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State v. Bowen

Decided: December 8, 1977.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BENJAMIN BOWEN, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Conford, Michels and Pressler. The opinion of the court was delivered by Pressler, J.A.D.

Pressler

[154 NJSuper Page 370] The State, pursuant to R. 2:3-1(b)(3), appeals from a judgment of acquittal entered by the trial court following the jury's return of a verdict finding defendant guilty of a charge of contributing to the delinquency

of a minor, in contravention of N.J.S.A. 2A:96-4.*fn1 We reverse.

The standard to be applied in deciding a motion for judgment of acquittal made under R. 3:18-2 after the discharge of the jury is the same as that applicable to a motion for acquittal made at the close of the State's case or at the conclusion of the entire case. That standard is whether or not the evidence, be it direct or circumstantial, viewed in its entirety and giving the State the benefit of all the evidence favorable to it and all favorable inferences which could be reasonably drawn therefrom, is sufficient to enable a jury to find that defendant is guilty as charged beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence meets that standard, then the motion must be denied. State v. Reyes , 50 N.J. 454, 458-459 (1967); State v. Rodriguez , 141 N.J. Super. 7, 11 (App. Div. 1976), certif. den. 71 N.J. 495 (1976).

All of the evidence here was adduced on the State's case, the defense having rested without coming forward with any proofs at all. According to the State's proofs, viewed in accordance with the acquittal motion test, the complaining witness, a 14-year-old boy, was sitting on a ledge outside a barber shop located in the Cherry Hill Mall late one afternoon waiting for a friend of about the same age who worked in the shop. As he sat there defendant, who was a complete stranger to him, tapped his knee, dropped a note in his lap

and proceeded to a corridor a short distance away where there were located public telephones, restrooms and the Mall security officer. The note read in full as follows:

Dig man. Come over to my pad if you like to drink and play cards, shoot darts and have fun. Just you and I. Some bread too. Ten to fifteen dollars the longer you stay. More fun and more. Come out and rap with me alone about it anyway. You get home okay. Tomorrow alone.

Several minutes later the youngster was joined by his friend to whom he related the episode, telling him further that if he saw the man again he would call the police. The two boys then conceived and executed a plan whereby the boy who had been accosted walked to the corridor with his friend, to whom he had given the note, following behind him. On seeing defendant standing next to a telephone booth, he signalled to his friend, who went into the security office. He himself then continued walking past defendant, who winked at him as he did so. The boy stopped at the water fountain, where defendant joined him and engaged him in conversation in which the boy participated in order to give the security officer an opportunity to arrive at the scene. The security officer did in fact arrive almost immediately and the entire conversation consisted of defendant asking the boy, "What do you say?", the boy responding, "Where is it at?", and defendant replying, "It's up in Pennsauken. I'll get you home okay." At that point the security officer arrived, placed defendant under arrest and turned him over to the municipal police. Do these proofs and the legitimate inferences to be drawn therefrom permit a jury to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that defendant had wilfully encouraged, caused or contributed to a child's delinquency? We are persuaded that they do.

N.J.S.A. 2A:96-4 provides in full as follows:

A parent, legal guardian or person having the custody or control of a child, who by any continued negligence or willful act, encourages, causes or contributes to the child's delinquency, or any other

person who by any willful act encourages, causes or contributes to a child's delinquency, is ...


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