NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 9, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 09-10-0966.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Monique Moyse, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Grace H. Park, Acting Union County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Sara B. Liebman, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel; Ms. Liebman and Armando B. Suarez, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, on the brief).
Before Judges Yannotti, Ashrafi and St. John.
Defendant Eric James was tried before a jury and found guilty of aggravated assault, attempting to cause serious bodily injury, and certain other offenses. The trial court granted the State's motion for imposition of an extended term pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:44-3(a), and sentenced defendant to sixteen years of imprisonment, with a period of parole ineligibility as prescribed by the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. Defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction entered on December 12, 2011. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
Defendant and Reginald Felton (Felton) were charged with first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count one); first-degree carjacking, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2 (count two); second-degree aggravated assault, serious bodily injury, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1) (count three); third-degree aggravated assault, bodily injury with a deadly weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(2) (count four); fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, a wooden table leg, under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for its lawful use, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d) (count five); and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d) (count six). Felton also was charged with fourth-degree obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1 (count seven).
Defendant and Felton were tried together. At the trial, the State presented evidence which established that in the early morning hours on June 19, 2009, police officers Paul Tillotson (Tillotson) and Orlando Barros (Barros) responded to a report of a fight in the City of Elizabeth. Tillotson observed two black males and a white man, who was later identified as Steven Quigley (Quigley).
Tillotson saw one of the black males pulling Quigley out of his car by his wrists. Tillotson saw the other male striking Quigley over the head with a wooden table leg. According to Tillotson, Quigley was bleeding "heavily from the head." The officers sounded their air horn to stop the attack. The two black males looked in the officers' direction and took off running.
Tillotson chased the suspects on foot. Barros stayed in the police car and drove around the block to try to intercept the suspects. Quigley was told to remain on the scene because police headquarters had been informed about the incident and other officers would be responding. Quigley waited awhile but then drove himself to the hospital, where he was examined by a doctor and received thirteen stitches to his head.
The suspects ran toward an empty lot and then into the area behind some homes. Tillotson lost sight of the suspects because there were a number of trees and bushes in the area. When other officers arrived, Tillotson asked them to search the empty lot. He did not know whether the suspects were hiding in the tall grass or whether they had entered one of the houses in the immediate vicinity.
The officers observed an abandoned house in the search area. All of the first-floor and basement windows were boarded up; however, the board on one of the basement windows had been pulled away. Tillotson and other officers entered the house through that window and began to search the premises. They found Felton in a second-floor bedroom. Defendant was found in the attic.
Tillotson and Barros testified that they recognized Felton as the man they saw pulling Quigley out of his car. Tillotson and Barros further testified that they recognized defendant as the person they observed ...