YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Jurors today convicted two Bergen County men on just about every count in connection with a pair of burglaries and a chase that involved officers and detectives from the prosecutor’s office, Englewood, Fort Lee, Hackensack and Teaneck.
Driver Hakeem Chance, 22, was convicted on all counts.
Dammen McDuffie, 39, was convicted on all but one count of destroying evidence and another of aggravated resisting arrest. He was nonetheless found guilty of resisting.
A judge ordered McDuffie returned to jail. He’d been free on a monitoring bracelet since February 2013. Chance remained jailed.
Sentencing was scheduled for June 27.
Prosecutors told jurors during the 11-day trial that Chance was driving his mother’s BMW during the July 2012 chase through Nutley and parts of Bloomfield and Little Falls before the car slammed into a brick wall in front of a hilltop house in Montclair.
The last couple of miles were “driven on steel” after the car hit a curb as Chance made a steep left, shredding the front tire on his side, Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor David Calviello said.
According to Calviello, the area was illuminated, and Detective Johnathan Arcohas saw McDuffie “looking out the passenger side, directly at him.”
“What does McDuffie do?” Calviello continued. “He climbed over Chance through the air bags, out the driver’s side door. He didn’t surrender. He took flight and ran as fast as he could down the hill, through a yard, through a vast, dark meadow – into brush six to eight feet high.”
“Chance, having been stepped over, climbed out. He refused all commands and ‘beat feet’ the other way, through another thick, brushy meadow,” the assistant prosecutor said.
Chance, of Hackensack, was found and arrested nearby.
Arochas later identified McDuffie, of Englewood, through his driver’s license photo via the state motor vehicle database, Calviello said.
Defense attorney Vincent Basile, representing Chance, told jurors that the prosecutor’s case has a fundamental weakness because investigators didn’t recover any stolen property from either house.
“With all of this technology, why didn’t they find the stuff?” he asked. “They can show you block-by-block the route the car took. With all this technology, I suggest to you, they should have been able to find it.”
Frank Carbonetti, representing McDuffie, told jurors that his client “suffered a nightmare” since his arrest a few days after the burglaries and was in “shock and awe” at how police treated him.
“The cops confront you, treat you like an animal, and you’re just supposed to say ‘OK’?” Carbonetti asked.
No fingerprints or DNA belonging to McDuffie were found at either house, Carbonetti added. What’s more, he said, the GPS data pinpointing the location of Chance’s car says William Street and not Dubois Court, where he lives.
Carbonetti challenged the contention that an officer saw his client in the BMW before he purportedly jumped over Chance following the crash.
Both defendants were convicted of separate counts of burglary.
Chance was also convicted of a dozen criminal charges related to the chase — among them, include reckless driving, creating a risk of death or injury, eluding capture and attempting to injure no fewer than eight officers.
Chance has prior arrests for assault, theft and weapons, as well as pending burglary charges out of Teaneck.
McDuffie has been arrested in five separate New Jersey counties: Bergen, Essex, Morris, Middlesex and Somerset. Although several of those cases were downgraded, dismissed or not pursued, he pleaded guilty in four different theft cases and in one of showing false indentification.
PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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