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Getaway driver in Wyckoff jewelry store holdup gets 24 years

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A judge in Hackensack today sentenced the getaway driver in a brazen $940,000 Wyckoff jewelry store robbery to 24 years in state prison, more than 17 of which he must serve before he becomes eligible for parole.

Adrian C. Hicken, who moments earlier continued to profess his innocence, flexed his neck nervously as Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Roma explained the various terms for several different convictions. He looked down dejectedly when the judge said the total would be 24 years in all.

Under the No Early Release Act for violent offenders, Hicken won’t come up for parole for 17 years and four months — November 2030.

Jurors split their verdict against Hicken last month, acquitting him of armed robbery but convicting him of five counts of robbery, five counts of imprisonment and five counts of weapons possession.

Roma ( photo, left ) said he will issue a separate written opinion on 16 motor vehicle violations police issued to Hicken.

Prosecutors offered Hicken a flat 15-year term, without parole, in exchange for a guilty plea. He chose a trial instead.

Defense attorney Diane D’Alessandro has said she’s appealing the verdict, portraying her client as “threatened and afraid” after being duped by a member of the holdup crew into being the wheelman.

“My father was a preacher, my mother was a hard working woman,” Hicken told Roma earlier today. “I’m not going to stand here before you like I’m guilty — I made a bad decision that day.”

However, he continued to insist that he didn’t know what the other men were up to.

Surveillance video played in court shows one of the robbers coming from Hicken’s burgundy Tahoe carrying a large, long-handled sledgehammer that was used to smash display cases inside Hartger’s Jewelers.

“I didn’t know anything about the sledgehammer,” Hicken told Roma. “The guy came out of the car, went over to the woods. It wasn’t in my car.”

Hicken also told the judge that he has a 14-year old son and is planning to be married soon. Prison will have a negative impact on his family, he said.

“I feel sorry for your 14-year old son, and I feel sorry for your fiancé,” Roma responded. “But you are the one who put them in this position.

“Your testimony doesn’t make sense,” the judge said. “You’re at a traffic stop in Brooklyn, two of the defendants come up to you…. You don’t even know where Wyckoff is. How do you come up with $80 [for driving them there]?”

Roma continued: “The way you pulled in [to the parking lot], the way you picked up the other men — these are observations. Your statements are inconsistent with the facts and with the jury verdict.  It defies any logic to think that three people were planning this crime and just at the last minute they came across [Hicken].

“It’s not around the corner from them,” the judge said. “They had to have some idea how they were going to get there, commit the crime, and get away.

“They went right to the Rolexes.”

Roma also discussed the car chase, the 16 motor vehicle offenses, dismissing Hicken’s claim that police officers actually caused the danger and not him.

“Not to treat it harshly sets up a climate for it to occur more and more,” he said.

“Let me give you the sad news,” Roma told Hicken. “The fact that the jury convicted you on all the secondary charges means they didn’t believe you.”

In splitting their decision, jurors distinguished between the actions of Hicken and the three men who entered Hartgers in April 2011 and smashed cases, grabbed the valuable watches, pushed around customers and and dragged co-owner Gregg Hartgers across the room when he tried to get to a phone.

After throwing 86 high-end Rolex watches and 27 rings into two pillowcases, they bolted out of the store — and straight to where Hicken had moved the Tahoe, authorities said.

A chase followed in which the truck, with Hicken at the wheel, rammed two police cruisers.

Video from police cruisers showed the speed and potential danger of a subsequent car chase along Route 208 and through side streets, with drivers hurriedly moving their vehicles out of the way.

The Tahoe eventually hit two police cars before Hicken and his three associates bailed out. The others ran while Hicken, at well over 300 pounds, tried to tip away, Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph said during the trial.

Ridgewood Police Officer Patrick Elwood, who’d climbed a ridge overlooking the neighborhood, spotted Hicken and arrested him, the assistant prosecutor told jurors.

“I hit the police car to stop,” he told Elwood, according to Ralph.

Hicken testified that he was hired by one of the three men to drive to Wyckoff and didn’t know anything about the planned holdup. He said the trio threatened him with a knife during the chase, causing the vehicle to swerve and hit other cars.

Jurors, however, convicted Hicken of eluding police, resisting arrest and creating “a risk of death or injury” during the escape attempt along local roads and highways, which scattered cars out of the way in all directions.

The three other defendants in the case — Andre C. Lewis and Darren Ellis, both of Brooklyn, and Maurice Highland of Queens — have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. They’ve agreed as part of their plea deals to be sentenced to from 12 to 14 years in state prison.

STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

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