On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Mercer County, Docket No. FV-11-000382-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Coburn and Gilroy.
Defendant C.G. appeals from the September 5, 2006, entry of a Final Restraining Order (FRO) pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35, in favor of plaintiff T.G. We affirm.
On or about August 25, 2006, following a short duration of marriage of twenty-one months, the parties separated. On August 29, 2006, plaintiff filed a domestic violence complaint alleging that defendant had made terroristic threats and harassed her on August 28, 2006, when he went to her place of employment at a public library in Mercer County and threatened her, stating: "Play [with me] if you want. I'm in the Marines. I will kill you [and] get away with it." A temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued against defendant. A final hearing was conducted on the matter on September 5, 2006, with only plaintiff and defendant testifying.
Plaintiff testified that several days prior to August 28, 2006, following their argument on the telephone, she went home and found that defendant "had destroyed and broke up all [her] stuff." Plaintiff left the residence without confronting defendant. Plaintiff did not see defendant again until August 28, 2006, at the library. After plaintiff observed defendant in the foyer outside the children's department where she was working, plaintiff went to meet him, after which defendant stated that he wanted to talk to her. Because defendant seemed tense, an indication that he might want trouble, plaintiff refused, telling him to "just leave me alone . . . . I don't want to talk." In response, defendant "started yelling real loud where's the fucking car? Why are you trying to be slick?" Suspecting that things may escalate, plaintiff tried closing the door before walking away, stating that she would be right back. In response, defendant stated: "I'll, you know, I'll kill you. I'm in the Marines. They'll never be able to find me." After that remark, plaintiff closed the door, telling defendant that she'd be right back, but never returned. Plaintiff exited through the library's backdoor and left the area because she was scared. Plaintiff also testified as to prior incidents when defendant had struck her, dating back to the year 2000.
Defendant confirmed that plaintiff had moved out of their residence on August 25, 2006, but denied breaking any of plaintiff's personalty. Defendant admitted that he had gone to the library on August 28, 2006, but denied harassing or threatening plaintiff. Contrary to plaintiff's testimony, defendant testified that he and plaintiff had been talking every day since the breakup and that the parties had arranged to meet at plaintiff's sister's house at 9:00 p.m. on August 28, 2006, to discuss their marital discord. He decided to stop at the library because it was close to 9:00 p.m., to confirm that the meeting was still on for that evening. After entering the library, he inquired of plaintiff where his 2005 Toyota Solara automobile was, and plaintiff responded: "Not now, I'll be right back," after which plaintiff left and never returned. Defendant denied that there was a past history of physical violence between the parties and he believed that plaintiff had filed the complaint only to gain possession of the 2005 Toyota automobile. He also testified that in 2001 plaintiff had been convicted of arson and aggravated assault which, on rebuttal, plaintiff acknowledged. Lastly, defendant testified that he was a former member of the Marine Corps and was discharged in January or February of that year.
In determining that defendant had committed the alleged acts of domestic violence, the trial judge stated:
Now it is true in this case it's one party's word against the other and the
[c]court must make assessments based upon the part[ies'] demeanor and their credibility. And the [c]court find[s] that the plaintiff's more credible than the defendant.
He says that he did not demand that his wife return home and ask for permission to go shopping and if she didn't he would break her things. He denies that. She testifies that's the way it happened. The [c]court finds her more credible than the defendant.
Defendant has testified that at this meeting outside the library he just happened to be . . . in the neighborhood and showed up at the library ...