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State of New Jersey v. Joanne E. Scott

July 6, 2011


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Indictment No. 08-06-00681.

Per curiam.


Submitted February 9, 2011

Before Judges Fisher, Sapp-Peterson and Simonelli.

Following a jury trial, defendant Joanne Scott was convicted of third-degree theft by unlawful taking from the person, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3a, and third-degree conspiracy, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2a(1), (2). The charges stemmed from defendant's involvement in a purse snatching scheme on February 24, 2007, with co-defendant Deanna Bush, who pled guilty and testified against defendant at trial. We affirm.

We derive the following facts from the evidence presented at trial. Bush and defendant agreed to engage in purse snatchings. Bush would steal a purse, defendant would act as a lookout or distract the victim, and they would split the money. In furtherance of their agreement, the pair engaged in purse snatchings at the Super Fresh store in Evesham Township on February 22 and 24, 2007.

On February 22, 2007, Bush drove defendant to the store in Bush's 1992 yellow Oldsmobile station wagon, which had wood grain side panels. After the two women entered the store, Bush stole a purse from Regina O'Hara. Bush exited the store through the left exit and defendant exited through the right exit. They both entered the station wagon and drove away. O'Hara did not see the theft occur; however, the incident was captured on video surveillance.

Laurie Phillips, who was sitting in her parked car outside of the store, saw an old tan or yellow station wagon with old brown side panels back up into a parking spot in front of her car. She also saw two individuals, whose hands were empty, exit the station wagon and walk into the store. A few minutes later, Phillips saw the individuals walking rapidly from the store with a pocketbook in their possession. They jumped into the station wagon and "took off." Phillips then entered the store and reported what she saw.

On February 24, 2007, Bush and defendant returned to the same store in Bush's yellow station wagon. After entering, defendant distracted Natalie Phelan as Bush stole the woman's purse. Bush then exited the store; however, an individual grabbed her and tried to get the purse. Bush threw the purse at the individual, ran away, and left in her car. Phelan did not see defendant, and she only saw the back of the person who stole her purse; however, the incident was captured on video surveillance.

Charles Yoos saw two women, later identified as defendant and Bush, in the store on February 24, 2007, and found their behavior "a little strange." After hearing that someone's purse had been stolen, Yoos rushed to the front door and looked toward the parking lot, where he saw a woman run toward and enter a yellow station wagon with wood side panels. He wrote down the vehicle's license plate number.

Kathleen Lannon was also in the store on February 24, 2007. She was waiting on line to pay for her groceries when she heard someone screaming and saw two men run out of the store. She followed the men to a brown station wagon that was "an older model, with wood on it, brown and tan[,]" which left the parking lot with a woman in the driver's seat. After the car left, Lannon spoke to defendant, who admitted that the driver of the station wagon was her friend. Defendant added, "I wouldn't do anything . . . I wasn't -- I just came from the ride."

The police arrived at the store and handcuffed defendant. The following exchange later occurred between defendant and Detective Jammie Clements from the Evesham Township Police Department:

[CLEMENTS]: . . . Can you tell me what happen [sic] today?

[DEFENDANT]: Nope I'm done. [CLEMENTS]: You're done? [DEFENDANT]: Yup ya'll can take me down [to jail]. [CLEMENTS]: Ok do you wish to give me a statement today? [DEFENDANT]: Nope. [CLEMENTS]: Ok like I said you are looking at conspiracy uh at the bare minimum but you can help yourself out by giving us a statement. [DEFENDANT]: I already did. [CLEMENTS]: You already gave a statement? [DEFENDANT]: I said everything that happened and nobody believe [sic] me [they're] gonna tell me somebody was involved that wasn't there. I don't even know what the heck was going on until I didn't know what was going on until I was [--] [CLEMENTS]: Like I said that's why, when you first came into contact it was with the patrol division they called me in to get an official statement from you. If you had no involvement in that that's fine. Obviously we know that you came with this girl Dee.

You already told patrols that you came with Dee. [DEFENDANT]: Yes I did yeah I didn't know what was going on[,] I didn't know that that was the plans or whatever. [CLEMENTS]: Ok so you saying you had no idea that was her plan [--] ...

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