Elizabeth man sentenced to 148 years in state prison for breaking into motel rooms and forcing couples to have sex at gunpoint will not receive compensation under ‘a decision of the court of appeal.
The Appeal Division upheld the conviction and sentence of Rasheed Powell, 48, also known as Rashid Powell and Rashad Powell, but referred the case to correct technical errors in the sentence involving the merger of gun offenses and the imposition of a sentence under the Graves Act, which sets mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of possessing handguns while committing certain crimes.
Powell, an inmate at New Jersey State Prison, was convicted of armed robbery and sexual assault of couples staying in motels along Highways 1 and 9 in Linden and Elizabeth while wearing a mask . The assaults on four different dates took place over a six-week period beginning in March 2012.
His victims identified him by photograph and in court, along with the vehicle he was using, which belonged to a girlfriend, and used a handgun from a second girlfriend’s apartment.
Powell was convicted of 60 counts, including 24 counts of aggravated sexual assault for breaking into motel rooms and forcing couples to have sex at gunpoint, then locked the men in the bathrooms and sexually assaulted the women.
In his appeal, Powell argued that an error was made when the judge dismissed a motion to separate the first incident from the rest; the conviction on four counts of possession of weapons by “certain persons” was tainted with two errors; the penalty is excessive; and some of the gun convictions should have been merged.
The appeals court, however, concluded that the judge had stated that “the defendant has the right to have each count considered separately by the evidence relevant and important to that particular charge”.
In addition, the jury deliberated for three days and requested several re-readings and considered each of the numerous charges “by evidence that is relevant and important to the particular charge”.
“The court did not abuse its discretion, and the outcome of the trial was not unfair due to the separation or the lack of investigative evidence on other crimes,” said the court of appeal.
Powell argues that he had no effective counsel during the illegal possession of a weapon trial because there was no opening or closing statement and no witnesses were called. Powell’s previous conviction for possession of a gun for illegal purposes prevented him from owning a gun.
The court ruled that the attorney may have had an unexplained strategy on the record and chose not to adjudicate the claim now, but to postpone it if Powell chooses to file a request for post-conviction relief.
On the argument that the sentence was excessive and the gun possession convictions should have been merged, the appeals court ruled that Powell should only be sentenced to one gun possession conviction with the appropriate length of time. parole ineligibility and the four counts of some people not possessing should also merge.
The court found no basis for Powell’s claim that the length of his sentence was excessive.
The trial judge ruled that the sentence was based on each victim.
As of March 9, 2012, there have been four incidents at motels on Routes 1 and 9 in Linden and Elizabeth in which an armed man dressed in a black ski mask and a black leather jacket s’ is forced into the couples room, robbed them, forced them to undress and have sex before ordering the men to go to the bathroom and sexually assault the women, while pointing a gun to automatic fist on them.
In one incident, the shooter took photos of the couple engaging in sexual activity on the woman’s phone and then sent the photos to contacts the woman had recently sent, court documents show.
In another incident, the shooter threatened to shoot the woman if she looked at him while he sexually assaulted her, the documents said.
Some of the victims saw the gunman when he removed his mask and some also noticed the gunman was driving a white SUV with Pennsylvania license plates. A man memorized the gunman’s license plate.
Investigators learned that the vehicle belonged to a woman from Easton, Pa., Who said she loaned the vehicle to Powell on several occasions. Powell was arrested on April 16, 2012.
Another woman testified at trial that Powell had a relationship with her and kept shoes, a suit, a cell phone, a leather jacket and two pairs of jeans at her house. The woman found one of the victim’s identification documents in the pocket of a leather jacket and the victim’s laptop in a drawer. A handgun and magazine were found in the bottom drawer of the woman’s oven, according to the documents.
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Suzanne Russell is a late-breaking reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, the courts and other chaos. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.