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State v. Darko

November 2, 2007


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 05-03-0724.

Per curiam.


Submitted October 22, 2007

Before Judges Lintner and Sabatino.

Defendant Monica Darko appeals an October 21, 2005 order of the Law Division denying her admission, consistent with the prosecutor's objection, into the Pretrial Intervention Program ("PTI"), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12a. That order followed defendant's plea of guilty to two counts of a fifteen-count indictment, as amended, subject to her right to apply for admission into PTI. After being denied entry into PTI, defendant was sentenced to two years of probation. We affirm.

The underlying facts are substantially undisputed for purposes of this appeal. They involve a violent altercation in East Orange on December 13, 2004 between defendant and Robert Jackson,*fn1 whom she previously dated and who is the father of her minor son. At the time, Jackson was living with defendant's mother and brother, while defendant was living elsewhere with their son.

As the State more particularly alleged, on the afternoon in question, Jackson borrowed the car of defendant's mother to pick up defendant's sister at work. While Jackson was waiting for the sister, defendant arrived on the scene with the parties' two-year-old son. When the sister was ready to leave, Jackson told her that he would walk home because he did not want to get into the car with defendant.

Shortly after separating from the group, Jackson realized that he had left a pouch in the sister's car. He called the sister on a cell phone, and she agreed to meet him to return his pouch. In the interim, defendant found the pouch, opened it up, and found condoms inside. That discovery caused defendant, when Jackson returned to recover his pouch, to launch into what her counsel acknowledged to the trial court as an "uncontrollable rage."

Defendant repeatedly screamed at Jackson, "I'm going to f*** you up." As he walked down the street to get away from her, defendant took the wheel of her sister's car. Defendant tried to run him over, with their son still in the backseat of the car. She drove the car onto the sidewalk, missing her intended target. Jackson then ran to the back of the car to avoid being struck. Defendant put the car into reverse and attempted a second time, unsuccessfully, to run him over. Defendant's sister then jumped in front of the car, causing defendant to stop driving.

At that point, defendant ran out of the car, opened the trunk and pulled out a crowbar. She tried to strike Jackson with the crowbar until her sister's husband, who also had been present in the car, interceded. The brother-in-law wrestled the crowbar from defendant. Defendant then ran towards Jackson, jumped on him, and knocked him to the ground. The brother-inlaw pulled defendant off of Jackson, who headed home.

About five minutes after Jackson returned to defendant's mother's house, defendant smashed the windshield of one of his cars and slashed two tires on another car. She then pounded on the door and ran inside to go after him again. During a further struggle, defendant cut her mother, who became caught in the middle, with a beer bottle. As Jackson tried to take the broken bottle away from defendant, she slashed his hands with the cut glass. Eventually, Jackson wrenched the bottle from defendant, and she was restrained from any further attacks by her brother-in-law. Police were summoned and defendant was arrested. Jackson went to the hospital, where he was treated for various injuries.

A grand jury subsequently issued a fifteen-count indictment against defendant, charging her with three counts of second-degree aggravated assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1); three counts of fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon (the crowbar, the motor vehicle, and the broken beer bottle), in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d; three counts of third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d; two counts of third-degree terroristic threats, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3a; two counts of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4; fourth-degree resisting arrest, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a; and third-degree resisting arrest, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2.

Subsequently, defendant pled guilty to one of the counts of third-degree terroristic threats and to an amended count of aggravated assault, downgraded from the second-degree to the third-degree. In exchange, the State agreed to dismiss the remaining charges and recommend probation, subject to defendant having the opportunity to apply for PTI.

After reviewing defendant's ensuing PTI application, the prosecutor's office wrote a letter to the court objecting to defendant's admission into the program. Although the prosecutor's letter recognized that defendant was twenty years old, a college student, and the mother of small child, the prosecutor nonetheless determined ...

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