On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.
Michels and Gaynor. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, P.J.A.D.
Tried to a jury, defendant Abdul Haqq Salaam was convicted of armed robbery, a crime of the first degree, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1. The trial court committed defendant to the custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections for a term of 17 years and assessed a penalty of $25, payable to the Violent Crimes Compensation Board. Defendant appeals.
According to the State's proofs, on the evening of October 18, 1985, Shirley Fennell was working as a cashier at the Cumberland Farms convenience store located at 145 Union Avenue, Irvington, New Jersey. At approximately 9:00 p.m., a man later identified as defendant entered the store, selected a bag of corn chips and approached the register counter behind which Ms. Fennell was working. Defendant, who was standing approximately 2 1/2 feet from Ms. Fennell, handed her a dollar bill. However, when Ms. Fennell opened the register, she noticed that defendant was holding a pistol in his hand.
Defendant directed Ms. Fennell to give him all the 20 dollar bills in the drawer. When she stated that she could not because all bills over $10 in denomination went directly into a drop box, defendant told her to stop kidding and threatened to shoot her if she didn't give him all the money in the register. Ms. Fennell complied and handed over several ten and five dollar bills and a large number of singles which in total she estimated to be less than $75.00. Defendant then exited the store and disappeared from Ms. Fennell's view. The entire episode took approximately five to six minutes.
Ms. Fennell immediately called the Irvington Police Department and related the details of the incident. Before she had finished placing the call, Officer Gary Christie arrived on the scene and asked her for a description of the suspect. Ms. Fennell repeated that the assailant had a mustache and was of "medium height, dark skinned about 150 pounds." She also described the suspect as wearing a dark jacket and dark cap with a small brim. Officer Christie then transmitted a general broadcast of this information over the police radio.
Officers Gary Tola and Edward Gunnerson were on car patrol in the vicinity of Nye Avenue, approximately one half mile away from the Cumberland Farms store, when the description went out at 9:07 p.m. Almost immediately thereafter the officers observed a man with a mustache wearing a dark blue sweatshirt and black cap walking eastward on Nye Avenue. They asked him to stop and he complied. A pat-down of defendant ensued and a toy cap-gun was found in his possession, along with three tens, one five and twenty-seven one dollar bills totaling $62.
Approximately 10 to 12 minutes after the description had been broadcast by Officer Christie, defendant was placed into the squad car and taken immediately to the Cumberland Farms Store for an identification. Officer Tola went into the store where Ms. Fennell and Officer Christie were waiting, while defendant remained in the back seat of the car with Officer
Gunnerson. When Ms. Fennell came out, she looked into the car and positively identified defendant as the man who had robbed her less than one-half hour earlier.
Defendant seeks a reversal of his conviction or, alternatively, a modification of his sentence on the following grounds ...