On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FJ-20-2161-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Cuff and Fuentes.
A.W. was fifteen years old when she and two teenage boys were charged with an act of delinquency based on allegations that, if committed by an adult, would have constituted the crime of second degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1. The three juveniles were tried together before the Family Part and adjudicated delinquent. A.W.'s delinquency was based on the lesser included offenses of simple assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(a), and theft, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3. The two boys were adjudicated delinquent based on simple assault. By way of disposition, the court placed A.W. on probation for a period of twelve months and ordered her to attend school without tardiness or unexcused absences, complete twenty-five hours of community services, and write a letter of apology to the victim of the assault and theft. We affirm.
We derive the following facts from the evidence presented at trial.
Fourteen-year-old W.D. testified that he was assaulted by A.W., T.H., and S.J. as he walked home after playing basketball with his friends at Fairmont Park in Elizabeth. W.D. claimed all three juveniles followed him and eventually ran after him as he was trying to reach his house. As he "tried to go around" his house, T.H. tripped him and "called out" for A.W. and S.J., "come on, come on, I got him." At this point, W.D. was lying on the ground in front of his house. According to W.D., "I put my hands over my face . . . and then as he reacted, he started punching me. And that's when they came and started stomping on my head and kicking me and hitting me." One of the blows struck W.D. on his right eyebrow, breaking his glasses.
Despite having used his hands to cover his face from the blows, W.D. testified he was able to see where each juvenile was when they were attacking him "[b]ecause [he] recognized their shoes and their jeans." Specifically, "A.W. was to the left side of [his] shoulder. [S.J.] was on the right side of [his] shoulder, and [T.H.] was in front of [him]."
When the assault stopped, W.D. testified that T.H. told him: "[T]hat's what you get for not helping the homey." W.D. surmised T.H.'s remarks referred to an incident in which W.D. did not come to the defense of a youth identified as K.C., when K.C. was assaulted by another youth while playing basketball. W.D. also testified that as T.H. and S.J ran away after the assault, A.W. "came back . . . and she took my [cellular] phone,*fn1
W.D. went inside his house after the assault and told his parents, who responded by immediately calling the police. Although W.D. knew A.W. and S.J. as summer school classmates, and T.H. as the brother of another summer school classmate, he did not identify them by name to the responding police officers. When asked on direct examination to explain, W.D. testified that he did not name his attackers "because at the time, I was scared, and I didn't remember what happened, and then it came to me." W.D.'s parents took him to a nearby hospital where he was treated for head trauma and released later that day.
Elizabeth Police Officer Yoan Belon responded to W.D.'s residence. Belon testified that W.D. "was visibly shaken and a little distraught." W.D. also complained to Belon of pain to his head and face. According to Belon, W.D. described his assailants as "three [African-American] juveniles, two males and a female . . . approximately 15, 16 years old." The girl wore her hair in dreadlocks. After broadcasting the suspects' description, Belon and other officers drove around the area in marked police cars in an effort to locate the assailants. The search was unsuccessful.
Elizabeth Detective Leon Davis was assigned to investigate the case. Approximately two weeks after the assault, Davis met with W.D. and his parents at police headquarters and obtained a sworn statement from W.D. identifying A.W., ...