Gloucester Township police are none too happy a Washington Township man charged with robbing a Blackwood Chinese restaurant and killing a police dog in late November 2010 apparently won't be heading to prison.
"I think it's fair to say it's certainly disappointing given the nature of the crime," Police Chief W. Harry Earle said Friday afternoon.
The Camden County Prosecutor's Office announced Thursday that Superior Court Judge Thomas Brown granted Skyler Robinson's request to enter drug rehabilitation rather than go to trial and face a prison sentence.
Robinson, 22, of Washington Township's Sewell section, was indicted in June 2011 on two counts of injury to law-enforcement animals and single counts of robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, aggravated assault, and resisting arrest. Those charges stem from the Nov. 30, 2010, Lucky Dragon Chinese restaurant robbery and Gloucester Township Police K-9 Schultz's death on Route 42.
Robinson appears to have been able to avoid a trial thanks to a new state law that took effect just last weekend.
The new law, which was adopted by the Legislature July 19, 2012, and took effect this past Saturday, allows offenders charged with second-degree or lesser crimes to apply for entry into the diversionary drug program. It also removed prosecutors' ability to oppose such requests, placing the decision solely with judges.
Robinson must enter a guilty plea in order to be accepted into the drug rehab program.
"There's obviously a time and a place for rehab, but we're dealing with the death of a law-enforcement officer and also a violent robbery of human beings," Earle said.
While they disagree with Brown's decision, Earle acknowledged he and other police officers have learned they aren't always going to be happy with the outcomes of cases they've worked.
Gloucester Township Police Cpl. Mark Pickard, who was Schultz's handler, is among those taking this particular decision very hard.
"He was disappointed, as well," Earle said, noting Pickard had been mentally preparing himself for Robinson's trial to begin next week.
Pickard could not be reached for comment Friday.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, Patch readers had posted 60 comments to Thursday's article reporting Robinson's case had been turned over to drug court. Most readers were critical of the new law and the judge's decision, with one user calling it "a smack in the face to our Law Enforcement Community."
Earle indicated he had read some of the Patch readers' comments.
"I think everyone wants some type of explanation" on why Brown granted Robinson's request, he said.
Evan Scotese is probably among those who would like an explanation.
The 21-year-old Sewell man is serving a six-year prison sentence as Robinson's co-conspirator in the Chinese restaurant robbery. Scotese pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in August 2011.
Earle addressed the fact one man accused of the Lucky Dragon robbery is serving a six-year prison sentence while another accused of the same robbery and an additional crime is going to drug rehab.
"It does seem inconsistent," he said.
Police responding to the Blackwood Chinese restaurant the night of Nov. 30, 2010, on a report of a robbery ended up pursuing the suspects to Route 42.
K-9 Schultz caught up to and latched onto Robinson, police said, and both were struck by a passing car. After the police dog engaged Robinson a second time, the Sewell man reportedly tossed the 3 1/2-year-old German shepherd into oncoming traffic, and Schultz was struck by at least three more cars.
Schultz died at the scene. The police dog's death led to an outpouring of support for the Police Department.