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In re Seizure of Weapons Belonging to Peticca

May 29, 2008


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, FO-02-120-05.

Per curiam.


Submitted April 2, 2008

Before Judges Wefing and R. B. Coleman.

Appellant Anthony Peticca appeals from a December 12, 2006 order forfeiting his weapons and revoking his Firearms Purchaser Identification Card. We have considered the contentions advanced on appeal, and we affirm the order of the trial court.

On June 2, 2004, the Ridgefield Police Department arrested Peticca and charged him with terroristic threats, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3a. On the morning of the incident, Peticca was preparing to go to the shooting range as he did every morning.

During the course of a disagreement over the need for his wife, Gail, to keep a doctor's appointment, Peticca placed his hands on top of guns on a table and commented to Gail, whose health was deteriorating due to alcoholism, that she should take one of the guns and "blow [her] brains out." Afterwards, Peticca left to go to the shooting range.

Later that day, Gail's sister, Jane Avjean, and Gail's stepdaughter, Laura Ciccia, accompanied her to the doctor's office. There, Avjean and Ciccia discussed the events that transpired between Peticca and Gail and asked Gail's doctor to call the police because they were concerned that Gail had been a victim of domestic violence. Gail allowed her doctor to call the police. The three women then drove to the Ridgefield Police station at which time Ciccia and Avjean provided written statements. Ciccia indicated the following:

There are many instances of mental and physical abuse that has occurred in the Peticca household. I have been present when a gun was put to my mother's head. Today, my father placed a gun on the table (loaded gun) and told my mother to shoot her brains out. My mother has become an alcoholic due to his abuse. I have suffered many years of abuse from my father. As soon as I left his house the abuse stopped. My mother needs to leave him so the abuse stops.

Avjean's statement was as follows:

I am her [Gail's] sister and I witnessed Tony Peticca physically punch her in the nose and face. Heard that Tony had sliced leg with a knife before married. I have seen him beat his daughter as a child with a belt, I have heard his daughter admit to me that he has pointed a gun to Gale*fn1 and Laura's head. And most recently today 6-2-04 Gale admitted to me and Laura that Tony has pulled a loaded gun on the table and asked Gale to blow out her brains because she's not feeling well. I have seen bruises on her body over the years with the same excuses that were not convincing. Gale has been an alcoholic due to this continued physical and mental abuse. She is living the life of a battered woman and fears anything bad happening to Tony.

Although Gail did not file a complaint or seek a restraining order under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35, (the Act), Peticca was arrested and charged with making terroristic threats. In connection with that charge, Peticca consented to participate in Pretrial Intervention (PTI) and the indictment against him was dismissed. Nevertheless, in accordance with the Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21, the Bergen County Prosecutor moved for the forfeiture or other disposal of weapons seized from Peticca at the time of his arrest. Upon completion of PTI, Peticca requested to have a hearing regarding the return of his weapons.

At the hearing, the State called six witnesses to testify:

(1) Avjean; (2) Ciccia; (3) Gail; (4) Investigator Jason Wejnert, a Ridgefield Police Officer that investigated the incident and authored a report in connection with the incident; (5) Chief John Bogovich, an officer involved in the investigation of the incident and a personal friend of Peticca; and (6) Michelle Sherer, a nurse practitioner from Gail's doctor's office that called the police on the day of the incident. Peticca testified on his own behalf and presented four other witnesses: (1) Dr. Donald Oh, a psychiatrist who conducted a psychiatric evaluation of Peticca; (2) Edward J. Catherina, a neighbor offered as a character witness; (3) Jim Pashall, a friend offered as a character witness; and (4) Alfred Canino, another friend testifying to Peticca's character. Rather than repeating the specific testimony of all of the witnesses, suffice it to say that the testimony produced at trial was inconsistent and was elicited through leading questions and hearsay. At trial, both Avjean and Ciccia recanted their written statements ...

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