Sunday, March 29, 2015

Somerdale Man Guilty of Two Robberies in Atlantic City

MAYS LANDING – An Atlantic County jury returned a guilty verdict against a Somerdale man yesterday, in connection with robberies committed at two Atlantic City businesses in 2014, Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain announced.
Yesterday, March 25, 2015, after a 3-day trial, an Atlantic County jury found James R. Stewart, 27, of the 900 block of Sunset Drive, Somerdale, NJ, guilty of a 1st degree and a 2nd degree Robbery, for threatening the use a firearm in the course of committing thefts at a Pacific Avenue deli on Pacific Avenue, and minutes later at a gas station 11⁄2 blocks away.
At 8:57 p.m. on January 31, 2014, Atlantic City police responded to the Sunoco station at 2507 Atlantic Avenue after receiving a 9-1-1 call of a robbery-in-progress. En route to the call a responding police unit was flagged down by a citizen and told that the “gas station is being robbed.”

Upon arrival, police found Sunoco employee Dung Tran outside, propping a length of 2x4 lumber against the Sunoco office door, keeping the suspect—a man with a white towel wrapped around his face—trapped inside. Tran yelled to police, “He has a gun.”
Police detained the suspect, identified as James Stewart, and began their investigation when Khadim Hussain, the proprietor of Babajan’s Deli on Pacific Avenue a block and a half away, pulled his car into the Sunoco lot, and told police, “The man with the towel on his face just tried to rob my store.”
Hussain told police that the man had entered his store a short time before with the towel covering his face, and demanded all the money in the register, while motioning with his hand in his vest pocket as though he had a gun. Hussein said the man left the store when Hussain refused the man’s repeated demands for money.
Tran told police that the man entered the Sunoco station’s office, face wrapped in the towel, and demanded money, motioning like he had a gun. Tran told police that the man then threatened to shoot Tran, and shoved him.
Tran said that he pointed to the safe and, when the suspect turned toward the safe, he grabbed a wooden 2x4 that was in the office, struck the man in the back, ran outside, and propped the length of lumber against the door to keep his attacker trapped inside the office.
Stewart was arrested at the scene, charged with the robberies of both men, and lodged in the Atlantic County Justice Facility in lieu of $ 100,000 full cash bail, where he has remained. Stewart was not found in possession of a gun at the time of arrest.
Stewart was indicted on the charges by an Atlantic County Grand Jury on April 17, 2014.
During his closing argument before the jury yesterday, Assistant Prosecutor Raphael Ortega, who represented the State in the case, said, “The defendant’s defense is that the towel was because it was cold, that he was begging for money, that there was a language barrier, that it was a mistake. But how did two people, who don’t know each other...make the same mistake? And how do you not react when someone begs for money. You don’t call 9-1-1. You don’t hit them with 2x4’s. You don’t barricade them inside a store while waiting for police.”
The Atlantic County jury deliberated less than two (2) hours before returning a guilty verdict on all charges to Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Albert J. Garofolo.
The 1st degree conviction carries a potential penalty of 10-20 years of incarceration in New Jersey State prison. The 2nd degree conviction carries a potential penalty of 5-10 years. Pursuant to the No Early Release Act (NERA), Stewart will be required to serve 85% of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Anyone with information involving serious crimes is asked to call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800 or go to the Prosecutor’s Office Web site at and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page. People can also call Crime Stoppers at 609-652- 1234 or 1-800-658-8477 (TIPS) or visit the Crime Stoppers Website at Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those who commit crimes in Atlantic County.


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