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State v. Castoran

October 25, 1999

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
V.
FLORENCE CASTORAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Before Judges King, P.G. Levy and Carchman.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carchman, J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 29, 1999

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

This appeal requires us to consider whether a trial Judge in a criminal case may preclude a defendant from wearing a tee shirt which contains a message that is testimonial in nature. We answer the question in the affirmative.

The issue arises in the following procedural and factual context. Following a jury trial, defendant Florence Castoran was convicted of third-degree aggravated assault upon a law enforcement officer, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(5)(a). Judge Neustadter sentenced defendant to a custodial term of four years and imposed statutory penalties. As a condition of the sentence, defendant was barred from all Atlantic City casinos during the term of her sentence, although that portion of the sentence was later vacated. Defendant appeals, and we affirm.

These are the facts adduced at trial. On April 16, 1996, at approximately 3:00 a.m., defendant was involved in an "incident" at the Sands Casino that caused her to be handcuffed and brought to the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) office located in the Sands. Defendant was escorted into the DGE office by two Sands security officers and seated in a chair in front of a desk. New Jersey State Police Detective Johanna Neupauer (Neupauer), assigned to the Response Team of the Casino Investigations Bureau, then seated herself behind the desk to process the paperwork relating to defendant's arrest. Immediately upon seeing Neupauer, however, defendant became combative and directed profanities at Neupauer. Defendant admittedly called Neupauer a "whore," "a liar, a perjurer" and, possibly, "white trash."

Soon thereafter, while Neupauer was still filling out the paperwork, defendant rose from her chair and spat at Neupauer. At that point, Neupauer decided to handcuff defendant to the chair, and as Neupauer began to approach defendant, she kicked Neupauer in the arm, pushing her back against the desk. Defendant admitted that the contact occurred but contended that she believed Neupauer was going to beat her in the face. Defendant admitted raising her feet and pushing Neupauer away, allegedly for protection. In response to the contact, Neupauer and the two other officers "put [defendant] down onto the rug," and then placed her into a jail cell. As a result of the incident, Neupauer stated that her right wrist was injured, and her right upper thigh was bruised.

On appeal, defendant raises the following issues:

I. THE COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY PRECLUDING THE DEFENDANT FROM WEARING THE CLOTHING OF HER CHOICE.

II. THE DEFENDANT'S CONVICTION SHOULD BE REVERSED BECAUSE EVIDENCE OF DEFENDANT'S PRIOR ARRESTS BY DETECTIVE NEUPAUER WAS OFFERED TO SHOW CRIMINAL PREDISPOSITION.

A. THE EVIDENCE WAS NOT RELEVANT TO A MATERIAL AND GENUINE ISSUE IN DISPUTE.

B. OMISSIONS IN THE COURT'S CURATIVE INSTRUCTION WERE CLEARLY CAPABLE OF ...


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