January 27, 2013: SEWELL, N.J. — Skyler Robinson did not intentionally kill Gloucester Township’s beloved police dog, and he is not a violent criminal, says his attorney, Saul Steinberg.
Legislators and local law enforcement officials see it differently. They say Robinson, 22, of Sewell, belongs in jail for robbery, assault, resisting arrest, and causing Schultz’s death.
But Robinson may avoid prison if he is accepted into and successfully completes drug treatment as ordered Thursday by a judge.
National outrage after the dog’s 2010 death led to New Jersey’s "Schultz’s Law," sponsored by Sen. Fred Madden and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, both Democrats from Gloucester County. The law requires a three- to five-year sentence for those who harm law enforcement animals.
Robinson, with an accomplice, allegedly robbed the Lucky Dragon takeout in Gloucester Township. Pursuing the robbers, police released Schultz. There are differing accounts of whether Robinson flung Schultz into traffic or whether the dog was hit while chasing Robinson on Route 42. Both were struck; Schultz was hit by several vehicles and died at the scene.
Evan Scotese, 21, of Washington Township, pleaded guilty in August 2011 and received a six-year prison term related to the robbery. He admitted punching a restaurant employee and taking about $300 before the men fled.
"I would maintain that there was a violent act in this case, which was the death of K-9 Officer Schultz," Moriarty said Friday, a day after a judge ruled that Robinson should be considered for the diversionary drug treatment program instead of prison.
Under legislation that took effect last week, those who are not charged with a violent crime must be considered for drug court. Instead of prosecutors, a judge now has final say.
"A review of all the circumstances of this case should have disqualified him from the program," Moriarty said. He and Madden released a joint statement saying they disagreed with Thursday’s ruling.
While a judge could have imposed a five-year sentence had Robinson been found responsible for Schultz’s death, the law for a mandatory sentence was not in effect when Robinson was charged.
While out on bail in the case involving Schultz, Robinson was arrested last summer at his Washington Township home. Police allege that he sold four oxycodone pills to an undercover officer. Steinberg said he planned to seek drug court for Robinson in Gloucester County as well.
"I hope to resolve the case in a way that would be consistent with the goals of Camden County’s drug court," Steinberg said.
The lawyer said that Robinson, a standout football player for Washington Township High, struggled with drug addiction for years but could not get the help he needed despite support from his mother. When he was taken to the hospital the night of the robbery, he tested positive for alcohol, marijuana, PCP, and prescription drugs.
"Those who struggle with drug addiction have an ongoing battle," Steinberg said. "The demons that Skyler fights are pretty difficult."
Steinberg said Robinson voluntarily started treatment and was willing to "make himself better." Spokesman Bernie Weisenfeld of the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office said Camden County’s decision had no effect in Gloucester County. He would not speculate whether Robinson would be considered for drug court there.
Moriarty said the Gloucester County charges should have disqualified Robinson from a diversion program in Camden County.
If Robinson is turned down for treatment in Gloucester County, a possible prison sentence there would prevail over Camden County’s drug court, said Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office.
If Robinson fails at drug treatment, he would return to Camden County for prosecution. Officials from the Prosecutor’s Office unsuccessfully challenged Robinson’s application for drug court.
"Our opinion is that this guy committed a violent act," Laughlin said. "This is absolutely one of the guys we would have given a veto if we could have."