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State v. Williams

June 19, 2002


Argued February 26, 2002 - Decided June 19, 2002 On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.


The issue in this appeal is whether the mandatory joinder rule should have barred a second prosecution against defendant, Edmond Williams.

On June 10, 1998, as part of an undercover investigation in Atlantic City by the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office, Investigator D.W. Fashaw purchased twenty dollars worth of cocaine from defendant. After the transaction, defendant rode away on a bicycle. Fashaw returned to the location of the surveillance team, comprised of nine officers from the Atlantic City Narcotics Section, and described the transaction, at the same time identifying a photograph of defendant. Subsequently, members of the surveillance team proceeded to pursue defendant. Following a chase and a struggle, defendant was arrested. A search of defendant revealed a glassine bag with what was later identified as cocaine and the marked twenty-dollar bill used by Fashaw in the earlier drug purchase.

These events produced two indictments. In the first indictment, defendant was charged with possession of cocaine and resisting arrest. On September 11, 1998, defendant pled to one count and was sentenced on December 4, 1998, to 180 days of incarceration and two years of probation. A second indictment was returned on November 25, 1998, by an Atlantic County Grand Jury, charging defendant with drug possession and distribution of cocaine in connection with Fashaw's purchase. Defendant moved to dismiss the second indictment claiming that it should have been joined with the first.

The trial court denied defendant's motion to dismiss, concluding that defendant failed to satisfy the mandatory joinder requirement that the offenses in both indictments arise from the same "episode;" that the joinder rule was inapplicable because the indictment did not result in a trial; and that defendant suffered no prejudice from two indictments. Ultimately, defendant pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement, was sentenced to a five-year term of incarceration, and awarded thirty-seven days of gap-time credit for time served. Defendant appealed based on the denial of his motion to dismiss the second indictment and the calculation of gap-time credit.

The Appellate Division affirmed on both issues. On the joinder issue, the panel agreed that the two indictments were not part of the same episode. Also, the panel reasoned that defendant was not prejudiced because he reasonably could have expected to be indicted separately for the initial drug sale.

The Supreme Court granted defendant's petition for certification.

HELD: Defendant has satisfied all of the requirements of the mandatory joinder rule, including the requirement that the indictments arise out of the same episode. The judgment of the Appellate Division is reversed.

1. In State v. Gregory, 66 N.J. 510 (1975), the Court adopted the mandatory joinder ru le barring separate trials for multiple offenses that are known to the prosecuting attorney, when the offenses are based essentially on the same conduct or arise from the same criminal episode. In response to Gregory, Rule 3:15-1(b) and N.J.S.A. 2C:1-8(b) were enacted. Four factors must be satisfied in order for multiple offenses to be joined in one prosecution: (1) the multiple offenses are criminal; (2) the offenses are based on the same conduct or arose out of the same episode; (3)

the appropriate prosecuting officer knew of the offenses at the time the first trial commenced; and (4) the offenses were within the jurisdiction and venue of a single court. State v. Yoskowitz,116 N.J. 679 (1989). (Pp. 7-9)

2. The only Yoskowitz factors that are in dispute in this matter are whether the offenses involved the "same episode" and whether the appropriate prosecuting officer knew of the offenses at the start of the first trial. (P. 9)

3. The facts in Gregory are substantially like those presented here and support viewing defendant's second indictment as part of the same criminal episode that was involved in his first indictment. In addition, under the "flexible" approach discussed in some cases since Gregory, heightened significance is accorded to the time and place of the offense, and whether one offense is part of a larger scheme. Under that approach, defendant's offenses were close in time and location and were part of defendant's overall criminal actions relating to his sale of cocaine that day. Holding that defendant's offenses were part of the "same episode" accords with considerations of fairness and defendant's reasonable expectations. (Pp. 9-15)

4 The prosecutor-knowledge prong of the Yoskowitz test also is satisfied. It is the responsibility of each county prosecutor to direct and supervise the investigations and prosecutions conducted by his or her office in such a way as to avoid interference with a defendant's right to be free of the "harassment" and "oppression" of a second trial on offenses relating to the same episode. Even if the trial prosecutor responsible for the prosecution of defendant's first indictment did not know about the undercover sale, we hold that such knowledge should be imputed to her. (Pp. 15- 17)

The judgment of the Appellate Division is REVERSED and the matter is REMANDED to the Law Division for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LaVECCHIA, J.

Argued February 26, 2002

This appeal involves the application of our mandatory joinder rule to two prosecutions brought against defendant, Edmond Williams. Defendant sold cocaine to an undercover officer in Atlantic City. Minutes later, as officers approached him, ...

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