On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Monmouth County.
Gaulkin, Havey and Skillman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Gaulkin, P.J.A.D.
J.N.G. (hereinafter "G.") appeals from an order denying his petition to expunge records of a 1975 criminal conviction and a 1988 arrest.
On October 24, 1974 G. was indicted in Monmouth County for attempted murder, threatening to take a life and atrocious assault and battery of L.G., and atrocious assault and battery of A.G., M.G. and L.Z.; three further counts of the indictment charged G. with lesser assaults on the same individuals. Pursuant to a plea agreement, G. pleaded guilty to three counts of April 12, 1977 and his parole was terminated on August 22, 1979 "by reason of the expiration of his maximum sentence."
On September 8, 1989, G. filed his expungement petition in the Law Division, Monmouth County. In addition to its recital of the 1975 conviction, the petition set forth that G. had been arrested in Elizabeth on November 6, 1988 for aggravated assault and possession of a dangerous weapon, that the charges had been "administratively downgraded" to simple assault and that the simple assault charge had been dismissed in the Elizabeth Municipal Court on April 24, 1989. G. asked for expungement of both the 1975 conviction and the 1988 arrest.
The petition, and the court's order fixing a hearing date, were served on all interested parties. N.J.S.A. 2C:52-10. At the first hearing on November 17, the Monmouth County Prosecutor entered his objection to expungement and stated that the Aberdeen Township municipal prosecutor and the State Police objected also. The court set the matter down for further hearing on January 5, 1990. At that adjourned hearing, the municipal prosecutor, who said he had been "instructed by the chief of police" to enter the objection, represented that he "would not attempt to produce independent evidence about the character of the defendant" but rather that "our objection is
more on the nature of the offense and the combination of those offenses rather than any independent knowledge or information concerning the defendant and his actions and character since the date of the offense." He requested another adjournment so that he could present "either the chief of police or deputy chief of police who could establish the basis of maintaining the record and why they believe it is necessary for the protection to both the residents and police officers to have that information available."
At the third hearing on February 13, the municipal prosecutor presented Aberdeen Township Police Detective Wicklund, who had responded to the G. home when the crimes were first reported. Wicklund testified that he had found G.'s wife, her two children and her brother in the house, all of whom appeared to have knife wounds. He saw blood throughout four or five rooms of the house, including "a lot of blood on the walls." G. admitted his involvement, telling Wicklund that there had been a "domestic problem between he and his wife." Mrs. G. and her brother were seriously hurt and were near death in the hospital. According to Wicklund, G. was very calm and showed no remorse. Wicklund acknowledged having no knowledge of G. or his history after his conviction.
The only other proof proffered in opposition to expungement was a police report concerning the 1988 arrest, which apparently described a stabbing with a knife.*fn1 The municipal prosecutor urged that the proofs showed that G.
is a person with such violent propensities, that the nature of the original crime, an indication that he's still willing, just a short period ago, to use a knife on another individual, even if it was a justified situation, means that the State has a right to maintain these records.
In denying the motion to expunge the record of the 1974 conviction, the judge reasoned that the ...