NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 19, 2012
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 08-09-1551.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Stefan Van Jura, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, of counsel and on the brief).
Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Kenneth Burden, Deputy Attorney General, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Axelrad and Sapp-Peterson.
Defendant appeals his convictions and the sentences imposed for first-degree kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1b, and complicity, N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6 (Count One); first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, and complicity, N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6 (Count Two); second- degree possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (Count Three); second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b (Count Four); third-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(5) (Count Five); fourth-degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a(2) Count Six; and third-degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a(3)(a) (Count Seven). We remand for sentencing on the first-degree kidnapping conviction but otherwise affirm the conviction and sentences imposed on the remaining convictions.
The following factual and procedural history is relevant to the arguments advanced on appeal. Defendant accosted the victim, Eric Sickinger, in the parking lot of Sickinger's office around 10:00 p.m. on April 10, 2008. Defendant displayed a silver, semi-automatic gun and demanded that Sickinger turn over his car keys. When Sickinger told defendant he had taken the bus and explained that the keys he had were to his office, defendant forced Sickinger back to his office where he made him remove his shoes and bound his feet and hands with a telephone cord. Defendant also warned Sickinger not to attempt an escape because there were two men outside acting as lookouts.
Sickinger did not see anyone other than defendant, but heard simultaneous rummaging in multiple rooms, leading him to believe there was a least one other person involved.
As soon as defendant was out of Sickinger's sight, he was able to loosen his hands and dialed 9-1-1. Police arrived on the premises within minutes. Sickinger heard defendant say, "It's the [expletive] cops, I think he called the cops." Sickinger untied his feet and attempted to escape through a window. While doing so, he realized that defendant was behind him. Police tackled defendant, but he was able to get away.
Police pursued defendant, who ran across a highway and was struck by a vehicle. Although the impact catapulted defendant into the air before he fell to the ground, defendant was able to get up and continue running until three officers converged on him. A brief struggle erupted between defendant and police. Police discharged two doses of pepper spray before subduing defendant and arresting him. Police asked defendant what he had done with the gun, and defendant told them that he had given it to the "other individuals who were with him."
The following day, while defendant was still hospitalized for injuries he sustained from being struck by a motor vehicle, police questioned defendant after administering Mirandawarnings. Defendant told police that he committed the robbery as part of an initiation into the Crips gang. Defendant explained that he was a drug dealer and wanted to sell his drugs without interference from the gang.
Prior to trial, defendant moved to suppress the statement he gave police at the hospital. He maintained that despite knowing he was undergoing treatment for injuries he sustained just prior to his arrest, resulting from being struck by a motor vehicle "traveling probably in excess of 50 miles an hour[, ]" police made no effort to determine the nature of the medication being administered to him, although the interrogating officer assumed he was on medication. Nor did the officer make an effort to determine whether the medication would affect the voluntary waiver of his right to remain silent. Additionally, defendant argued that although the interrogating officer testified at the suppression hearing that defendant appeared "awake, " "alert, " "lucid, " "coherent, " and did not exhibit slurred speech, this was ...