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State v. Council

July 17, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
SHAQUANA COUNCIL A/K/A BARBARA COUNCIL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 99-06-2071 and 99-02-0584.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 26, 2009

Before Judges Carchman and Sabatino.

Following a jury trial, defendant Shaquana Council was convicted of first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; fourth- degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d); and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d). On January 21, 2000, after appropriate mergers, Judge Lester sentenced defendant on the robbery charge to a prison term of fifteen years with an 85% period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, together with a concurrent sentence of nine months on the fourth-degree weapons offense and appropriate fines and penalties.*fn1 Defendant appealed, and in an unreported opinion, we affirmed. The Supreme Court denied certification. State v. Council, 171 N.J. 337 (2002).

On August 11, 2005, defendant filed a petition for post- conviction relief (PCR). Following argument, Assignment Judge Costello denied defendant's petition. Defendant appeals, and we affirm.

These are the relevant facts adduced from the record. On February 18, 1999, at approximately 5:30 p.m., Natasha Samantha Mootoo walked from her place of employment, the Footlocker located at 1022 Springfield Avenue in Irvington, to pick up her son from his grandmother's residence on Schuyler Avenue. As she walked along Nye Avenue, she saw defendant across the street "waving at cars." Defendant then crossed the street, caught up with Mootoo and asked her for fifty cents. Mootoo told defendant that she did not have any money.

Mootoo continued walking, and defendant followed. At the corner of Leslie Street and Nye Avenue, defendant came up behind Mootoo, put her arm around Mootoo from the back and brandished a razor in Mootoo's face. Defendant then said "[b]itch, I'm going to cut you." Mootoo told defendant that she did not have any money. A fight ensued, defendant grabbed Mootoo's pocketbook, and Mootoo hit defendant with her umbrella. During the struggle, Mootoo remembers seeing at least three or four people watching, but nobody came to help her. Mootoo then tried to move the struggle into the middle of the street in order to stop traffic and make a commotion since nobody was assisting her.

Eventually, Mootoo saw a police car going by. She ran to the car, began screaming, "[s]top, help me" and the police car stopped. As Mootoo ran towards the police car, defendant let go of the pocketbook and then began walking to the corner of the street. She explained to Officers Eugene Venable and Eric Brown that she "had a bracelet and a watch that just disappeared" and the officers began questioning the onlookers. She pointed to the corner of Dewey Street, one block east of Leslie Street and stated "[t]here's the person that robbed me right there." As Officer Venable walked toward defendant, she began walking away quickly. The officer had gone into a "little jog," but eventually apprehended her. Mootoo then identified her as the woman who had robbed and assaulted her.

Mootoo did not receive her watch or bracelet back. She

suffered a cut on her wrist which resulted in a scar, and some of her hair was cut off during the struggle. The officers on the scene could not locate the razor defendant used to attack the victim. Officer Venable attempted to interview some of the "10, 11 people" at the scene, but "[n]o one wanted to talk."

At trial, defendant indicated that on the day in question she wanted to speak with her sister, who was at a "crack house," and when she arrived at the house, she alleged that Mootoo ran out of the apartment and into the street. Defendant claimed that she was trying to calm the victim down and help her out of the street. Defendant asserted that she was the one who stopped the police car. Despite defendant's assertions, the jury found defendant guilty of all charges.

On her direct appeal, ...


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