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Prettyman v. State

March 11, 1997


On appeal from a Judgment of the Division of Workers' Compensation.

Approved for Publication March 13, 1997.

Before Judges Shebell, Baime and P.g. Levy. The opinion of the court was delivered by Shebell, P.j.a.d.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shebell

The opinion of the court was delivered by


This is an appeal from an order of the Division of Workers' Compensation directing respondent-appellant, State of New Jersey ("State"), to pay medical benefits to petitioner-respondent, Ann Prettyman ("petitioner"). On September 8, 1995, petitioner filed a Claim Petition alleging she suffered a compensable injury in the nature of depression, high blood pressure and post traumatic stress disorder, as the result of being falsely imprisoned and harassed by State Police detectives in the State House basement. She moved in the Division for temporary disability and medical benefits on or about September 15, 1995. In its Answer to the Claim Petition, filed on May 22, 1996, the State denied the alleged injury occurred out of and in the course of petitioner's employment.

Hearings on the motion were heard before the Honorable William L. Boyan, Judge of Compensation, on November 13, 1995, November 29, 1995 and December 4, 1995. The Judge ordered the State to pay for petitioner to continue to see a psychiatrist, Michael J. Orlosky, M.D. An appropriate order was entered, and the Judge denied the State's motion for a stay. The State filed its Notice of Appeal and moved for summary Disposition and a stay pending appeal. On April 8, 1996, we denied the motion.

The parties stipulated that petitioner was an employee in the Office of the Attorney General on August 3, 1995. Her title was Principal Stock Clerk and her duties included the operation and maintenance of the photocopiers; stocking of three supply rooms; sorting and distribution of mail twice daily; inventory of office furniture; data entry; and organization of a key system for offices, cabinets and desks in the building. These keys were kept in a cabinet in the supply room where petitioner sits. It was her duty to distribute the keys to other employees at the direction of her supervisor. She worked in this capacity for fourteen years, and was never charged with a crime or written up on disciplinary charges.

In May 1995, the receptionist for the Attorney General inquired of petitioner about obtaining a key for her desk because she did not have any place to lock her things. Thereafter, petitioner found a key to the receptionist's desk and gave it to her. Although petitioner requested that the receptionist return the key before she was laid off in June, she did not do so. In June 1995, petitioner went to look for the key. Petitioner looked in the receptionist's desk for the key but did not find it. She did not remove anything from the desk.

Apparently, at this time petitioner was videotaped searching through the desk, as an investigation of the theft of an expensive bracelet from a secretary's desk in the Office of the Attorney General was under way. A bracelet had been found in the women's bathroom by an employee, who turned it in. A sign was posted that the owner of the bracelet could retrieve it at the receptionist's desk. However, when the owner came to retrieve the bracelet, it was found to be missing. A surveillance camera was installed on June 22, 1995, and on June 27, 1995, a Criminal Justice Investigator monitoring the video surveillance observed a woman going through the desk in question. After further investigation, it was determined that petitioner was the woman on the videotape.

On August 3, 1995, two plainclothes State Police detectives approached petitioner outside of her office in the supply room. According to petitioner, they asked her if she would help them with an investigation and accompany them to the State House. It was petitioner's impression that by "help" they meant photocopying or something similar. Petitioner's immediate superior, and the Director, allowed her to go with the detectives. Petitioner was taken in an unmarked trooper car to the State House, and escorted into a basement office where she sat down at a conference table.

The detectives informed petitioner that their conversation was confidential and shouldn't be taken personally. They then asked her to sign a Miranda card, which she did. Petitioner testified that it was at this point that she became scared. One of the detectives began interrogating her and she began to cry. They asked her about jewelry that was in a receptionist's desk and told her that they had pictures of her going through that desk. Petitioner testified that she told them she had gone into the desk drawer and that it was nothing unusual for her to do. She became so scared that she had forgotten all about looking for the key.

Petitioner testified that the detectives told her about the missing jewelry. She said she did not know what they were talking about, and the detectives yelled at her and insisted she was lying. She became very emotional, and was crying and nauseous. The detectives made her sit on a bench with handcuffs on it, although she was not handcuffed, and they took her picture while she was sitting there. In order to take her picture, they physically lifted her up by her arms to a standing position. They threatened her with an arrest warrant and told her that she could go to jail for five to seven years.

Petitioner was shown the video of her going through the desk. She told the detectives that it was normal for her to go in the drawer if she needed a rubber band, etc. At that point petitioner remember searching for the key and she told the detectives about the incident. Petitioner requested to call her sister or her cousin, but this request was denied. When petitioner went to the bathroom she tried to regain her composure and calm down because she still felt nauseous. One of the detectives began banging on the door and yelling at her to come out and finally sent a woman to get her out of the bathroom. The detectives then returned petitioner to her office. She offered to take a lie detector test, but was told she had to wait two weeks. She was detained by the detectives for two and one-half hours.

Before interviewing petitioner, one of the two detectives had determined that her normal duties would take her to the eighth floor reception area, but not to look through reception area desks. However, his investigation did not reveal that petitioner was in charge of the keys for the Justice Complex. He checked petitioner's work schedule and found that she was working on June 15, the day the bracelet was taken, and June 28 *fn1, the day that a woman was observed on videotape. Before petitioner was interviewed, the detective spoke to petitioner's supervisors, who told him that it was "okay" to interview petitioner.

The two detectives testified. According to one of them, he offered to give petitioner a lie detector test, and she agreed. He told her that he would schedule one and notify her. When petitioner requested to use the bathroom, he escorted her there, and only after she was in there for about twenty minutes, did he send a secretary in to check on her. After another fifteen minutes, he knocked on the door and told petitioner that he was taking her back to work. He thanked her for her help, told her he would contact her regarding the lie detector test, and gave her his name and number so that she could call him if she thought of anything else. He admitted showing petitioner the ...

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