On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, FV-073171-01.
Before Judges Stern, Eichen and Parker.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eichen, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 15, 2002
Defendant, J.C., appeals from a final restraining order (FRO) entered against her on March 26, 2001, pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1990, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -33, prohibiting her from all contact with plaintiff, T.M., from jogging in Weequahic Park in Newark after 9:30 a.m., and from possessing firearms. Defendant contends that the proofs were insufficient to support a finding that an act of domestic violence had been committed as provided by N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19, and that the judge erred in finding the defendant guilty of "harassment," N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, and "stalking," N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10.
This appeal concerns the demise of a dating relationship of four years duration that ended approximately six months before plaintiff filed his domestic violence complaint on March 19, 2001. In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant "follows him to different places and that she has committed harassment by spreading rumors with the intention to damage [his] reputation." In addition, plaintiff alleges that defendant "stalked" plaintiff on March 19, 2001 in the Weequahic Park jogging area.
At the final hearing, plaintiff testified that when they were together, he and defendant used to jog in South Orange Park. After they separated, he changed his "running location" from South Orange Park to Weequahic Park and that defendant showed up there on March 19, 2001 and harassed him. Plaintiff further complained that defendant continues to contact his family members and ex-wife, making various statements about him and his new girlfriend, "causing him annoyance and damage to his reputation."*fn1 The judge concluded defendant had committed acts of domestic violence and entered the FRO prohibiting defendant from communicating with plaintiff and restraining her from attending the park where plaintiff jogs after 9:30 a.m.*fn2
On appeal, defendant makes the following arguments:
WHETHER OR NOT THE STATE CAN USE ITS HARASSMENT STATUTE TO DEPRIVE APPELLANT OF HER CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH TO FREELY COMMUNICATE WITH RELATIVES OR PERSONS KNOWN TO RESPONDENT WHO ARE WILLING OR WISH TO COMMUNICATE WITH APPELLANT SOLELY BECAUSE IT DISPLEASES RESPONDENT.
WHETHER OR NOT APPELLANT WAS GUILTY OF STALKING RESPONDENT BECAUSE SHE CHOOSE [sic] TO JOG IN THE SAME PUBLIC PARK THAT APPELLANT KNEW RESPONDENT JOGGED IN ALTHOUGH APPELLANT JOGGED AT AN HOUR WHEN SHE ASSUMED RESPONDENT WOULD NOT BE THERE BECAUSE OF RESPONDENT'S PAST HABITS, KNOWN TO APPELLANT.
The record reflects that a prior domestic violence complaint was filed by plaintiff against defendant on December 7, 2000 and a temporary restraining order (TRO) was entered on that date against defendant by the same judge. T.M. v. J.C., Docket No. FV-07- 002030-01. The TRO directed defendant "to stay at least 5 blocks" away from him. That complaint alleges:
[the] vic[tim] ended the relationship approximately 2 mo[nths] ago since that time def[endant] has frequently appeared at locations that vic[tim] is known to frequent, vic[tim] states def[endant] has been asked to leave him alone many times; but refuses ...