On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 05-11-1467.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 5, 2007
Before Judges R. B. Coleman and Lyons.
Following a bench trial, defendant Jaime S. Cameron was convicted of peering into windows or other openings of dwelling places (peering), a crime of the fourth-degree, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3(c). The trial court sentenced defendant to three years probation. Defendant has appealed. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm defendant's conviction and sentence.
The following factual and procedural history is relevant to our consideration of the issues advanced on appeal. Defendant lives in the same Kendall Courts apartment complex in North Brunswick as both K.I., the victim, and B.U., her friend. K.I. was thirteen at the time of the incident, and fourteen at the time of trial. On the afternoon of September 15, 2005, K.I. and B.U. were with several friends when they observed defendant. He "walked over" and "was just circling around scratching his head." Neither K.I. nor B.U. knew defendant, but they had previously observed him walking around the complex.
According to K.I.'s testimony, defendant approached the group and told K.I. to come to his house in an hour. This scared the children, who ran over to B.U.'s house. K.I. stayed at B.U.'s house for hours because she was afraid to return home, as no one was there. K.I., accompanied by another friend, eventually walked home.
After returning home, K.I., looking out the living room window, saw defendant circling around her house in the dark for about five minutes. Then, at about 5:30 p.m., K.I. observed defendant attempting to enter her house through the window in her mother's bedroom. In response, K.I. left her house and ran to B.U.'s home.
From B.U.'s home, K.I. called her father to report what had happened. When K.I.'s mother came home from work, K.I. told her that defendant attempted to enter their home. Specifically, K.I. told her mother "[t]hat there was a man around the complex stalking me."
On September 16, 2005, K.I.'s mother called the police to report defendant's conduct. Both girls gave written statements to police officers detailing the events of the evening. B.U. told police that K.I. went to B.U.'s house because defendant was attempting to get into her window. B.U. also stated that defendant attempted to initiate sexual contact with her that evening, but later admitted at trial that her mother instructed her to include this in the report. B.U. did not personally witness defendant breaking into K.I.'s home. When the police came to arrest defendant, K.I. testified she saw defendant pull out a knife on her father and that he was screaming. The police report made no mention of either of these assertions.
Defendant was indicted and charged with third-degree burglary, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2. On February 10, 2006, the court conducted a pre-trial conference in this matter. At that time, defendant's counsel requested a bench trial. The trial court conducted a voir dire of defendant with respect to this request and also questioned one of defendant's relatives regarding the waiver of a jury trial. The trial court then granted defendant's request to waive a jury trial and set a trial date.
The trial took place on February 23 and 24, 2006. At the trial, K.I. and B.U. testified. Counsel concurred that the court should consider, in addition to the third-degree burglary charge, the lesser included offenses of criminal trespass under N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3(b), and peering into windows of other openings of dwelling places contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3(c). Defense counsel also sought a sequestration order, which the court granted at the opening of the trial.
On the first day of trial, B.U. testified. On the second day of trial before K.I. testified, the prosecutor advised the court he had forgotten to tell B.U. not to talk to K.I. about the case and that B.U. had telephoned K.I. after her testimony, contrary to the sequestration order. The prosecutor proferred that there was no specific discussion of testimony but basically how the courtroom operated and how B.U. felt about what happened. Defense counsel's position was that "I think it is probably a good idea to proceed at this point." The court concurred, and K.I. then testified.
Following the closing of the State's case, the court inquired on the record of defendant if he wished to waive his right to testify, which he did. The court then proceeded to hear summations. Following the summations, the trial court acquitted defendant of third-degree burglary, but found defendant guilty of fourth-degree peering into windows or other openings of dwelling places contrary to N.J.S.A. ...