A Union County jury has returned convictions on two of three charges against a Plainfield man accused of robbing a fast-food restaurant in Scotch Plains in 2015, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Wednesday.
Thomas H. Outland, 49, was convicted on charges of second-degree conspiracy to commit robbery and fourth-degree possession of an imitation firearm but was acquitted on a charge of first-degree robbery following a two-week trial before state Superior Court Judge Robert A. Kirsch and one day of jury deliberation.
At approximately 12:30 a.m. on September 4, 2015, Outland and an as-yet unidentified co-conspirator, both of whom were wearing masks and brandishing firearms, entered an unlocked door of the McDonald’s on Route 22 in Scotch Plains, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Armando Suarez and Michael D’Agostino, who prosecuted the case.
The unidentified suspect then began demanding the cell phones of some employees who were cleaning the restaurant at the end of their shift while Outland, a former employee of the place, began walking directly toward the manager’s office, where the restaurant safe was located, Suarez and D’Agostino said. On his way, however, Outland was intercepted by one of the store employees, who loudly asserted that Outland’s weapon was fake and suggested that he was going to get someone hurt or killed.
At that time, Outland removed his mask, lowered his imitation firearm, and announced to the restaurant employees that his actions constituted a practical joke. He and the second suspect, who never removed his mask, then returned the employees’ cell phones and immediately left the area.
Following an investigation by the Scotch Plains Police Department, Outland was arrested in January 2016 and indicted a month later.
The incident took place when Outland was free on bail in connection with an unrelated crime that took place in April 2014. An investigation involving the Prosecutor’s Office and the Plainfield Police Division determined that in that incident, he and two other as-yet unidentified suspects made off with approximately $35,000 in cash from a Plainfield check cashing store. A jury convicted Outland on multiple charges associated with that crime last May, with that prosecution also being handled by Suarez and D’Agostino.
On June 24, 2016, Outland was sentenced to an extended term of 16 years in state prison for the Plainfield robbery due to his other prior felony convictions, with 85 percent of that term required to be served before the possibility of parole under New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA).
Sentencing in the Scotch Plains case has been scheduled for August 25, 2017, at which time Outland will face another extended term of up to 20 years in state prison, with a mandatory provision that the 85-percent NERA provision attaches to it as well. That pending sentence also is to be served consecutively to the 16-year sentence imposed for the Plainfield robbery.