A Union County jury returned a guilty verdict on Wednesday against a Plainfield man accused of robbing a fast-food restaurant in Scotch Plains in 2015, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today.
According to Prosecutor Daniel, Thomas H. Outland, 49, was convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit robbery and possession of an imitation firearm following a six-day trial before state Superior Court Judge Robert A. Kirsch.
This is the second time that Outland stood trial for this robbery. Five years ago, in June 2017, Outland was found guilty by a Union County jury on the same charges.
Prosecutor Daniel said the New Jersey Supreme Court eventually overturned that conviction in March of 2021 on the grounds that Outland was improperly denied the right to represent himself at trial. Outland elected not to represent himself at the second trial.
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 Aran McNerney and Marilyn Muller, who prosecuted the case.
The unidentified suspect then began demanding the cell phones of some of the employees who were cleaning the restaurant at the end of their shift while Outland, a former employee of the restaurant, began walking directly toward the manager’s office, where the restaurant safe was located, McNerney and Muller 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 could get killed.
According to officials, 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 above incident took place when Outland was free on bail in connection with an unrelated robbery that took place in April 2014.
An investigation involving the Prosecutor’s Office and the Plainfield Police Department 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 in May of 2016.
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 19, 2022. At sentencing, the State will seek a term to be served consecutively to the 16-year sentence imposed for the Plainfield robbery.