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State v. Pitman

Decided: April 18, 1985.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT PITMAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, V. BRYAN DEFFLER, JAMES MCKINLEY AND ROBERT PITMAN, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



On appeal from the Superior Court Law Division, Monmouth County.

Antell, J. H. Coleman and Simpson. The opinion of the court was delivered by Simpson, J.A.D.

Simpson

These consolidated appeals involve the application of the "Forfeiture of public office" statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2, to an unusual set of facts and circumstances, and the requirements of R. 3:9-2 in connection with a plea agreement that results in a forfeiture following sentencing.

Isaiah Washington was an inmate at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution. Defendants Bryan Deffler and James McKinley were corrections officers at the jail, as was Sergeant Robert Pitman. The details of an incident at the jail on March 14, 1982 are somewhat in dispute, but there is no question as to the operative facts relevant to issues on these appeals. Washington was causing a disturbance in the jail and when McKinley went to investigate, Washington allegedly spit on him. McKinley pushed "the blue light" signalling an emergency and Deffler responded. Pitman also arrived and ordered Washington removed to isolation. There was a scuffle and Washington was injured. Pitman's incident report did not mention anything about the alleged beating of Washington, but he claimed he was kicked in the stomach by Washington and observed no physical abuse of the prisoner by Deffler or McKinley.

All three defendants were indicted for official misconduct (N.J.S.A. 2C:30-2), a crime of the second or third degree. Plea negotiations resulted in orders permitting downgrades to disorderly persons offenses to which the defendants pleaded guilty and were fined $150 each. Deffler and McKinley pled guilty to simple assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1a (1)) and Pitman to obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1). Sentencing was on October 22, 1982. Thereafter, on December 9, 1982 the prosecutor served all three defendants with motions to forfeit their public offices pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2a and to be forever disqualified from holding any office or position of honor, trust or profit under this state or any of its administrative or political subdivisions pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2c. The trial judge denied the motion as to N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2c but ordered "that pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2 [each defendant] is forever barred from holding any state employment in the area of police or corrections work."

I

Defendants Deffler and McKinley do not contest the State's appeal concerning the breadth of the forfeiture order and we believe the trial judge erred in limiting the bar to police or corrections work. N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2 is constitutional and self-executing. State v. Musto, 187 N.J. Super. 264, 305 (Law Div.1982), aff'd 188 N.J. Super. 106, 108 (App.Div.1983). Pitman's contention that the forfeiture statute is inapplicable to his situation is also without merit. In pertinent part, the statute provides:

2C:51-2. Forfeiture of public office

a. A person holding any public office, position, or employment, elective or appointive, under the government of this State or any agency or political subdivision thereof, who is convicted of an offense shall forfeit such office or position if:

(1) He is convicted under the laws of this State of an offense involving dishonesty or of a crime of the third degree or above or under the laws of another state or of the United States of an offense or a crime which, if committed in this State, would be such an offense or crime;

(2) He is convicted of an offense involving or touching such office, ...


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