On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 09-02-323.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Espinosa and Kennedy.
Following a jury trial, defendant Miguel Gonzalez was convicted of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2; first-degree armed robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d). The trial court sentenced defendant on the conspiracy charge to five years imprisonment, with an eighty-five percent period of parole ineligibility mandated by the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2; and on the armed robbery charge to ten years imprisonment, subject to the eighty-five percent period of parole ineligibility mandated by NERA. The sentence on the conspiracy charge was made concurrent with the sentence on the armed robbery charge and the charge of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose was merged into the armed robbery charge. Defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction and the sentence.
We discern the following facts from the trial record.
In the early morning hours of November 27, 2008, Rhonda Walker left her employment at a restaurant on the campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick and took a campus shuttle bus to Louis Street, near her home. After stopping to purchase some items at a Walgreens, she began walking through a parking lot adjacent to an open laundromat, where she noticed three men standing together near the building abutting the lot.
One of the men walked off, but the other two remained in place and watched her as she passed. One of the men wore a tan "hoody" and the other wore a blue striped jacket and had on a tan hat. Walker could hear the men follow her as she walked through the lot toward a nearby street.
Upon reaching the street, the man in the tan hoody grabbed Walker by the arm and pulled out a knife with a twelve-inch blade, which he held against her throat. He said, "I just want all the money." The man in the blue striped jacket said "just give me everything" and then searched through Walker's pockets, taking from her two cell phones, keys, cigarettes and twenty dollars.
When Walker asked to keep one of the cell phones so she could call her children, the man in the blue striped coat refused and started to grope her. She screamed and the man in the tan hoody ran off, followed moments later by the other man.
Walker ran after the men back toward the laundromat where she asked people there to call the police. When a taxicab pulled up, she got into the cab and asked the driver to follow the men and to call police. On Seaman Street, she saw the two men separate and she left the cab, asking the driver to relay her location to police.
New Brunswick police officers arrived on the scene and Walker began relating to them the details of the incident. While in the process of doing this, she saw the man in the blue striped jacket walking along the street and she told the officers, "That's him right here. He's right here."
The police officers stopped the man, later identified as defendant, and searched him. They recovered from defendant's pocket a black cell phone which Walker identified as one of the phones taken from her. She identified the make and model of the phone and described for the officers the writing on the screen. The officers returned the phone to her and it was ...