Two burglars tied to the infamous James Bond Gang are headed to state prison for at least 7½ and eight years, respectively, for leading police on a wild chase after breaking into two Nutley homes.
Citing an “epidemic of burglaries in Bergen County,” Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Roma gave Hakeem Chance of Hackensack a 17½-year term while giving 15½ years to his alleged mentor, Dammen McDuffie of Englewood.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor David Calviello called McDuffie, 40, the “virtual poster child” of a persistent offender and “the very type of criminal the legislature had in mind when it wrote the extended term law.”
“This defendant was 18 when he committed his first felony offense, and he hasn’t stopped since,” Calviello said. “He has 20 felony convictions, including these two.”
They also include a conviction alongside Daniel “Tokyo” Gatson, a onetime member of the Bond gang of burglars, who drove a tricked-out BMW with special compartments for hiding stolen goods, high-intensity lights to blind pursuers and a jet that spewed oil.
McDuffie is still facing an attempted robbery charge in another case, Calviello said.
“His chosen career: I’m going to get up in the morning, I’m going to go out and commit burglaries,and then I’m going to live a high-end lifestyle with a fancy car and nice clothes and go to Atlantic City all the time — which is what he does,” the assistant prosecutor said.
Chance, 24, had two felony convictions — both before he turned 20 — and first got into trouble when he was 12, Calviello said.
Jurors in April convicted Chance and McDuffie on just about every count in connection with the two burglaries and chase involving officers and detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and Englewood, Fort Lee, Hackensack and Teaneck police departments.
Prosecutors told jurors during the 11-day trial that Chance was driving his mother’s BMW during the July 2012 pursuit 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, 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 was found and arrested nearby.
Arochas later identified McDuffie 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.
In sentencing them, Roma rejected both defense attorneys’ arguments about burglary not being a violent crime.
“There’s an epidemic of burglaries in Bergen County — day, night,” the judge said. “Something has to be done about it, the public has to be protected.”
Roma said he hears victims every week “describing the trauma of having your house violated, of the lasting feelings of fear.
“Things that have sentimental value cannot be replaced. It’s a crime that affects people.”
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.