On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Indictment Number 05-06-0828.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 15, 2008
Before Judges Fuentes and Grall.
Defendant Tyson G. Coney was tried before a jury and convicted of second-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1a(1), two counts of third-degree theft by unlawful taking, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3a, third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d, fourth-degree credit card theft, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-6c(1), and the disorderly persons offense of simple assault, as a lesser included offense of aggravated assault.
After merging the convictions for simple assault and weapons possession with the second-degree robbery, the court sentenced defendant to a term of seven years, with an eighty-five percent (85%) period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. On the two third-degree theft convictions, the court sentenced defendant to two terms of four years, to run concurrent to each other, and concurrent to the sentence imposed on the robbery conviction. On the conviction for fourth-degree credit card theft, the court imposed a term of 365 days, to be served concurrent with all of the other terms of incarceration. All mandatory fines and penalties are to be assessed cumulatively.
We summarize the following facts from the evidence presented to the jury.
On January 19, 2005, at approximately 2:45 p.m., Maureen Olson was walking to a parking lot on Cattano Avenue in Morristown, New Jersey. A man approached Olson from behind and ripped her pocketbook out of her hands. Although she did not see his face, Olson described the person who took her purse as "pretty much covered from head to toe  about five seven, five eight [inches tall and wearing a] beige jacket  a red bandana wrapped around his face and a ski cap down and gloves." Olson's purse contained a wallet, checkbook, various personal items, and a cell phone. Olson's cell phone provider confirmed that someone had made two calls from her phone after it had been taken.
On January 22, 2005, three days after the Olson incident, Emily Weiss was walking to her car in the same Cattano Avenue parking lot in which the Olson incident occurred. According to Weiss, as she was turning to open her car door, she heard someone say "could you tell me the time." As she turned around to respond, a man*fn1 grabbed her pocketbook from her hands and ran away. Although Weiss could not provide any details about the man's physical appearance, she testified that he was not African American. Weiss's pocketbook contained about $100 in cash, her checkbook, and other personal items.
About two weeks later, on February 5, 2005, shortly after 7:00 p.m., Chentzu Ma was attacked as she walked between parked cars in the same Cattano Avenue parking lot. According to Ma, her assailant struck her in the head and waist, causing her to fall to the ground and drop her purse. Ma was treated at a hospital for a bloody nose and contusions to her head and body.
Her purse contained a paycheck, credit cards, and other personal items.
At the time of the attack on Ma, Virginia Wagner was walking in the area of the Cattano Avenue parking lot when she heard a woman yelling "help." Wagner then saw "a young man [run] out from the vicinity of where [the woman] was yelling, and [run] across the street. He was holding something under his arm and he had dropped a bag on the ground." Wagner described this person as "a young black male  over five foot seven  wearing baggy dark jeans and a [black] do-rag on his head  and a puffy jacket."
Morristown Detective Michael Buckley was dispatched to investigate the assault on Ma. While at the scene, he noticed a black plastic bag on the ground of the parking lot, containing a full Steel Reserve brand beer can.*fn2
Detective Buckley immediately suspected that the Ma incident was connected with the two previous incidents involving Olson and Weiss. Upon speaking with Olson and her husband, Buckley learned that someone had used Olson's stolen cell phone after the theft. Following up on this information, Buckley obtained three residential addresses: two in Morristown and one in Wharton, New Jersey, each ...