Attempted Murder Reduced To Aggravated Assault For Plea
- January 5, 2016
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Richard Spellman was indicted on two counts of attempted murder (N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and 2C:11-3); two counts of first-degree robbery (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1); two counts of second-degree possession of a weapon (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a); two counts of third-degree unlawful possession of a firearm (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b); and second-degree certain persons not to have weapons (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7). Spellman confessed and his motion to suppress the confession was denied. He ultimately pled guilty, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, to all charges after the first-degree attempted murder charges were amended to second degree aggravated assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1)). Spellman was sentenced to concurrent 17 year terms subject to an 85 percent period of parole disqualification under the No Early Release Act (NERA) (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2); two 10 year terms and two 5 year terms; and restitution to a victim with a 5 year period of parole supervision to follow his release. The charges stemmed from two incidents. First, while on parole for a prior aggravated assault, Spellman entered a convenience store, demanded money and then shot the clerk in the stomach after he was given the money. In the second incident, Spellman shot a man in the parking lot of a restaurant. Upon arrival at the scene, police found a gun in the parking lot and Spellman staring at them out the window of a nearby store. When officers spoke to Spellman, he indicated he was fighting with the man he shot. Officers searched Spellman and found a bullet on his person. At the police station, officers found another bullet on Spellman’s person and, prior to questioning of any kind, Spellman said “I shot the attendant at the [convenience store].” Spellman was read his Miranda rights, waived his right to counsel and quickly confessed to shooting both individuals. In State v. Spellman, the NJ Appellate Division upheld the trial court judge’s decision that the defendant’s confessions were voluntary in spite of the defendant’s challenge to the voluntariness based on mental capacity which was not raised at trial and therefore not preserved for appeal. Nieder v. Royal Indem. Ins. Co., 62 N.J. 229 (1973). The NJ Appellate Division looked to State v. Smith, 307 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 1997), in holding that mental illness itself, if present, does not invalidate a confession. The record below satisfied the Appellate Division that the trial judge fully reviewed the confession and found no coercion or force to have been used. With regard to sentencing, the NJ Appellate Division did find errors with the trial judge’s failure to properly weigh the aggravating and mitigating sentencing factors of N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1 and explain his or her reasoning fully on the record. State v. Fuentes, 217 N.J. 57 (2014). The Appellate Division determined that he trial judge’s imposition of concurrent 17 year sentences exceeded the statutory range of 5 to 10 years set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6a(2). Finally, the Appellate Division and the State agreed that the trial judge failed to make adequate findings, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:44-2b(2), as to whether the defendant was able to pay the restitution ordered. The matter was remanded for resentencing. If you are facing charges of murder you are looking at a sentence of 30 years to life and even for lesser included offenses the sentence can be the same as life in prison depending on your age at sentencing. When confronting such charges, it is imperative that you have experienced and trusted criminal defense counsel at your side to ensure you have the best chance possible in fighting the case and protecting your rights. For more information about murder, aggravated manslaughter, assault or weapons charges in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.