Man convicted of armed robbery

Aformer Hazlet Township resident was found guilty on Dec. 9 in the 2008 armed robbery of a liquor store.

A Monmouth County jury found Daniel Levins, 45, guilty of first-degree armed robbery, third-degree aggravated assault, thirddegree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, and fourth- degree criminal mischief, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. The charges pertain to an incident at the Spirits Unlimited liquor store in Hazlet in 2008.

According to a press release from the Prosecutor's Office, evidence presented during the two-week trial revealed that at approximately 10 a.m. on Feb. 11, 2008, the Hazlet Police Department responded to the Spirits Unlimited liquor store on Route 35 for a report of an armed robbery. Upon arrival, police discovered that an employee was injured, and that the store was in disarray.

An investigation revealed that a man wearing a ski mask and sunglasses entered the liquor store and began waving a baseball bat. The masked man threatened the store clerk, demanding that the clerk open the register. The robber then smashed the cash register as well as several bottles located on the store's countertop with the baseball bat before striking the clerk with the bat. The victim fought the attacker and during the struggle, the robber's mask became dislodged, revealing the robber's face.

The victim disarmed his attacker and took control of the baseball bat. The victim then struck the robber on the head with the bat, following which the robber fled from the store.

The victim advised the responding officers that when the robber was unmasked, he was able to recognize the robber as one of the store's former customers. Based on the information provided by the store clerk, police identified Levins as a suspect, the release states. A trained K-9 from the Tinton Falls Police Department tracked a scent from the suspect's mask, which was recovered inside the store, to Levins' trailer in the Brookside Mobile Estates, located directly behind the liquor store. Inside the trailer, police apprehended Levins, who had attempted suicide immediately after the robbery by cutting his wrists and turning on the trailer's gas stove and oven, according to the release.

At trial, Levins testified that he was not guilty of the crimes charged in the indictment because his intent was not to steal money from the store but rather to have the store clerk shoot him in order to fulfill his wish to die. The jury rejected the defense and returned a guilty verdict on all charges, the release states.

State Superior Court Judge Jamie S. Perri is scheduled to sentence Levins on Jan. 28 in Freehold. Prior to the verdict, Levins was free on $100,000 bail and was living in Eldridge, N.Y. Following the verdict, Perri increased Levins' bail to $200,000. On Dec. 10 , Levins posted bail and was released from the Monmouth County Correctional Institution.

Levins faces a maximum potential custodial sentence of a state prison term of up to 20 years. Pursuant to the No Early Release Act, Levins will have to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed for the crime of armed robbery before he becomes eligible for parole.

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