Kenneth Vercammen & Associates, P.C.
2053 Woodbridge Avenue - Edison, NJ 08817
(732) 572-0500
Kenneth Vercammen was included in the “Super Lawyers” list published by Thomson Reuters

Sunday, June 30, 2019


The jury in this case found defendant guilty of first-degree kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1(b), when he subjected his victim to four to five hours of uninterrupted sexual abuse. On appeal, defendant contended that the kidnapping charge should not have been presented to the jury because, notwithstanding the extended duration of the criminal attack, the victim's confinement was incidental to, and not independent from, the underlying sex crime with which defendant was separately charged.
Authoritative precedent interpreting the kidnapping offense defined in the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice makes clear that not every confinement is a kidnapping. State v. LaFrance, 117 N.J. 583, 586 (1990). N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1(b) has been interpreted to require the State to prove that the victim's restraint was not merely incidental to the underlying substantive crime. Id. at 591. A key question is whether the circumstances of the confinement created a significant danger to the victim independent of the risk of harm posed by the underlying offense. Id. at 587.
Applying those legal principles to the particular facts of this case, this court concluded that the force and threats defendant used to physically restrain the victim were the same force and threats he used to commit the underlying sex crime. A close review of the proofs presented by the State at trial show there was never a point during the prolonged criminal episode when the victim was being restrained but was not being sexually abused. In other words, the acts constituting the alleged kidnapping were coextensive and coterminous with the acts constituting the alleged sexual assault. This court also concluded that the risk of harm the victim faced throughout her hours-long ordeal, while substantial, was not independent of the danger posed to her by defendant's continuous sexual attack.
Accordingly, the State failed to present sufficient evidence to submit the kidnapping count to the jury, and defendant was therefore entitled to a directed verdict of acquittal on that charge. This court's ruling with respect to the kidnapping charge does not affect defendant's convictions for aggravated criminal sexual contact and aggravated assault, and does not affect his sentence to parole supervision for life as a convicted sex offender.

State v. Kareem T. Tillery (079832) (Essex County and Statewide) (A-37-17; 079832)

The Court has significant concerns about the procedure followed in this case. Neither the script set forth on the Miranda card nor the detective’s statement to defendant addressed whether defendant agreed to waive his rights before answering questions. However, any error in the trial court’s admission of the statement was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the State presented overwhelming independent evidence of defendant’s guilt. And, although the State should have moved to dismiss the charges on which the jury had deadlocked before the court considered evidence relevant to those charges, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in applying three aggravating factors to impose an extended-term sentence at the high end of the statutory range.

State v. Rasul McNeil-Thomas (080758) (Essex County and Statewide) (A-77-17; 080758)

The Court defers to the trial judge’s determination that the disputed footage was played for the jury during the State’s case-in-chief and notes that defense counsel consented to the admission of the surveillance footage depicting the moments surrounding the shooting, including the video segment at issue. The court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the prosecutor to play the video segment during his closing remarks, and the prosecutor’s comments were reasonable and fair inferences supported by the evidence presented at trial.

Sunday, June 16, 2019


STATE OF NEW JERSEY VS. KENNETH D. THOMAS (17-06-0548, CUMBERLAND COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) (A-4540-17T4) The State filed an appeal from a judgment of conviction imposing a probationary sentence on defendant for third-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(2), involving domestic violence, although aggravating factor fifteen, N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(a)(15), was found by the court and thus a presumption of incarceration applied, N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(d). Because the State has no authority to appeal from a sentence for a third-degree crime that is statutorily permitted, the court dismissed the appeal.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019


A jury convicted defendant of, among other offenses, two counts of attempted murder. Defendant raised pathological intoxication, N.J.S.A 2C:2-8(e)(3), as a defense, attributable to his use of then legally available synthetic marijuana. The prosecutor, while examining the State's psychopharmacology forensic expert, played portions of defendant's four-hour recorded interview. In summation, the prosecutor played portions of defendant's interview again, arguing that defendant's statements directly undercut the defense. The trial judge did not instruct jurors to limit their use of defendant's statements to assessing the merits of the expert's opinion.
The court vacated the conviction and remanded for a new trial, on the basis that the uncounseled statements were used as direct evidence in the absence of any limiting instruction, thereby violating long-standing precedent. A jury must be told that they may not use as direct evidence information provided by a defendant during a mental status interview with a State's expert

State v. Susan Hyland (079028) (Camden County and Statewide) (A-29-18; 080394)

The State may appeal a Drug Court sentence only when the sentencing judge makes a plainly mistaken, non-discretionary, non-factual finding under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(a). Because application of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(a)(9) requires fact-finding and an exercise of the sentencing judge’s discretion, a sentence based on application of that factor is not appealable as an illegal sentence.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

State v. Davon M. Johnson (080394) (Essex County and Statewide) (A-58-17

The 2009 amendments to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7’s sentencing structure reflect a more flexible sentencing policy that renders Caliguiri’s reasoning no longer viable. The presumption against PTI for second-degree offenders cannot be applied to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7(a) offenders. And the presumption against PTI for the “sale” of narcotics was not applicable here because defendant was charged with possession with intent to “distribute” and there is no allegation or evidence that he sold the narcotics. The decision to deny defendant’s application must be reevaluated.