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State v. Graves

Decided: May 22, 1972.


For modification of Appellate Division decision and direction of entry of judgment of acquittal -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Mountain. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Proctor, J.


[60 NJ Page 443] Defendant, Gloria Graves, was convicted by a jury of having obtained county welfare funds by false pretence through her failure to disclose a material fact in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:111-3.*fn1 The indictment charged

the defendant with having received financial assistance between October 1, 1967 and February 1, 1968, from the Essex County Welfare Board by failing to disclose that during that period she was living with her husband.*fn2

On appeal to the Appellate Division defendant contended that the conviction should be reversed because the trial court erred (1) in admitting in evidence statements made by the defendant in an interrogation where the four-fold warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2 d 694 (1966) were not given; (2) in failing to direct a verdict of acquittal because defendant did not withhold a material fact; and (3) in neglecting to charge that if defendant informed the caseworker of her husband's presence she was to be acquitted. The Court reversed and remanded for a new trial holding that the full Miranda warnings should have been given.*fn3 114 N.J. Super. 222, 226 (1971). Because of its disposition of the case the Court did not consider defendant's remaining contentions. We granted the State's petition for certification. 58 N.J. 596 (1971).

Since 1963 the defendant had been receiving continuing assistance for herself and children from the welfare board. The board requires semi-annual applications to be made for such assistance. On May 24, 1967, defendant executed her semi-annual application for aid on which she indicated that her family consisted of herself and her three children. In September or October of that year she began to receive aid for a fourth child born in August. On the face of the application form there is a requirement that the recipient report immediately to the board any change in living conditions, family situation or income from any source. The recipient

receives a check each month which contains on the reverse side a statement by the payee that he or she shall report to the board any change in circumstances, finances, employment or resources.

Defendant received and endorsed four such checks on the first day of November and December of 1967 and January and February of 1968, the period in question. It is not disputed that defendant's husband was not a member of the household from April, 1967 to the latter part of October, 1967.

At the trial Mitchell Osur testified for the State that he employed Harold Graves, defendant's husband, from November, 1967 through February, 1968. He said Mr. Graves "worked when he felt like coming to work" and his total earnings for the four-month period were about $1,000. He also said that Mr. Graves gave an address which was the same as defendant's and that he claimed four tax exemptions including himself.

Harry O'Boyle, an investigator for the welfare board, testified that four checks each in the sum of $322 were paid to the defendant as assistance for the months of November, 1967 through February, 1968. He said that on February 2, 1968, he interviewed Harold Graves who told him that he had been living with the defendant "for a period of time." This testimony was admitted over defendant's objection. He said he then learned that Harold Graves was noted on the board's records as not living at the defendant's home. He then requested the defendant to come to the board office to discuss the situation. On the afternoon of February 2, 1968, defendant was interviewed by O'Boyle in the presence of Michael Deangelus, supervisor of the fraud department of the board.

At this point defense counsel was granted a hearing to determine if Miranda warnings were given before any statement was elicited from defendant. O'Boyle testified the interview was held in a large room where 35 male and female employees worked and which contained about 25 or 30 desks.

He said Deangelus informed the defendant of her Miranda rights with the exception of her right to remain silent. Defendant testified that the interview was conducted by six male investigators and that she was not informed of her rights. The trial court accepted the State's proof that only two men, O'Boyle and Deangelus, were present at ...

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