 2015, you were in the City of Elizabeth, correct?
A: Yes, I was.
Q: And you were in possession of a knife, right?
A: Yes.
Q: And you didn't have a lawful purpose for that knife, right?
A: I did ...

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