Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk and Gloucester Township Police Chief Harry Earle reported a man accused of causing a police dog to be hit by oncoming traffic will avoid any time in prison, due to a new law that offers drug rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration.
Skyler Robinson, M/22, of Sewell, was indicted in June 2011 on counts of Robbery, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Resisting Arrest and two counts of Injury to Law Enforcement Animals. A trial was scheduled to begin on those charges next week.
However, a state law passed on July 19, 2012, which took effect on January 19, 2013, expanded the guidelines for those allowed admission to rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration. Under the new law, offenders charged with 2nd degree charges, like the Robbery charge filed against Robinson, are eligible for the diversionary program. The robbery did not involve a weapon and Robinson does not have a prior history of violent offenses, both elements which allowed him to be considered for rehabilitation. Robinson applied for drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration, and that request was granted by Superior Court Judge Thomas Brown Thursday.
The Prosecutor’s Office opposed Robinson’s entry into the program, but under the new statute, the Prosecutor’s Office no longer has the authority to deny a defendant’s application to Drug Court. Instead, admissibility is in the sole discretion of the Judge.
The charges against Robinson stem from a robbery at the Lucky Dragon restaurant on the 400 block of East Church Street about 7 p.m. on November 30, 2010. During the course of the robbery Robinson and a codefendant, Evan Scotese, are alleged to robbed the business. Scotese also punched a man working at the restaurant in the face. The two men fled with cash.
Responding Gloucester Township police officers included Corporal Mark Pickard and his K-9 partner Schultz. The officer and his K-9 pursued Robinson toward Route 42 and Pickard released Schultz after ordering Robinson to stop and warning him he had a K-9 with him. Schultz caught Robinson and the two struggled. It is alleged Robinson punched Schultz in the head, forcing the K-9 to release his grip. When Schultz caught Robinson again, Robinson began swinging Schultz into the path of oncoming traffic in an effort to make the K-9 release his arm. In the process Robinson spun
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into oncoming traffic and both the defendant and Schultz were hit by a passing car. Robinson ran away but Schultz was hit by at least three more vehicles and was found lying in a grass median. He died at the scene.
The death of Schultz led to the legislature passing a law specifically designed to boost the penalties associated with causing the death of a police animal to a 2nd degree crime. But that law, which went into effect after Robinson was charged, would not have prevented Robinson from being accepted under the same circumstances.
Scotese was sentenced in 2011 to six years incarceration, 85 percent of which he must serve before parole eligibility, after pleading guilty to 2nd degree Robbery.
As part of the Judge’s ruling, Robinson must plead guilty in order to enter the Drug Court rehabilitation program. Additionally, Robinson will be given an alternative state prison sentence, which would be imposed should he not successfully complete the Drug Court Program. The date for that hearing has yet to be scheduled.
All persons charged with criminal offenses are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.