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State v. Hoffman

March 31, 2008; as amended April 9, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BRENDA HOFFMAN, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment No. 07-03-559.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Graves, J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued February 25, 2008

Before Judges Graves, Sabatino and Alvarez.

This is an appeal by the State, pursuant to R. 3:28(f), from an order admitting defendant Brenda Hoffman into the Monmouth County Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program over the objection of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. On appeal, the State contends the trial court "discounted the prosecutor's stated consideration of defendant's mental illness" and "substituted its judgment for that of the prosecutor." Based on our review of the record and the applicable law, we conclude the prosecutor's decision to reject defendant's application was not a patent and gross abuse of discretion, and we reverse the order admitting defendant into PTI.

In a five-count indictment, defendant was charged with third-degree terroristic threats, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3(a) and (b) (counts one and two); third-degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(a)(3)(a) and/or (b) (count three); third-degree possession of a weapon (kitchen knives and a butcher knife) for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d) (count four); and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d) (count five). On April 23, 2007, a PTI investigator provided a report to the court recommending defendant be accepted into the PTI program. The report noted defendant was a forty-eight-year-old female who had "no prior criminal involvement," and concluded she was "a suitable candidate for participation in PTI provided she complie[d] with directives regarding her mental health."

In a four-page "PTI rejection memorandum" dated May 16, 2007, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office described the events leading up to defendant's arrest as follows:

On November 21, 2006[,] at approximately 10:19 [p.m.,] Sergeant William Cowan, Corporal Mary Ann Smith, Patrolman Michael Tristao, Patrolman [Richard] Jaeger and Patrolman [William] Marvel were dispatched . . . in response to the homeowner, Thelma Stewart[,] reporting that her daughter, the defendant[,] was out of control in the house and was armed with a knife. All units arrived at the same time. Upon approaching the house the defendant had the front door open and the screen door open and yelled to the police as they approached, "I am going to string you up tonight, you are done." The defendant continued to yell and told the police to leave. The defendant at this time was armed with two large kitchen knives in her left hand and a large meat cleaver in her right hand. The defendant pointed the knives at the police and yelled, "I will kill you unless you can prove who you are." All officers on the scene were dressed in full uniform. Corporal Smith told the defendant her name and told her to put the knives down. . . . The defendant though kept flailing the knives pointing the knives in the direction of the police and acting as if she was going to throw them at the police. . . . The defendant was told again to put the knives down so that the police could talk to her. She refused and continued yelling that she was going to kill the police. . . . The defendant continued to yell and was more violent and began cutting and stabbing a cardboard box that was on the front porch. The defendant stated that this is what she was going to do [to] the police. . . . The defendant was told repeatedly to put the knives down, but she refused. . . .

Patrolman Tristao then sprayed his mace at the defendant. She turned her head and then came back out even more agitated. Patrolman Tristao sprayed again and this time the defendant was more affected by the spray and slammed the door. . . . At this point the defendant was in the kitchen and still agitated and yelling. The defendant came to the door and opened it. Patrolman Tristao and Patrolman [Jaeger] . . . were able to secure the defendant. . . .

. . . While the defendant was being taken into control she attempted several times to force her way out of the police officers['] hold. . . .

The defendant is currently disabled and not employed. . . . She began receiving [S]ocial [S]security disability in December of 2006. . . .

. . . [The defendant] states that she has a history of depression since the 1990's. In November of 2006[,] she was admitted to the Riverview Medical Center for five days for depression.

While noting defendant had presented "positive facts" in support of her application, the prosecutor found "the negative factors significantly outweigh the positive making the defendant an inappropriate candidate for PTI." The prosecutor ...


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