On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FJ-02-0751-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lisa and Alvarez.
L.L. was adjudicated delinquent on five counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(1), two counts of third-degree child endangering, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a), and two counts of second-degree child endangering, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(b)(4). He was committed to the New Jersey Training School at Jamesburg for an indeterminate term not to exceed four years concurrent on each aggravated sexual assault, three years concurrent on each second-degree child endangering, two years concurrent on each third-degree child endangering, and a consecutive three-year term as a result of his violation of probation on an earlier adjudication. Appropriate fines and penalties were imposed. He appeals and we affirm.
L.L., whose birth date is August 20, 1994, has an I.Q. of 76. He has had problems with his schooling, and been diagnosed as suffering from attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). He has been charged many times with aggravated assaults, and was adjudicated delinquent on fifteen separate occasions. L.L. has been on probation continuously from June 2004 to the date of these incidents resulting in the charges for assaultive conduct, terroristic threats, and similar offenses.
The events behind the adjudications can be briefly described. L.L. told two twelve-year-old neighborhood boys that one of the boys' older brothers had stolen marijuana from a neighborhood gang and that, in retribution, the gang wanted L.L. to sexually assault them, have them sexually assault each other, and submit to being photographed during these activities. If they did not go along with this scheme, or told anyone about it, they and their families would be injured or killed. Accordingly, on September 10 and 11, 2008, L.L. sodomized the boys and photographed them as they performed fellatio upon each other. The following day, one of the children disclosed the assault to a teacher. Once the second child was asked about the incidents, he too fully disclosed them.
On that same date, September 12, 2008, the matter was brought to the attention of the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. Detective Barbara Stio*fn1 began her interview of L.L., in the presence of his mother, M.L., at approximately 6:30 p.m. The questioning took place in the prosecutor's office in a small room containing an oblong table and several side chairs. Sergeant Cora Taylor and Detective Robert Boria were also present. Stio explained the reason for the interview to M.L., and reviewed L.L.'s Miranda*fn2 rights and the corresponding waiver form with M.L. and L.L. Every moment that L.L. was in the interview room with detectives was recorded on video.
Although M.L. mistakenly signed the portion of the form indicating she waived her right to be present during L.L.'s interview, L.L. wanted her to remain and she did so. M.L. went in and out of the interview room on several occasions at L.L.'s request. When L.L. asked if he could speak to his mother privately, he was freely able to do so and the recording equipment was shut off while the investigators waited outside.
After L.L. and his mother signed the documents evidencing their understanding of L.L.'s right to remain silent, he spoke with detectives, telling them initially that an individual by the name of "J-Crack," from a neighborhood gang, demanded he assault the boys in retaliation for the alleged theft of marijuana. L.L. explained that because the gang could not get to the person who stole the marijuana, and because L.L. owed J-Crack a favor, he was asked to exact retribution on the gang's behalf. At first, L.L. explained, this meant merely fighting with the boys, but as time passed, the plan changed. L.L. stated his own failure to comply would result in him getting "jumped."
L.L. said that J-Crack supervised him carrying out these directives, although this changed over the five hours of the interview. First, L.L. claimed J-Crack was waiting in L.L.'s grandmother's house, where the assaults occurred, having gained entry through the use of a key hidden in the back of L.L.'s cell phone. Next, L.L. claimed J-Crack entered his grandmother's house by climbing through a window. Then, L.L. claimed J-Crack was in the back yard and, lastly, L.L. claimed J-Crack walked into the house while the assaults were taking place. L.L. also said that J-Crack installed recording or camera devices in the house so that he could personally verify the assaults, although no such mechanisms were ever discovered.
At one point during the interview, Detective Stio and L.L. became loud with each other. Sergeant Taylor, observing the interview from an adjoining room, interceded and pulled Stio outside. She asked her to confirm whether or not L.L. wanted an attorney, because Taylor thought she may have heard him ask for one. Stio returned to the interview room and asked L.L. point blank, in front of M.L., if he wanted counsel. L.L. responded that he did not, and the questioning continued.
At approximately 8:20 p.m., L.L. asked to speak to his mother privately. About ten minutes later, M.L. left the interview room, told Stio she needed some air, and collapsed from an asthma attack. An ambulance was called and L.L. was removed from the interview room while paramedics treated his mother. As M.L. was being taken out of the prosecutor's office on a stretcher, Taylor asked her to provide the name and number of someone else in whose presence the interview could continue. ...