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Driver in botched Ridgefield Park undercover drug deal wants trial

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

ONLY ON CVP: The driver in a scheme to rob an undercover narcotics officer is headed to trial next week after turning down a final plea offer from prosecutors.

Yohan Balcacer of East Elmhurst, N.Y., was in a separate car, backing up two associates who met with the officer in the parking lot of a Ridgefield Park hotel in October 2011 for what was supposed to be a $100,000 heroin deal, authorities said.

The accused leader of the ring — Jose Rodriguez of Union City — was talking with him when accomplice Ronald Green of Queens got out of the lead car and put a gun to the officer’s head, prosecutors said.

Backup units quickly moved in and arrested Rodriguez, Green, and a fourth co-defendant, Brandon Seegar of Manhattan, who was sitting in the back seat of Green’s car.

Suddenly, Balcacer hit the gas of his Toyota Camry, which barreled toward the officers and suspects, then hit several cars as he fled onto heavily trafficked Route 46 East, authorities said.

Ridgefield Park and Leonia police chased him across the Hudson River into New York City, where he vanished.

They caught him the next morning in Queens.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor James Santulli made one last attempt at a plea deal yesterday, offering a 15-year sentence.

Rodriguez already has cut a deal with prosecutors and agreed to testify against Balcacer at a trial, Santulli ( bottom, left ) told Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi.

Green was convicted on 14 of 16 counts and is awaiting sentencing. Seegar skipped bail and remains a fugitive.

Defense attorney Genesis Peduto said Balcacer refused Santulli’s offer even though she said she would argue for 10 years at his sentencing.

Balcacer insisted that he didn’t directly participate in the robbery, to which DeAvila-Silebi carefully explained the concept of accomplice liability and conspiracy.

“I’m sure you are a very intelligent man,” she told Balcacer. “I’m going to give you a very simple example that you’ll be able to understand:

“Two people are going to rob a bank. One of them goes into the bank with a mask and a gun, and the other waits about five blocks away. They get arrested.  Even though only one went into the bank, they are both guilty.”

The judge also addressed Balcacer’s behavior the night of the aborted drug deal.

“The jury will be told any time someone flees the police, that’s evidence of guilt,” DeAvila-Silebi said.

The selection of those jurors is set to begin Tuesday morning.

STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

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