On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Indictment No. 06-06-0773.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: March 25, 2009
Before Judges Cuff and Fisher.
A jury found defendant Raylewis George Hughes, Jr., guilty of first degree attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) (Count One); second degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1) (Count Three); third degree possession of a weapon (scissors) for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d (Count Four); fourth degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d (Count Six); and fourth degree criminal mischief, N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3a(2) (Count Eight). These charges arise from an attack by defendant on the person with whom he stayed on occasion. At sentencing, after merging Counts Three, Four and Six with Count One, the judge imposed an extended term of forty years subject to the No Early Release Act (NERA)*fn1 85% parole disqualifier. On Count Eight, the judge imposed a consecutive term of eighteen months subject to a nine-month period of parole ineligibility. The appropriate fines and assessments were also imposed.
Ben Sattely is a fifty-seven year old handyman at the Jacob Ford Village in Morristown. In 2006, he had resided alone in Morristown for the past six years. He befriended defendant Hughes about six or seven years before and "never had any problems with [defendant]." Sometime during the evening hours of Friday, February 10, 2006, defendant came to Sattely's residence and spoke with Sattely apparently after having an argument with a girlfriend and needing a place to stay. At some point defendant left Sattely's residence and was told not to return if Sattely was sleeping. Prior to his departure, defendant was annoyed when Sattely refused to allow defendant to use his phone.
In fact, Sattely's mother spoke with her son about 10 p.m. that evening and heard her son address another person named Ray. Based upon the tone of her son's voice, Sattely's mother deduced that someone was being "pushy" towards her son and it seemed as if the other person wanted him to get off the phone.
Sattely went to sleep but he was awakened in the early morning hours of Saturday, February 11, 2006, by defendant's "racket." Sattely went downstairs, observed defendant at the door, and allowed him to enter. As Sattely sat down on the couch and lit a cigarette, defendant grabbed a pair of scissors and began stabbing Sattely throughout his body. Sattely was stunned by defendant's attack, but eventually disarmed him.
Defendant then grabbed what Sattely believed to be a hammer and struck the victim on the head with this object. The attack stopped only when Sattely played dead by holding his breath and lying still. When Sattely was sure defendant had left the house, he called 9-1-1 and reported the attack.
On admission to the hospital, a trauma physician discovered five lacerations in the victim's scalp totaling twelve centimeters (five inches) in length. One of these lacerations cut an artery. On his face, there were two cuts; one on the nose, the other on his left cheek. There were three lacerations on his chest and a three centimeter laceration on his left forearm. There was also a small laceration on his neck. Due to profuse bleeding, the victim's blood pressure plummeted and he required two units of blood and four liters of fluids to stabilize his blood pressure. Sattely spent approximately one month in the hospital and one month in rehabilitation.
Police responded to the scene. As Officer Sean O'Hare of the Morris Township Police Department headed to the area of Western Avenue, he observed and stopped defendant. The officer observed fresh blood on defendant's boots or shoes. Defendant appeared very agitated and tense. Although it was very cold, defendant was sweating profusely.
Detective Brendan Briscoe of the Morristown Police Department heard that a Morris Township officer had detained defendant and responded to that location. He, too, observed that defendant appeared "hot and sweaty" and noted what appeared to be blood on defendant's pants and boots. These items were ultimately seized as evidence. The State submitted forensic evidence at trial that established that the blood found on defendant's clothing and on scissors found at the victim's home belonged to the victim.
Briscoe placed defendant under arrest and started to place him in his vehicle. While this occurred, an ambulance passed and defendant became irate. He asked the detective where the ambulance was headed. Defendant asked if the ambulance was going to "Ben's house." Defendant was still agitated and "irate." Defendant was placed in the police vehicle with his hands cuffed behind his back. He laid down in the back seat of the patrol car and started to kick the rear window and protective metal grate of the vehicle.
After being subdued, defendant was transported to police headquarters. On arrival, Briscoe was able to confirm that defendant's boots and pants were splattered with blood. While defendant was being processed at the police ...