On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, FV-02-502-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted August 21, 2007
Before Judges Lisa and Holston, Jr.
Defendant, Arthur Berkovitz, appeals from a final restraining order entered under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35, in favor of plaintiff, Divya Gupta. Defendant argues that the order was improperly entered because the evidence failed to support the judge's finding of an act of harassment or an intent to harass. We reject this argument and affirm.
The parties had a dating relationship for about one month leading up to August 12, 2006, the date on which the events began that formed the basis of the complaint. On August 12, 2006, the parties went to a club in New York. They argued. Plaintiff suggested she would not leave with him but would go home with friends who were at the club. Defendant grabbed her by the arm and insisted she stay with him. Ultimately, she did so, going back to his apartment in Brooklyn and spending the night. The next day, defendant drove plaintiff to her home in New Jersey, where she lives with her parents.
Plaintiff decided she wanted to discontinue the relationship with defendant. The parties had an uneventful telephone conversation during the day of August 14, 2006. That evening, however, defendant called plaintiff again. By that time, she had decided to tell defendant she wanted to end the relationship, and she told him she did not want anything to do with him and he should not call her anymore. Defendant continued calling multiple times that night. A friend was with plaintiff and repeatedly answered the phone telling defendant to stop calling and that plaintiff would not speak to him. Finally, plaintiff called defendant, telling him if he did not stop calling she would go to the police. He continued to call, and she and her friend went to the Linden police station. This was at 1:00 a.m. While there, defendant called plaintiff three times on her cell phone.
In the next day or two, plaintiff learned that defendant called her college professor and accused her of plagiarizing a paper. According to plaintiff, defendant helped her with the paper. According to defendant, he gave plaintiff a paper he had previously written and she turned it in to her professor as if it was her own. But the point is that, without dispute, defendant called her professor and made the accusation. This caused plaintiff much consternation. She feared she would be brought up on charges and possibly expelled from school. Further, that professor was going to give her a favorable recommendation for graduate school, which she now refused to do.
Plaintiff also learned that defendant called her parents and told them she was an alcoholic and drug abuser. This caused much upset in the family for both plaintiff and her parents.
Plaintiff called defendant and wanted to talk to him to straighten these matters out. They met on August 17, 2006 and talked for a couple of hours. During the conversation, when she asked defendant why he made the accusation to the professor, defendant said "he wanted to get back at me for using him."
Plaintiff received a call from a friend of defendant's telling her defendant was going to contact the professor and straighten that situation out. As a result, on August 18, 2006, plaintiff called defendant because she "wanted to make sure that he took care of it." During that conversation, defendant said he had been to plaintiff's home when she was not there and left a letter and money in the mailbox. Plaintiff produced the letter in court and said it contained $300. In the letter, defendant said he was giving her this money or lending it to her to pay her tutor. Plaintiff did not want the money and when she went to sign the domestic violence complaint, attempted to give it to the police, but they would not accept it.
Defendant testified. He said the reason for his repeated calls on August 14, 2006 was that his initial conversation with plaintiff was cut off abruptly, and when he called back an unidentified man answered the phone telling him not to call anymore and that plaintiff did not wish to speak to him. He said he continued calling because he was concerned about plaintiff's well-being. Defendant acknowledged that he later spoke to plaintiff at about 1:00 a.m. and she told him not to call again.
Defendant acknowledged telling plaintiff that he "told the professor that she had copied my papers and handed them in as her own." When asked what his purpose was in calling the professor, defendant said, "I used to be a teacher. I don't like things ...