On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, FJ-07-5110-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Reisner and Alvarez.
Defendant S.T.H., a juvenile, appeals from a February 21, 2008 order adjudicating him as delinquent for offenses that would constitute second-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, if he were an adult. He also appeals from his sentence of thirty months in the Youth Correction Center at Jamesburg. We affirm.
Defendant stole Maria Abreu's pocketbook, during an incident that occurred on June 8, 2007, at a bus stop in Newark.*fn1
According to David Millington, an eyewitness who observed the crime from the window seat of a commuter bus stopped at a red light, defendant snatched the victim's purse. Once defendant obtained possession of the purse, after a ten-second struggle with the victim, he ran to a silver or gray car being driven by an accomplice and climbed into the back seat of the vehicle. According to Millington, the escape appeared to be a "smooth" operation because someone inside the car opened the door for defendant before defendant even attempted to open it.
Millington testified that the victim ran after defendant and climbed onto the hood of the getaway car, which was stationary at the time. After she climbed onto the hood of the car, the driver put the vehicle in motion and began to drive away. The victim fell off the hood of the car and was severely injured. At that point, Millington got off the bus and went to aid the victim, who was lying on the street in a pool of blood.
In an oral opinion placed on the record on December 5, 2007, Judge Cronin found Millington to be one of the most credible witnesses he had ever seen. He concluded that the struggle over the purse was sufficient to elevate the crime to a second-degree robbery: "[T]hat struggling for 10 seconds distinguishes this from a mere purse snatching. This was a struggle in excess of that needed to commit a third degree theft." The judge also found defendant guilty of conspiring with the driver to commit the crime, thereby making defendant liable for the victim's having been thrown off the hood of the car:
[T]he Court will adjudicate [S.T.H.] guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery of Miss Abreu in that the Court finds a concert of action between [S.T.H.] and the unidentified individual who was operating the motor vehicle. The Court finds that circumstantially based upon the arrival of that vehicle while [S.T.H.] was making flight by foot from the scene of his robbery of Miss Abreu.
The non-coincidental opening of the rear door at the time, and then [S.T.H.'s] entry into the back, rear of that door, clearly being circumstantial evidence from which this Court does conclude that there was a concert of action and ...