NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 3, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Indictment No. 11-04-00617.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Michael C. Kazer, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Jeffrey P. Mongiello, Deputy Attorney General, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Espinosa and Koblitz.
Defendant appeals from his conviction of second-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, for which he received a sentence of seven years with an 85% percent parole disqualifier pursuant to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. We affirm.
Defendant was tried with co-defendant Antoinette Carter. Prior to conducting voir dire, Judge Theemling estimated the length of trial and jury deliberations to the jury pool. Neither party objected.
After the jury was empanelled, all counsel requested an opportunity to engage in plea negotiations. Defendant's lawyer stated that "viable talk about a plea [wa]s prompted by the discovery developments within the last couple of days" as defendants "knew that once the FBI report came in that the case against them was solidified." Counsel also stated that the court rulings for the past two days "finally cemented the idea that they might be wise to cut their lo[s]ses." Judge Theemling determined that the trial would proceed because the plea cut-off period had expired.
Trial testimony revealed the following facts. On the afternoon of June 1, 2010, co-defendant Carter, defendant's girlfriend, was with the victim in a student center of the University of Phoenix in Jersey City. The victim had $800 in cash that he recently received from a financial aid student reimbursement check. Carter accompanied the victim to the Newport Center Mall.
As the two walked down a stairway in the mall, the victim was attacked from behind by defendant. Defendant grabbed the victim across his neck, put his hand in the victim's pocket and removed his wallet. Defendant told the victim, "Give me everything you got." After struggling for approximately a minute, the victim was able to free himself and see defendant's face. Defendant then punched the victim in the face. Carter did not assist the victim or call for help.
The victim chased defendant out of the mall into the parking garage. The victim then told a mall security guard that defendant had robbed him. The guard wrote down defendant's license plate number, gave it to the victim and directed him to report the incident to the police.
The license plate number obtained by the mall security guard was registered to a car owned by Carter. A motor vehicle summons for the license plate had been issued to defendant. A color copy of defendant's photograph from his driver's license was shown to the victim, who identified defendant as the person who robbed him. The victim reviewed store surveillance video and ...