December 20, 2007
ANASTASIA DIBIZHEVA, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
SALVATORE CARRANO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Union County, FV-20-001242-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 11, 2007
Before Judges Coburn and Grall.
Defendant, Salvatore Carrano, appeals from a final restraining order issued pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. He contends that his conduct did not rise to the level of domestic violence and that the evidence did not provide support for the judge's determination that he committed acts of harassment as defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4.
After carefully considering the record and briefs, we are satisfied that the judgment is based on findings of fact that are adequately supported by the evidence, R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A), and that defendant's arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We affirm for those reasons and substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Mega in his thorough and well-reasoned oral opinion delivered on January 24, 2007, at the conclusion of the final hearing. Nonetheless, we add the following comments.
Our scope of review is quite narrow in cases of this nature, requiring substantial deference to the trial judge's findings of fact. Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 411-412 (1998). Of course, our review of the judge's interpretation of the law is not so constrained. Manalapan Realty v. Manalapan Twp. Comm., 140 N.J. 366, 378 (1995).
The harassing conduct consisted of numerous text messages, including such statements towards the end as defendant's actions will speak louder than anything, defendant no longer had anything to lose, and things will get ugly, coupled with his often following plaintiff in his car for long distances during the months leading up to her filing the complaint. Plaintiff testified that defendant's escalating and compulsive conduct increasingly frightened her.
The judge was deeply concerned about the obsessive nature of defendant's conduct, and he was satisfied as a matter of law that the communications were made in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm. The judge also found that it was defendant's purpose, in part, to cause annoyance or alarm. Thus, the elements of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4(a) and (c) were clearly established.
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