On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Gloucester County, FJ-08-1937-02.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 12, 2006
Before Judges Lefelt, Sapp-Peterson and Sabatino.
Q.N., a juvenile who was born on November 25, 1989, appeals from an adjudication of delinquency for committing an act which, if committed by an adult, would have constituted first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(1) (Count One). The court imposed a three-year suspended term to the Juvenile Justice Commission and a three-year term of probation conditioned upon a psychiatric evaluation and counseling, with which the juvenile was expected to cooperate, and no unsupervised contact with children two or more years younger than he. Q.N. was also advised of his obligation to register under Megan's Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 et seq. In addition, appropriate fines and penalties were imposed.
On appeal, Q.N. presents the following arguments:
POINT I THE SECTION OF THE AGGRAVATED SEXUAL ASSAULT STATUTE WHICH PROSCRIBES PENETRATION OF A CHILD UNDER 13 YEARS OF AGE, IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL WHEN APPLIED TO AN ACTOR WHO HIMSELF OR HERSELF IS UNDER THE AGE OF 13.
POINT II TO THE EXTENT THAT N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2A(1) WAS CONSTITUTIONAL AS APPLIED TO CONSENSUAL SEXUAL PENETRATION BY JUVENILES LESS THAN 13 YEARS OLD, THE LEGISLATURE MUST HAVE INTENDED THAT THE PROVISION DID NOT APPLY TO AN ACTOR IN THAT AGE GROUP; AND IF SUCH A LIMITATION WAS NOT INTENDED, THE LEGISLATURE MUST HAVE INTENDED THAT THE STATUTE ONLY APPLIED WITH ADDITIONAL PROOF THAT THE ACTOR USED FORCE, OR IF PROOF OF THIS WAS NOT REQUIRED, THAT HE OR SHE COMMITTED THE ACT WITH AN INTENT TO GRATIFY OR AROUSE HIMSELF OR HERSELF OR TO HUMILIATE OR DEGRADE THE VICTIM.
POINT III D.H.'S STATEMENT TO DETECTIVE WILLIAMS CONSTITUTED INADMISSIBLE HEARSAY TESTIMONY. U.S. CONST., AMEND. VI; N.J. CONST., ART. I, PAR. 10.
POINT IV THE COURT'S ADJUDICATION OF DELINQUENCY WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY AND WAS CONTRARY TO THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE, AND THE COURT SHOULD HAVE ENTERED A JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL OR REQUIRED A NEW TRIAL.
POINT V THE TRIAL COURT'S SENTENCING DISPOSITION WAS EXCESSIVE AND CONTRARY TO THE REHABILITATIVE FOCUS OF THE NEW JERSEY CODE OF JUVENILE JUSTICE; MOREOVER, THE COURT'S REQUIREMENT THAT THE JUVENILE REGISTER UNDER MEGAN'S LAW WAS CONTRARY TO THE INTENT OF THE LEGISLATURE.
After reviewing the record and the applicable law, we conclude that these arguments, except for the issue of whether Q.N. possessed the requisite knowledge to appreciate the sexual nature of his conduct, lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). For reasons we explain, infra, the knowledge element is satisfied by the record. We therefore affirm the delinquency adjudication and the final disposition.
Prior to trial, Q.N. moved to suppress the audiotaped statement he gave to the police. The trial court granted the motion. We granted the State leave to file an interlocutory appeal and affirmed the trial court order. The Supreme Court granted the State's motion for leave to appeal and reversed, ruling the statement was admissible. State ex rel. Q.N., 179 N.J. 165 (2004).
The trial commenced on September 23, 2004, and was conducted over four non-consecutive days. The State presented several witnesses, including the investigating police officer; D.H., the victim; and B.S., the victim's mother. The defense presented a number of character witnesses on Q.N.'s behalf. In addition, Q.N.'s statement was admitted, and following a Rule 104 hearing, the trial judge admitted D.H.'s videotaped statement.
The State's proofs consisted of the following. On January 15, 2003, Gloucester Police were notified by B.S. that she believed D.H. had been sexually assaulted by Q.N. The police interviewed D.H., who reported that Q.N. had touched her twice in her private parts. Thereafter, Q.N., in the presence of his mother and with her permission, was also interviewed and confessed that he touched D.H. in her vaginal area, kissed her and "humped" her. At the conclusion of the questioning, Q.N. was charged with aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14- 2(a)(1), and sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c)(1). Other charges unrelated to D.H. were lodged against Q.N. at the same time, but those charges were later dismissed.
The testimonial stage of the trial concluded on November 10, 2004. The judge issued an oral decision from the bench on December 6, 2004, adjudicating Q.N. delinquent on the first- degree aggravated sexual assault charge and dismissing the second-degree sexual assault charge. In concluding that the State had proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Q.N. had committed an act of aggravated sexual assault, the judge found:
By [Q.N.'s] own testimony and admission, he did commit such an act of sexual penetration on [D.H.] when he touched her, by his own admission, with my finger. And he was asked what did ...