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State of New Jersey v. Jeremy Caldwell

January 13, 2012


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Indictment No. 03-02-0268.

Per curiam.


Submitted December 20, 2011

Before Judges Messano and Yannotti.

Defendant Jeremy Caldwell appeals from an order entered by the Law Division on July 9, 2009, which denied his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.

Defendant was charged under Mercer County Indictment No, 03-02-0268 with first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; first-degree attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1; second-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1),; second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a); third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b); and fourth-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(4).

The charges arose from an incident that took place on August 21, 2002 in Ewing Township. On that date, an officer of the Trenton Police Department was in the Club XL, assisting the State Police with a check of the premises for compliance with regulations governing the sale of alcoholic beverages. At around 1:00 a.m., the officer heard a single gun shot from the rear of the building. The officer exited the club and found the victim of a shooting, later identified as Rashone Montgomery (Montgomery). Montgomery was taken to a hospital and, as result of the shooting, he remains paralyzed from the waist down.

Police officers from Ewing Township were dispatched to area outside Club XL, where they were met by Trenton police officers. They learned that an individual named Ashmond Grier (Grier) had been a passenger in Montgomery's car. Grier gave a statement to the police.

Grier said that he and Montgomery were seated in the car, when a Nissan Altima pulled up in front of them. According to Grier, a man later identified as defendant exited the rear passenger seat of the Altima. He approached the driver's side of Montgomery's car and tried to open the door. When Montgomery resisted, the man drew a semi-automatic handgun from his waistband and shot Montgomery.

Based on information provided by an anonymous source and certain confidential informants, the police identified defendant and Jimmy Watkins (Watkins) as perpetrators of the robbery. Defendant was identified as the shooter. The police obtained warrants to search defendant's and Watkins's residences, and the Nissan Altima that was registered to Watkins.

The police encountered defendant when they executed the warrant at his residence. He confronted the officers and pointed a gun at them as they entered. The police told defendant to put the gun down and he eventually complied. The police took defendant into custody and seized the weapon. The search of the residence revealed a freshly-washed, short-sleeved shirt, which resembled the shirt that a witness said the shooter had been wearing. The police seized another weapon in the residence.

At police headquarters, defendant asked to speak with a detective with whom he had previously dealt. Defendant was informed of his Miranda*fn1 rights. He agreed to give a statement to the police. Defendant admitted that he and Watkins followed the car driven by the victim to a club and, when they arrived there, he got out of the car, approached the victim and told him it was a robbery. Defendant admitted shooting the victim. He stated that he threw the gun used to shoot the victim in the river.

On January 30, 2004, defendant pled guilty to first-degree robbery. The State agreed to the dismissal of the other charges. At the plea hearing, defendant stated that he had not been forced to enter the plea. He acknowledged that he was entering the plea of his own free will, and indicated that he had not been coerced in any manner. Defendant also indicated that he was satisfied with the advice he received from his attorney.

Defendant stated that on August 21, 2002, during the course of a theft, he used force and inflicted bodily injury upon Montgomery, while armed with a deadly weapon. Defendant said that Montgomery had been sitting in his automobile. Defendant stated that he went to the driver's side of the car and told Montgomery "it was a hold up." Defendant had a gun ...

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