On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 05-06-0880.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Parrillo and S.L. Reisner.
Following a trial by jury, defendant Jalon Lassiter was found guilty of two counts of fourth-degree false swearing, N.J.S.A. 2C:28-2(c). The two convictions were merged and defendant was sentenced to a twelve-month term, consecutive to a twenty-year term he was currently serving. Appropriate fees and penalties were imposed. Defendant appeals, and we affirm.
The matter has its genesis in an armed robbery of a Circle Exxon Service Station in New Brunswick on October 5, 2003, for which defendant, Willie Jarvis, John White, and an unidentified participant were charged. On July 7, 2004, defendant entered into a negotiated agreement in which he pled guilty to the robbery. According to defendant's statement, he and three other individuals robbed the Exxon station with a "rifle-type Ruger." Defendant was not sure whether the gun was operable or not because he had never fired it. Defendant provided the following factual basis under oath:
[DEFENDANT'S ATTORNEY]: Mr. Lassiter, back on October 5th of 2003 were you at the Circle Exxon Service Station on Route 1 North at Route 18 in the City of New Brunswick?
[DEFENDANT'S ATTORNEY]: And what was the purpose of being there?
THE DEFENDANT: To get money. Robbery.
Under the plea agreement, defendant agreed to identify the fourth perpetrator. Consequently, on July 13, 2004, defendant was interviewed by representatives of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office. The interview was taped, and defendant was placed under oath, with counsel present. In his sworn statement, defendant admitted committing the robbery with his friend Tyrell Hicks, Hicks' girlfriend Dana Sklar, and Hicks' cousin "Philly." According to defendant, the four of them drove together to the Exxon station in Dana's car, entered the gas station with masks on, and held-up two Pakistani attendants. Dana held onto the Ruger, which belonged to "Philly." The quartet stole money from the cash register as well as cigarettes and cigars from the counter. All four then fled the scene. In his sworn statement, defendant denied that either Willie Jarvis or John White were with him at the Exxon robbery and, in fact, disclaimed knowing either of them personally, merely by sight.*fn1
Despite the prosecutor's disbelief as to the non-involvement of Jarvis and White, the State did not seek to withdraw from the plea bargain.
In light of defendant's testimony, the prosecutor represented Willie Jarvis' and John White's cases to the grand jury. The grand jury chose to indict Willie Jarvis, but nobilled John White. At Jarvis' April 2005 trial, defendant testified that Jarvis did not participate in the Exxon gas station robbery, nor did he. On his direct examination by Jarvis' attorney, defendant testified:
Q [JARVIS' ATTORNEY]: Now, in exchange for you pleading guilty to these charges [five robberies, one burglary, one theft, and one kidnapping] did you negotiate a sentence with the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office?
A [DEFENDANT]: Yeah, first, actually I wanted to go to trial.
Q [JARVIS' ATTORNEY]: But eventually you pled?
A [DEFENDANT]: They forced me ...