On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 07-03-0485.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 7, 2010
Before Judges Parrillo, Yannotti and Skillman.
Appellant filed a pro se supplemental brief.
A jury found defendant guilty of two counts of carjacking, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2(a)(4); one count of carjacking, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2(a)(2); first-degree robbery, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; second-degree kidnapping, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1(b); possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d); unlawful possession of a weapon, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d); and possession of heroin, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1). The trial court sentenced defendant to extended terms of life imprisonment without eligibility for parole under N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.1(a), sometimes referred to as the Three Strikes Law, see State v. Parks, 192 N.J. 483, 484 (2007), for each of the carjackings; a twenty-year term of imprisonment, subject to the 85% period of parole ineligibility mandated by the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, for the robbery; a ten-year term of imprisonment, with five years of parole ineligibility, for the kidnapping; a five-year term of imprisonment, with two-and-a-half years of parole ineligibility, for possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose; and a five-year term of imprisonment, with two-and-a-half years of parole ineligibility, for the drug offense. The court merged defendant's conviction for unlawful possession of a weapon into his conviction for possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
The crimes for which the jury convicted defendant were committed in the late afternoon and early evening on October 30, 2006. The victim, N.A., was caring for her two-year-old sister, M.D., while working alone at her family's business in Atlantic City. Upon leaving the store at 5:30 p.m., N.A. placed M.D. in the backseat of her car. N.A. then returned to the store to lock the front door. As she arrived back at her car, she saw a man, later identified as defendant, walking next to the car.
N.A. asked defendant if she could help him. In response, defendant brandished a silver-bladed knife and told N.A. to give him her bag "and he wouldn't have to spill [her blood]."
After N.A. gave defendant her bag, he entered the backseat of the car next to M.D. Defendant then climbed into the front seat and ordered N.A. to drive to Pleasantville, giving her directions to a housing development where defendant ordered N.A. to stop her car and turn off the engine. There, with a knife still in his hand, defendant ordered N.A. to take off her clothing. "[I]n tears and scared and shaking," N.A. took off her clothing while defendant repeatedly stabbed the front console of the car with his knife. Defendant then asked N.A. what she thought he should do with her. In tears, N.A., in an attempt to convince defendant to let her go, lied to defendant that she had been raped at age fourteen and now had AIDS.
Defendant told N.A. to put her clothes back on, but, in a rush to do so, she neglected to put on her underpants, leaving them behind in her car.
After N.A. redressed, defendant told her to start the car and return to Atlantic City. N.A. drove to an apartment building parking lot in Atlantic City, where defendant ordered the victims out of the car. Defendant then drove away with N.A.'s car.
N.A. encountered a pedestrian, who helped her to a store, where she called 9-1-1. When Atlantic City Police Officer Andrew Leonard responded to this 9-1-1 call at approximately 6:30 p.m., he was met by the victim, N.A., who told him she had been carjacked and kidnapped. N.A. described her assailant as a "black male, approximately twenty-five to thirty years old," who was wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt. N.A. also informed Leonard that her assailant had stolen her silver Toyota Matrix, and she gave Leonard her license plate number. Officer Leonard broadcasted the description of the suspect and N.A.'s car over the police radio.
At approximately 7:05 p.m., Atlantic City Police Officer Salvatore Rando observed a black male with a dark-hooded sweatshirt carrying a woman's handbag and exiting a silver Toyota Matrix that matched N.A.'s description of her car, including the license plate number. Rando approached defendant with his canine and ordered him to the ground. Defendant complied and placed the handbag on the ground next to him. After securing defendant, Officer Rando placed the woman's handbag on his patrol car, at which point he noticed a wallet and jewelry through an open-flap of the handbag. In a search incident to defendant's arrest, Officer Rando recovered a silver folding knife from his right pant's pocket and a pair of gray woman's underpants from his waistband. Defendant was then transported to police headquarters.
N.A. was brought to police headquarters and asked if she would be willing to look at someone who may have been involved in the crime. After viewing defendant through the two-way mirror, N.A. identified him as the one who had carjacked and kidnapped her, stating, "that's him, that's the guy that did this." N.A. then identified ...