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State v. Saunders

June 23, 1997

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
KEITH SAUNDERS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.

Approved for Publication June 23, 1997.

Before Judges Shebell, P.g. Levy and Braithwaite. The opinion of the court was delivered by Braithwaite, J.A.D.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Braithwaite

The opinion of the court was delivered by

BRAITHWAITE, J.A.D.

Following a jury trial, defendant appeals from his conviction of third-degree stalking, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10c. He was sentenced to a custodial term of five years. On appeal, he contends:

POINT I

BECAUSE IT CONTAINS NUMEROUS UNDEFINED PHRASES, THE STALKING STATUTE, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10, IS VAGUE AND OVERBROAD IN VIOLATION OF THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSES OF THE FEDERAL AND STATE CONSTITUTIONS. (Not raised below)

POINT II

MR. SAUNDERS' CONVICTION OF THIRD DEGREE STALKING WAS AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE AS THERE WAS NO PROOF THAT HE "REPEATEDLY FOLLOWED" THE COMPLAINANT, THAT HE INTENDED TO ANNOY HER, AND THAT ANY ACTIONS HE MIGHT HAVE ENGAGED IN WERE "IN VIOLATION OF AN EXISTING COURT ORDER PROHIBITING THE BEHAVIOR." (Not raised below)

POINT III

REVERSAL IS REQUIRED BECAUSE THE TRIAL JUDGE FAILED TO DEFINE CRITICAL ELEMENTS OF THE OFFENSE AND ERRONEOUSLY DEFINED AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT, THAT IS, THAT MR. SAUNDERS HAVE ACTED WITH THE INTENT TO ANNOY THE COMPLAINANT. (Partially raised below)

POINT IV

EVIDENCE THAT MR. SAUNDERS HAD WATCHED MS. WILLIAMS IN PRIOR YEARS AND THAT HE HAD AGREED IN 1989 "NEVER TO HARASS NURSE WILLIAMS AGAIN" WAS SO OVERWHELMINGLY PREJUDICIAL THAT ITS ADMISSION DEPRIVED SAUNDERS OF A FAIR TRIAL.

POINT VI

IN SENTENCING MR. SAUNDERS TO THE MAXIMUM TERM ALLOWABLE UNDER THE CODE, THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AND MISAPPLIED THE SENTENCING GUIDELINES.

We reject defendant's contentions and affirm.

I

At trial, the State produced the following evidence. The victim, Javonda Williams, a registered nurse who worked at St. James Hospital in Newark, had known defendant since 1973. Their friendship ended the same year. Defendant and Williams were never romantically involved. Nonetheless, defendant would repeatedly stand at the gate of the hospital's employee parking lot when Williams arrived for work at 7:15 a.m. and when she left work at about 4:00 p.m. During these times, defendant would stand and watch Williams. On one occasion in 1988, as Williams was going into the hospital, defendant "grabbed [her] by the arm" and "used profanity." Williams was able to enter the building and called security.

On May 20, 1989, Williams' children saw defendant in the hospital cafeteria, and they called Williams and reported defendant's whereabouts. Williams then notified security personnel, who removed defendant from the cafeteria. They also questioned defendant about his actions, and he signed a statement stating:

I declare I will not come on St. James premises, 155 Jefferson Street, Newark, N.J. Also I declare never to harrass [sic] Nurse Williams, JaVonda again. I know should I return to these premises I will be sent to jail for any of these act [sic].

Statements above on my free will.

In 1993, defendant stood outside the hospital and watched Williams on at least thirteen specific dates. Defendant's actions frightened Williams, and she reported his conduct to the police. On August 30, 1993, while standing "at the emergency exit driveway where [Williams] had to cross the street everyday," defendant mumbled something incoherent to Williams ...


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