On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment No. 06-02-0361.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 11, 2009
Before Judges Waugh and Newman.
Eddie Lamar Hall appeals his conviction for second-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, and the resulting twenty-year, mandatory extended term of imprisonment, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.1(b), subject to eighty-five percent parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. Hall was acquitted on one count and does not challenge his conviction on the four other counts from the same indictment. We affirm.
The facts of the case are gleaned from the testimony presented at trial.
On October 6, 2005, at about 1:00 a.m., Kulwinder Multani was working at a gas station located at the corner of Brighton and West Sylvania Avenues in Neptune City. He was approached by Hall, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up. There was conflicting testimony at trial as to what happened next.
Multani testified that, at this point, Hall walked behind him and held a gun to his waist and said, "Give me all the money." Hall testified that he just walked up to Multani and demanded money and informed Multani that he was not going to hurt him. Both testified that Multani immediately gave Hall approximately $200 and that Hall also took Multani's cell phone out of his pocket. Hall testified on cross-examination that Multani seemed afraid of him during the exchange. Hall then ran across the street to the Brighton Arms apartment complex parking lot, where he got into a vehicle and drove away.
Neptune City Police Sergeant John Matthews was on duty that evening and had parked his marked patrol car so that he had a view of the gas station. He witnessed Hall approach the gas station and then subsequently run to the apartment complex, get into the vehicle, and drive away. Matthews then saw one of the gas station attendants waving and trying to signal the other attendant. Matthews notified dispatch and followed Hall.
In the course of the pursuit, Hall crashed the car and then fled on foot. Hall was apprehended shortly thereafter. Lieutenant Robert Kepler came to the scene of the crash, entered the vehicle to turn off the ignition, and discovered a pack of cigarettes which contained a folded dollar bill that had cocaine inside.
After his apprehension, Hall told Matthews that he wanted to make a deal. Matthews informed Hall of his Miranda*fn1 rights. Hall's discussion with Matthews during the car ride to the police station was recorded. At some point during the discussion, Hall told Matthews that, as he had approached Multani, he poked his finger against his sweatshirt as if he had a gun.
Detective James Isacson interviewed Hall once he arrived at the police station. Isacson again reviewed Hall's Miranda rights with him. Isacson told Hall he was concerned for the safety of the public because Hall had used a gun during the robbery and disposed of it prior to his apprehension. Hall initially denied having a gun, but then informed Isacson that there was no need to worry because it was a toy gun. He also told Isacson that he would show him where he had disposed of the toy gun, but his assistance was unnecessary because Detective James Clayton had recovered approximately $58 and a black toy gun along the route of the pursuit shortly after Hall's apprehension.
During the interrogation, Hall demonstrated for Isacson how he pulled the toy gun out of his pocket during the exchange with Multani. At trial, Hall testified that the statements and demonstration were made in error and that he never actually showed Multani the toy gun.
On February 22, 2006, Hall was indicted on six counts: third-degree theft of movable property (automobile), N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3(a) (count I); first-degree armed robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count II); fourth-degree unlawful possession of an imitation firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(e) (count III); second-degree eluding an officer, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b) (count IV); fourth-degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(a)(2) (count V); and third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1) (count VI).
Prior to trial, defense counsel moved to suppress Hall's two video-taped statements. The trial judge found that Hall knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights prior to both statements and denied the motion. That decision is not challenged on appeal.
Hall was tried by a jury over four days in October 2006. At the trial, Hall testified in his own defense. He admitted that he had taken the money and cell phone from Multani. Hall testified that, although he did have a fake gun in his possession, he never used or simulated using it during the robbery. The basic premise of Hall's defense was that, because he already had two first-degree convictions, he would never have committed a first-degree ...