TRENTON - Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a drug dealer from Salem County was sentenced to state prison today following his conviction at trial on a first-degree drug charge.
Eric Smith Jr., 26, of Penns Grove, N.J., was sentenced today to 25 years in state prison, including 12 years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Robert G. Malestein in Salem County. Smith was found guilty on April 17, 2019 following a jury trial of first-degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The jury deadlocked on additional charges. The judge imposed an extended-term sentence because Smith has prior drug and weapons convictions.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa M. Rastelli tried the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. She was assisted at trial by Detectives Jeffrey Mazzoni and Andrew Silipino, who were the lead detectives for the New Jersey State Police.
The New Jersey State Police Violent & Organized Crime Control Bureau, Trafficking South Unit, developed information in early 2016 that Smith was distributing drugs in and around Salem City. Smith was arrested by the State Police on April 11, 2016, outside an apartment in Pilesgrove where he stayed. At the time of his arrest, Smith had a bag containing about a quarter kilogram of cocaine in his jacket. When troopers searched the apartment, they found a safe containing about 169 grams of dibutylone (“bath salts”), three handguns, bullets, a digital scale, and rubber gloves.
Smith faces pending charges filed by the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office, including attempted murder, aggravated assault, and weapons offenses, in connection with an incident on Jan. 23, 2019, when he allegedly fired a gun at members of the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force as officers attempted to arrest him on warrants at an apartment building in Salem City. One officer returned fire, but no one was struck. The gunfire led to a three-hour standoff with police that ended when Smith surrendered.
“The extended-term sentence imposed today ensures that Smith will spend many years in prison,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Each guilty verdict we secure against a criminal like Smith makes our residents safer.”
“We will continue to partner with the New Jersey State Police to remove drug dealers like Smith from our communities,” said Director Veronica Allende of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. “I commend our trial attorney and the detectives responsible for securing this conviction and sentence.”
“This extended-term sentence is the product of our troopers and partners, who work tirelessly gathering intelligence and evidence to not only remove drug peddlers from our communities, but to keep them out for years to come,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. “We will continue to aggressively target and arrest those who seek to profit from the misery and societal instability caused by drug addiction.”
Deputy Attorney General Rastelli prosecuted the case under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis and Deputy Bureau Chief Erik Daab of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Attorney General Grewal commended those attorneys and all of the members of the New Jersey State Police who conducted the investigation.
John P. Morris, Esq., of Bridgeton, N.J.