Thursday, April 2 2020

Trial Unit

The Trial Unit is responsible for handling the majority of cases following indictment by the Grand Jury. This includes reviewing files upon indictment, negotiating plea agreements, arguing motions, trying cases, handling sentencings and violations of probation and managing Krol cases (involving defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity).

A designated assistant prosecutor supervises the Trial Unit.  The unit consists of three trial teams each comprised of two assistant prosecutors.  There are also two detectives, three secretaries and several interns.  In addition to these permanent members, assistant prosecutors from other sections within the Office serve as adjunct members of the unit and are periodically assigned cases for trial.

 SIGNIFICANT CASES PROSECUTED IN 2018

STATE V. JOAQUIN JOHNSON

On December 27, 2017, at approximately 9:30 a.m., the defendant, Joaquin Johnson, knocked on the front door of the residence located at 3 Botany Circle in Willingboro. When the female resident, age 80, cracked the front door, the defendant forced his way into the home. Once inside, he demanded the woman’s car keys and purse. When she failed to comply, he went into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. Once armed, he took her purse, car keys and fled the residence. He then proceeded to enter the victim’s vehicle. As he did so, the victim pursued demanding he return her purse. In response, the defendant cut the victim on the arm.

Due to his level of intoxication, he was unable to flee in the vehicle. Police arrived shortly thereafter and detained the defendant. Police then followed a trail of blood back to the home where the victim was found with a blood-soaked towel wrapped around her arm. The victim identified the defendant as the individual who broke into her home and assaulted her.

On December 20, 2018, the defendant pled guilty to first degree armed robbery. He was subsequently sentenced to a term of 12 years in New Jersey state prison. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Morgan.

STATE V. LONNIE EASTERLING

On June 30, 2017, during the morning rush hour, Lonnie Easterling, while intoxicated, operated his vehicle on Interstate 295. As he did so, he proceeded to strike multiple vehicles, including a vehicle being driven by Linda Valyo, the victim. She was on her way home from the beach with her two small kids when the defendant drove into the side of her car. Fortunately, no injuries were sustained.

New Jersey State Police were dispatched for reports of an erratic driver. When the defendant was located, he failed to stop for approximately five miles. After coming to a halt, a trooper approached the vehicle and found the defendant occupying the driver’s seat. The defendant’s voice was slurred and his movements were slow, as he explained that he failed to stop simply because he was “looking for a place to pull over.”   He told the trooper that his new prescription drugs had made him “delirious.” The defendant was charged with second degree eluding, along with various motor vehicle offenses.

Defendant did not dispute that he eluded police. Rather, he argued that he suffered from non-self-induced intoxication. In support of his defense, the defendant sought to introduce evidence not through a qualified expert, but through a combination of testimony and documentation regarding his prescription medication. The State was prepared to counter the defense by presenting expert testimony from a drug recognition expert that the cause of defendant’s impairment was a combination of illegal narcotics.

On the day of trial, the defendant pled guilty to second-degree eluding. He was subsequently sentenced to a term of six years, three without parole, in New Jersey state prison. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Matt Lynch.

STATE V. KYLE SEIDEL

On January 29, 2018, police were dispatched to the Wawa at 2835 Route 206 for reports of an armed robbery. The suspect had robbed the clerk with an airsoft gun, gesturing towards a weapon in his waistband. The suspect stole cash and snack foods from the register area. A description of the vehicle was broadcast via dispatch and the suspect vehicle was pulled over in Mansfield. The vehicle was occupied by the defendant, Kyle Seidel. He was found in possession of the Wawa bag filled with the cash and merchandise. The defendant was indicted for armed robbery.

The defendant pled guilty at arraignment to second-degree robbery. He was sentenced to six years in New Jersey state prison. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Louis Casadia.

STATE V. JOHN RANDOLPH

On September 27, 2016, at approximately 5 a.m., a motor vehicle accident was reported in the area of Hanover Boulevard and Magnolia Street in Pemberton Township. Upon arrival, officers located a 1993 BMW 325i occupied by the defendant, John Randolph, the driver. A second individual, identified as Dennis McCaffrey Jr., occupied the front passenger seat. He was deceased. The vehicle appeared to have spun out of control due to a high rate of speed and made contact with a tree on the opposite side of the road in the woods. The defendant appeared to be in critical condition and was transported to a Trenton hospital.

In an interview, the defendant indicated that prior to the incident, he ingested Adderall pills. He further advised that in addition to the pills, he had also “done some lines.”   A toxicology report revealed the presence of marijuana, methamphetamine, and amphetamine (Adderall) in the defendant’s blood. The vehicle was found to have no mechanical defect.

On June 8, 2017, a Burlington County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging the defendant with Vehicular Homicide (Second Degree). On June 19, 2018, the defendant pled guilty and was subsequently sentenced to a term of four years in New Jersey state prison. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Douglas Bligh.

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