On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 07-08-01212.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 9, 2010
Before Judges Carchman and Graves.
Following a jury trial, defendant Joseph Edwards was convicted of second-degree conspiracy to commit armed robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2; second-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; and third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b). The trial judge sentenced defendant to an aggregate seven-year term of imprisonment subject to an eighty-five percent period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, together with statutory fines and penalties.
These are the relevant facts adduced at trial. According to co-defendant Wayne Ward*fn1 who testified as a State's witness, on April 24, 2007, at approximately 10:00 p.m., defendant and Ward found themselves without money and decided to commit a robbery to secure funds to buy gas for defendant's car. Defendant informed Ward that there was an unloaded gun in the trunk of the car. After retrieving the gun and realizing that they had no ammunition, defendant and Ward decided to "get some females."
That same evening, at approximately 11:30 p.m., Katelyn Velasco, Melissa Nagy and Jessica DiCristina, students at Rutgers University who were returning from Newark Airport, parked their car on the corner of Delafield Avenue and Hartwell Avenue in New Brunswick. They proceeded to walk the four blocks to their apartment when, upon entering Guilden Street, Nagy observed a tan vehicle. Defendant and Ward exited the vehicle and cornered DiCristina, who had become separated from Nagy and Velasco, whereupon defendant shoved a gun into DiCristina's waist while Ward grabbed her and took her pocketbook. Defendant and Ward then fled to the vehicle with the gun and pocketbook and drove off. Velasco, in possession of a cell phone, proceeded to call 911 and described the car and defendants to the dispatcher.
After being dispatched to the scene of the robbery, New Brunswick Police Officer Amish Shah observed a tan vehicle proceed through a stop sign. As the vehicle passed the officer, he observed that the passenger matched the description of the suspects involved in the robbery. The officer signaled Wade to stop, but the vehicle sped up instead. Wade told defendant to discard the gun, and defendant threw the gun out of the driver's side window. Officer Michael Negveskey, backing up Officer Shah, observed a black object come out of the vehicle's window and later determined that it was an unloaded handgun.
The vehicle was stopped, and defendants were ordered to exit. After a search of the vehicle, a white purse was recovered. Within fifteen minutes, DiCristina and Velasco were driven to defendant's vehicle, and Velasco identified defendant and Ward as the men who robbed DiCristina.
Defendant testified on his own behalf and contradicted the testimony of Ward. According to defendant, he neither planned the robbery with Ward nor saw or handled the gun used in the robbery. He denied that he threw it out of the car window.
He disputed Ward's account of the events leading up to the robbery and claimed that Ward, without warning, pulled the car to the side of the road and told defendant to "walk with me." He claimed that Ward stopped DiCristina and cornered her. He further denied any discussion of robbing anyone and did not know that Ward had a gun until he placed it against DiCristina's waist. Finally, he asserted that Ward threw the gun out of the car.
On appeal, defendant raises the following issues:
THE STATE FAILED TO PROVE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT THAT THE DEFENDANT WAS GUILTY OF CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT ARMED ROBBERY AND ROBBERY; MAKING THE VERDICT ...